Like a clock whose hands are sweeping, past the minutes of its face,
And the world is like an apple, whirling silently in space,
Like the circles that you find, in the windmills of your mind.
Dusty Springfield’s bittersweet crooning is difficult to shake as Mr Smith and I set off from Palma airport to be greeted by what seemed like a million windmills. They are everywhere in Mallorca, dotting the landscape and providing a welcome reminder that, despite the popularity and bustle of many parts of this small island, Mallorca is still rural and sleepy. After an intense few weeks in our work lives, sleepy is exactly what Mr Smith and I wanted from a long weekend, so off to the Balearics we went to check in at Hotel Predi Son Jaumell, a countryside hotel in the eastern part of Mallorca which is attracting attention for its smart design and serious food.
Predi Son Jaumell is in the eastern part of the island, with slightly flatter and perhaps less dramatic scenery than that of the more tourist-friendly northern and western parts, but suitably restorative and ‘oh my!’ nonetheless. As well as the ever-present windmills, the drive to the east revealed rolling hills aplenty, rich green vegetation and another endearingly idiosyncratic feature of the Mallorcan topography: roundabouts decorated with sculptures, or in the case of the roundabout just before the Predi Son Jaumell, a ship. Go figure.
A sweet arrival it is: the short walk from the car park to the hotel opens up onto a handsome old farmhouse – a restored 17th-century possesió – which sits next to a couple of equally charming outhouses, with tables set up for lunch outside and more of that green vegetation providing a very pleasing backdrop. Check-in is inside the main farmhouse building which, like much of the hotel, has been modernised with a respectful interior that speaks the international language of contemporary, design-led hotels, but with plenty of original and local features to place it firmly within its rural Mallorcan context.
Our room features a cool, polished stone floor, contemporary furniture and fittings and wooden beams on a soaring ceiling. Rural-chic objets complete the look: a glass pot here, a hand-woven basket there, bringing nature inside in a way that seems intuitive rather than contrived. The rooms are called ‘suites’, and the quibblers among us might question that there is no separate sitting space in our room (a garden junior suite) and the bathroom is only separated from the bedroom by a partial wall. The loo and shower are enclosed, with glass doors that are half the height of the room itself, so there is a certain lack of privacy, if only of an audible nature. Luckily Mr Smith and I are a warts and all kind of couple. The Jacuzzi bathtub more than makes up for any shortcomings, and a pretty little outdoor seating area proved perfectly suitable later on for that all-important sunset glass of rioja, also a complimentary welcome gift.
With bags unpacked, Mr Smith’s very British type of paranoid hysteria about the weather suddenly kicks in, with a determined dash to the pool to ensure we not miss any minute of the Mallorcan sun which is feebly struggling to break free from the clouds. The pool area at the Predi Son Jaumell is a lovely affair: a simple, not too flash rectangle pool surrounded by smart, comfortable loungers and a few four-poster beds, with linen drapes for undercover snuggling. None for Mr and Mr Smith though – that would have been too great a waste of precious tanning time. Instead, the afternoon is passed reading the New Yorker on an iPad (the hotel has excellent free WiFi in all rooms and public spaces), catching the occasional ray and listening to the bells of the cows rattling about in the distance. Lovely.
That evening is the main event: dinner in the hotel’s restaurant, which is overseen by Andreu Genestra, a handsome young chef who grew up in the local town of Inca and trained at El Bulli. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve read or been told that the chef at the restaurant I’m eating at used to work at El Bulli, but either way, this guy knows what he’s doing. Dinner is a set menu of four dishes, beef with pureed potato, local fish with strawberries, melt-in-the-mouth lamb and a home-made vanilla ice-cream. All is fantastic, with strong, robust Spanish wines to accompany and at €40 a head, fantastic value. This is the kind of hotel where you definitely want to eat in and where guests at other hotels nearby and also a number of well-dressed Spaniards come to eat too.
The following days are spent indulging Mr Smith’s sun-chasing routine, and with a couple of local walking trips. The hotel provides complimentary bikes, walking sticks and itineraries: chief of these is a walk to the beautiful Cala Agulla cove – utterly quiet and serene – and a short hop and skip to the nearest town, Capdepera, with its impressive castle dating back to the 14th century. Golf, tennis, fishing and diving are also on offer in the immediate area, and can be arranged through the hotel.
Restored and re-energised after a few lazy days in the countryside, Mr Smith and I pack our bags to head back home, Predi Son Jaumell is quiet and low-key – this is not a place for scenesters or for those wanting the last word in luxury. The hotel and the area’s charms are subtle, its design and atmosphere calm, but if it’s an escape, excellent food and a restorative slumber you’re after, the Predi Son Jaumell would be hard to beat.