Hotel La Residencia, Mallorca

La Residencia Mallorca - GlobalLiving

 La Residencia, Mallorca

By Carolyn Pearson

Global Living – Issue 8 | September/October 2013

The delightful drive to the pretty coastal village of Deià in the Serra de Tramuntana, Mallorca, marked the start of our La Residencia experience. Passing along the steep cliffs through orange and olive groves, we were rewarded with views of the deep blue Mediterranean Sea and ancient ochre-colored buildings set among the pine trees and cedar forests. Just 40 minutes drive away from the bustle of Palma, Deià and La Residencia blend subtly into the mountain backdrop. Arriving at La Residencia is like stepping back in time to ancient Spain; huge baskets of fresh lemons and oranges adorned the entrance of this understated, five-star luxury hotel and spa.

Formally owned by Sir Richard Branson, La Residencia is now owned by the Orient-Express Group and continues today to be a discreet retreat for the rich and famous.

With only 67 rooms, 37 of which are suites, some with their own private pools, the areas are spacious and each has its own unique charm. Some can be found in little detached ‘cottages’, the 15th-century medieval tower, or in one of the ancient farmhouses and buildings. Ours, looking out towards the village of Deià, was traditional, filled with antique furniture, lots of natural light and came with a four-poster bed, luxury linen and a huge bathroom complemented with candles and gorgeous REN toiletries.

Originally two 16th– and 17th-century manor houses, La Residencia had its own olive farm and, today, home produce remains a major influence on your stay at La Residencia. Orange and lemon trees grow in abundance and are used to make the hotel’s marmalade, and olives from the estate are still used today to make La Residencia’s extra virgin olive oil. The team at La Residencia are passionate about their culinary heritage and love to introduce guests to the local dishes. Guests can enjoy wine-tastings, or as an alternative twist on the English tradition of afternoon tea, the traditional merienda, thick Mallorcan hot chocolate with ensaimada, or coca de patata, a sweet bun for which the village of Valldemossa is famous, or cuartos, a very light spongecake made with eggs, sugar and flour – perfect for sitting by the roaring log fires in the cooler months.

For something a little different, guests at La Residencia can take a donkey-accompanied trip up the rugged mountainside to an ancient refuge and sample a delicious picnic of local produce and other tasty traditional dishes. The kitchen uses produce from its own herb and vegetable garden, and breakfast at La Residencia is a rustic experience as the vast array of local hams, breads, cheeses and preserves are set out much like a local organic market. Guests can also choose from a selection of traditional hot Spanish dishes and daily specials.

For formal dining, we ate in El Olivo, run under Executive Chef Guillermo Mendez. From the moment the paprika popcorn arrived, we knew this was going to be a culinary journey. An amuse bouche of mussel soup with truffle arrived, and we followed with the local traditional dish of Carpaccio of Raf Pata Negra tomato with Idiazzabal cheese. We opted for a hybrid of the à la carte and the extensive tasting menus because we were desperate to taste the La Residencia specialty: their famous rack of lamb, baked in an olive crust. We chose a Mallorcan wine to accompany the lamb, the Petalos 2010 Do Bierzo from the ‘Tinta del pais’ grape. This delicious, medium-bodied, red wine was filled with flavors of dark berries, black cherries, licorice and violets. The portions were so hearty that we could barely manage dessert, so we opted to share the ‘Majorcan delights’, an unusual array of tasty treats, including sweet chanterelle mushrooms. The service in El Olivo, while formal, is friendly and attentive, with the chef taking time for a leisurely chat with the diners.

I wouldn’t be doing La Residencia justice if I didn’t mention the art. Many artists, writers and musicians have passed through the village of Deià, including famous British poet Robert Graves who settled here in 1929. La Residencia is packed with local art and has its own dedicated gallery where local work is displayed and refreshed regularly. La Residencia houses its own studio with artist-in-residence Juan Waelder. I whiled away an hour chatting to Juan, originally from Chile, listening to his life story of how he traded his marketing career in the U.S. to follow his heart and his passion. Juan provides master classes in sculpture and lino art, and many of his own pieces, primarily inspired by the female form, can be found throughout the hotel.

Leisure plays a major part in life at La Residencia; the surrounding area is teeming with rugged paths, and stunning coastal walks can be taken directly from the hotel. The colorful, mountainous landscape and temperate climate make Mallorca extremely popular with mountain bikers. La Residencia sports two beautiful outdoor tennis courts, and the resident tennis pro is on hand to offer private lessons; there is a modern gym, and guests can enjoy yoga lessons in a stunning outdoor setting. Boasting three pools – one indoor and two outdoor – one of which is heated, there is plenty of space in which to relax in privacy, and that is exactly what we did. Finding a nice peaceful sunny position by the upper outdoor pool and completely chilled out, we listened to the song of the happy birds before drifting up to the spa for some serious indulgence. I opted for the signature Citrus Siesta treatment using products from the La Residencia Estate. The treatment started with a gentle olive oil exfoliation followed by a full body massage using essential oils of orange and lemon. The treatment is designed to relieve stress and release endorphins, leaving you with a feeling of wellbeing. My therapist Louise was naturally intuitive and, being a Reiki practitioner myself, I could feel that she had ‘the gift’. At the end of the treatment, Louise opened the shutters to a breathtaking view of the sunlit mountains beyond, serving me with a tonic of hot water, lemons, oranges and honey. The emotional release, the view and the tangible drop in my stress levels almost reduced me to tears. What a moment!

La Residencia is a world-famous institution but, while many of the rich and famous have passed through its doors, it remains a rustic, unpretentious and welcoming sanctuary.

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