Nothing beats a personal recommendation when booking a dream escape, and few have the insight of Rosalyn Wikeley, a globetrotting writer and former editor at Conde Nast Traveller. Add the expertise of global getaway gurus Mr & Mrs Smith and you have the ultimate inside track. Here, Rosalyn visits three deliciously different Mallorcan hotels and selects the buys to recreate their blissful Balearic vibe.
A Note From Rosalyn
“I love the tasteful curations of boutique hotel connaisseurs Mr & Mrs Smith. From off-the-beaten-track agriturismi with heaps of character (and home-cooked pasta) to design dens clinging to the cliffs of sleepy fishing villages, their collections all hinge on the notion that hotels should have soul. Yes, there are the compelling characters at the helm and the staggeringly pretty landscapes for pastel shutters to blink onto, but it’s the manner in which it is dressed inside that lends a hotel its singular charm and sets the bass note for guests. Whether measured restraint or wild eclecticism, the choreography of furniture, artworks, colours and textures stir pangs of nostalgia, intrigue, comfort, desire – sentiments that artists and designers work hard to plumb.”
Sant Francesc Hotel Singular, Palma
A 19th-century Mallorcan mansion of a fabulously rich Spanish family, bought and gently restored by an equally wealthy family, and one of hotelier pedigree (the Soldevila Ferrers), is the canvas of aesthete reverie.
Grand, neoclassical bones joined by marble arches, beams and frescoes are fleshed out with restrained contemporary touches – Crittall doors overlooking a sun-dappled courtyard, subdued creamy curtains tracing the vast ceilings of a bygone, splendid age. A restrained and resplendent refuge amid Palma’s bustle, Sant Francesc Hotel Singular’s interiors are a masterclass in old-meets-new, where abstract art, industrial lighting and Piero Lissoni sofas converse fluidly with farmhouse tables, parquet floors and grand stone staircases. The composition serves up a fix of design dopamine, from the cleverly-lit stables (now whipping up creative dishes of traditional Mallorcan fare) to the soft botanical ceiling mural peering over ebony metal tables and sharp corners in the Sant Francesc Suite.
Sumptuously simple plates mining Mallorca’s fabled land-and-sea bounty line up under the vaulted ceilings at Quadrat Restaurant & Garden. Expect catches-of-the-day embellished with juicy tomatoes and plump, roasted vegetables plucked from the morning markets; burrata dressed with pistachio cream and braised octopus lathered in almond sauce and crunchy garlic. Chef Àlvar Albaladejo’s haute culinary standards are paired with a refreshingly buttoned-down setting, though it’s worth putting on your finery for The Sant Francesc Sunset (the signature cocktail) up on the rooftop bar. Breakfast is a blend of traditional plates and global palate pleasers – where fresh avocado-on-toast sits alongside sobrasada with cured meats and local cheeses.
Sant Francesc Hotel Singular’s grand facade is, in typical European style, diluted in a tangle of antique buildings and the faded splendour of Palma’s Old Town. Across the cobbled street lies the namesake basilica with its vast, imposing interiors, and, just beyond it, the Arab baths – a vestige of the island’s Moorish invaders. A warren of thrumming bars, cafes and family-run restaurants can engulf visitors for days, spitting them out in a Pomada haze for more cultural adventures or a jaunt to the beach.
This feels more like the spa of a plush private home than a hotel wellbeing space, which is perhaps the ambition. Nimble fingers work herb and citrus oils into weary muscles in two zen rooms facing onto the courtyard. Whether sticking to deep-tissue massages or veering more towards Tibetan singing bowls, a few hours in this pampering oasis and shoulders are lowered several inches.
With a previous life as a nunnery, the noble bones of this La Lonja mansion have been rattled into the modern world and onto the radars of design connoisseurs.
Ornate chandeliers and pastel frescoes survey mid-century modern cabinets, smooth standalone bathtubs and velvet, art deco headboards. Handsome marble fireplaces and resplendent gilt mirrors recall Baroque excess, while svelte sofas and soaring curtains are a more modern, restrained expression of this lavish era. Some rooms spill onto a courtyard through floor-to-ceiling doors, where floral and citrus scents cling to the air from a tangle of wild flowers and fruit trees. Amid the botanical chaos lies a perfectly-formed pool, whose glassy sheen reflects branches, ferns and sun-baked leaves. These seem to edge inside, climbing walls and brazenly claiming ceilings. In the same audacious spirit, mirrors carve and slice walls, doubling the size and scale of the design drama and even veiling television screens. Up on the roof, a cacti-flanked plunge pool winks in the sun. Sun loungers lining the decking double up as cinema seats as the yolky sun dips below Palma’s sprawl of chimneys, spires and telephone aerials.
Just as the interior finds itself in the grip of creepers and untamed greenery, so does the hotel’s Restaurant Botànic. Not only does its menu reflect the hotel’s botanical inclinations, it is a paean to the farm-to-fork, 0-kilometre philosophy and to the island’s fertile soil. Chef Andres Benitez pulls in ingredients from trusted local farms and serves up a refined, plant-forward take on rustic Mallorcan food. Cocktails also embrace the go-slow, plant theme – expect gin from local distilleries garnished with island herbs. Breakfast shows off the island’s bounty and culinary heritage with plates such as eggs with cured sobrasada and mahon cheese or oatmeal and banana pancakes with local orange molasses from Soller.
A discrete setting for a palatial property, Can Bordoy is found down a tourist-free backstreet in the cobbled heart of Palma’s old quarter. The hotel is not far from Es Baluard, a magnificent 14th-century fort housing Palma’s largest contemporary art collection. Layered in Moorish history, the Arab Quarter is also within walking distance, where the turreted, pillared and endlessly pretty Almudaina Palace lords over its honey-hued kingdom.
Tucked a few floors beneath the velvet, the art deco chandeliers and the mid-century accents is a smooth spa. An unexpected surprise for this proud and unpretentious townhouse, it recalls the downtime chambers of a Bond villain. Its steam bath, plunge pool and horizontal shower combine in the ultimate hedonist’s assault course – classically ending in a deep-tissue massage with lashings of Swiss Perfection goodies. Pummellings en plein air are easily arranged poolside, with linen curtains and a warm salty breeze.
A contemporary expression of that coveted bucolic Balearic lifestyle, Can Ferrereta has received the same subtly cosmopolitan (and impeccably stylish) treatment as its urban sister, Hotel Sant Francesc Singular in Palma.
The Soldevila-Ferrer family have cleverly sharpened up this sprawling 17th-century farmhouse while still preserving its rural soul and its roots in the surrounding community. The imposing ochre exterior dotted with symmetrical windows and shutters suggests a rambling finca-finery scene of candle-lit tapestries and taxidermy inside. Instead, white linens, milky paints, wooden beams and mottled cream tiles serve as a fresh backdrop for masculine, cosmopolitan accents: cue black metal touches and brutalist coal-coloured bannisters. Frosted glass walls and brow-raising contemporary art absolve the building from any country bumpkin charges, although its past agricultural life is echoed in the muted tones, the artisanal trinkets and the rough mortared walls. Pure, Mediterranean sunlight prints the Crittall windows onto the spa’s indoor pool – a perfect slice of aquamarine carved into ivory stone. Outside in the walled garden, olive and cedar trees crowd a glorious minimalist pool, whose colour adheres to the organic design edict evident throughout.
Chef Alvar Albaladejo, who also oversees the menus at Hotel Sant Francesc Singular, has brought the same old-practice-new-tricks philosophy to Mallorca’s wild west, with its wealth of organic farms and plentiful waters. His menu at Ochre Restaurant, a reimagined wine cellar dressed in linen and monochrome, is refreshingly unfussy yet elevated – treating a coterie of similar virtues to black pork cheek with artichokes and saffron aioli and babà with orange liqueur and creamy cheese ice cream drizzled in honey. Aperitifs and delicious teasers of what-is-to-come are served at the bar looking onto the restaurant, where Nordic-style lights are suspended from 17th-century beams and linen-covered sofas and cushions soften the blast of contemporary art. The more laid-back La Fresca hugs the edge of the pool and serves vibrant plates of fruit, plucked-from-the-sea fish and salads. The bar here soaks up the glamour of an uplit courtyard, where the moonlight spills onto the pool and balmy evenings are done well with fresh, zingy cocktails.
While its soul may be rural, Can Ferrereta is in fact in the historic heart of Santanyí, one of Mallorca’s film-set-ready ancient cobbled towns. The time-warp streets and squares have avoided the ravages of tourism and remain beholden to market rhythms (Wednesdays and Saturdays), independent galleries and artisanal boutiques. It’s the stuff of photographer reverie – from the Parròquia de Sant Andreu church to sheets flapping in the hot wind above ceramics arranged for passers-by. Beyond it (and a blood-pumping bike ride away) are the untamed beaches of Es Trenc, the searing cliffs and ethereal waters of Mondrago Natural Park and the staggeringly pretty salt flats of Ses Salines.
With its milky stone, hammam and sauna, the spa at Can Ferreta is no afterthought. In fact, every aspect of this soothing sanctuary has been deeply thought through – from the salts, olive oil and herbs drawn from the island for treatments to the zen yoga space in the gym, the plump sun loungers surveying the pool and rush of green from the bamboo lining up outside.