Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Menorca meet… Welcome to a double act of fincas: 18th-century Santa Ponsa, with its Moorish gardens and soon-to-be-opened spa, and whitewashed former watchtower Torre Vella, which stands guard over the Balearic island’s coast. Located a rattle apart along country lanes, they’re collectively known as Fontenille Menorca – a new hotel from the French-accented group who gave us Domaine de Fontenille in Provence and Les Bords de Mer in Marseille. The duo behind it are a pedigreed pair: Parisian art provocateur Guillaume Foucher of La Galerie Particulière and Frédéric Biousse of Comptoir des Cotonniers, Sandro and Maje fame. Whichever you choose, prepare to do a double-take.
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A bottle of wine grown at sister hotel Domaine de Fontenille
38 in total, including eight suites. Torre Vella has 17 rooms; Santa Ponsa has 21.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in 3pm.
Double rooms from £244.42 (€272), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.20 per person per night on check-out.
Rates typically include a buffet breakfast of fresh juices and local island specialities such as Menorcan cheeses, sobrasada sausage and sweet pastissets cakes.
The owners had the foresight to landscape the grounds three years before opening, employing a 20-strong team of agricultural pros and gardeners to nurture the vines, aromatic plants, olive groves, orange, lemon and pomegranate trees. The result, especially at Santa Ponsa, is that the gardens – dotted with palms, fig trees, exotic flowers, ponds and orangeries – appear to have been there forever. Or, at least, for three years…
The hotel closes from 8 November until Easter, when Santa Ponsa reopens on 1 April and Torre Vella on 1 May in 2020.
At the hotel
At Torre Vella, there are farm animals and acres of olive trees; cliffside yoga platforms and an alfresco training circuit that runs through the 500-acre grounds. At Santa Ponsa, you’ll find Moorish-style fruit and vegetable gardens stitched across the 250-acre estate. At both addresses, there’s WiFi and free on-site parking. In rooms: hair dryer, beach bag, Ren bath products, a minibar, free bottled water and a television. Rooms at Torre Vella also have tea- and coffee-making facilities.
Our favourite rooms
The Torre Vella Pool Suite – set in an old boyera (animal outhouse) – is ever-so-slightly more luxurious than when the farm’s former residents bedded down here, with an indoor lounge, outdoor terrace and a private plunge pool. At Santa Ponsa, all rooms are different, but we loved the Superior Deluxe (especially room four), with its arched windows, dark hues and aged mirrors adding to the overall Arabian Nights theme.
There are two: one at Santa Ponsa, the other at Torre Vella, both outdoor, unheated and open 24 hours. In 2020, a third will emerge in the spa of Santa Ponsa, carved into a dramatic 18th-century cistern.
An impressive spa will open at Santa Ponsa next year with three treatment rooms, a hammam, a sauna, Nordic baths and an underground pool in a centuries-old cistern. Until then, alfresco treatments are available in the grounds, using organic products extracted from the estate. There’s also free daily yoga classes at Santa Ponsa at 8am each day.
A walking guide to the Camí de Cavalls trail. Once on the island, pick up a parasol in towns such as Alaior ready to explore the north coast’s virgin beaches. You’ll need water, sun cream and towels, too, as many have no facilities – but that’s part of the allure.
The hotel has two wheelchair-ready rooms: a Santa Ponsa Superior Deluxe and a Torre Vella Classique.
Very. The hotel allow dogs in any bedroom for €20 per night and provides beds and bowls for canine companions. However, they must be kept on leads and are not allowed near the spa or pools. See more pet-friendly hotels in Menorca.
All ages welcome. Cots (€20 a night) can be added to rooms on request. Children are also allowed in the restaurants at all times, with high chairs available. There’s no specific menu, but chefs are happy to adapt dishes to their most-discerning customers.
As an agricultural island, Menorca is deeply wedded to the environment and this hotel-cum-agriturismo reflects that closeness with nature. Food is either grown on site (the kitchen-garden and fruit trees at Santa Ponsa are especially impressive) or sourced from the island’s proud producers. The hotel also composts for the gardens and recycles waste water for irrigation purposes.
At Torre Vella, the restaurant spills out into the hotel’s centrepiece courtyard – where the hotel’s titular tower stands – creating the perfect backdrop for balmy Balearic nights. You can also request a candlelit dinner by the sea.
Light and bright to match the interiors of Torre Vella; dark and decadent to dress for Santa Ponsa.
Catalan chef Albert Riera – formerly of Michelin-pipped La Mare aux Oiseaux near Nantes – brings the hotel’s distinctive blend of Spanish and French influences to your plate. At Torre Vella, restaurant Siempre Viva focuses on a healthy-minded menu of upstyled Spanish classics, such as Cantabrian anchovies with wild fennel and Menorquín squid stuffed with vegetables and sobrasada sausage. From next season, Santa Ponsa’s restaurant Nura will open – in a nod to the ancient Phoenician name given to Menorca meaning ‘island of fire’ – continuing the finca’s worldly theme with tagines, grills and other dishes, brought here by the waves of cultures who’ve washed up on the island's shores.
Santa Ponsa’s ground-floor bar (open noon to 10pm) is an exotic reflection of the finca’s formative theme, feathered with giant birdcages, opulent oil paintings and rattan peacock chairs, lined with glass doors that open out onto views of the house’s Moorish-style gardens. The bar at Torre Vella (open noon-1pm) is more beachy and Balearic in style, with a touch of Ibiza in its whitewashed walls, cappuccino-coloured couches and statement lighting. Order a pomada (gin-based cocktail) and settle in like a local.
At Santa Ponsa, currently only breakfast is served from 7.30 to 11am. Torre Vella has breakfast from 8am-noon; lunch noon-3pm; dinner 3-11pm.
Fontenille Menorca is spread over two historic fincas (farmhouses), both a five-minute drive from the whitewashed, hilltop town of Alaior and some of the Balearic island’s best beaches.
The island’s only airport is 15km away (a 20-minute drive), near the capital Mahón. The hotel can arrange transfers for €50 one way. Ask Smith24 for details.
Hiring a car is the best way to get around the island – which has no motorways and only one main road running through the middle, making it uncomplicated to navigate. Driving from Mahón in the far east to the westernmost city of Ciutadella takes only 45 minutes – so everything is very much in reach.
Worth getting out of bed for
Hush-hush island hideaway Menorca is the Balearics’ best-kept secret. Formerly focused on agriculture, it’s only recently started opening up to tourism and converting age-old fincas (farm buildings) into on-trend hotels. Fontenille Menorca is one result of the rebirth. Or should that be... two? At Torre Vella, its cliffside location puts you in reach of the south coast’s Caribbean-like waters: Son Bou and Santo Tomas beaches are two nearby options. Santa Ponsa might be slightly more inland, but its location is all about the tiered Moorish-style gardens, dotted with palms, orange, lemon and pomegranate trees – zigzagged by stone walls and even a pyramid-like ziggurat (temple). Whichever you choose, there’s a free shuttle service connecting the two fincas for guests. Better still, if you have your own car, everything on the island is in reach: from the capital Mahõn in the far east to the port city of Ciudadela in the west (both of which warrant a visit), it’s only a 45-minute drive – making getting to the north coast’s virgin beaches (hello, Cala Pregonda and Cala Pilar) or the fishing village of Fornells (yes please, lazy lunch) a breeze. Indeed, there are 15 beaches within a 15-minute drive of both Torre Vella and Santa Ponsa, so you won’t go short on sand. Or explore the island on foot, walking sections of the Camí de Cavalls – a circular trail that loops around the entire coast.
Established in 1979, Binifadet vineyard near Sant Lluís has morphed into a hugely successful restaurant and bar, where you can turn up for a tour and tasting, or dine beneath the vine-covered porch on Menorquín red prawns and melting burrata. The restaurants of two nearby Smith-certified hotels are also close by: grown-up getaway Torralbenc has distant views of the coast from its alfresco dining terrace, where a recent visit had us feasting on squid in romesco sauce amid garland-lit grounds, as a proposal took place to one side. Next up, new-kid-on-the-block Menorca Experimental is located on the very same country lane as Fontenille’s Torre Vella, so hop across for food and, of course, drinks, from the cult Parisian cocktail connoisseurs. Another local tip for a lazy lunch is the fishing village of Fornells: the best restaurants are La Guapa, Sa Llagosta (12 Carrer de Gabriel Gelabert) and Can Tanu, all run by sea-faring folk who catch their own menu. The speciality is the caldereta de langosta (lobster stew), so-called for the pot in which it’s cooked, served to two or more. Book in advance – all three get busy.
When you’re not sinking pomadas at Fontenille Menorca, Cova d'en Xoroi is a stylish alternative on the south coast, with tables and terraces staggered into the cliffside and DJs who turn the caves into a club after dark. A north-coast option is stylish chiringuito (beach bar) Isabella in Fornells – which opens from sunset o’clock and rolls on until late.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this double-act of flourishing fincas in Menorca and unpacked their farm-fresh wine and olive oil, a full account of their Balearic break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Fontenille Menorca…
What a task it must have been to convert not one but two fincas… These age-old agricultural buildings dot every hay-bale-topped hillside of the island’s rural hinterland. But few are more dashing than the pair that make up Fontenille Menorca. First there’s Torre Vella, a whitewashed former watchtower and one of Menorca’s oldest farmsteads, dating back to the 13th century and standing oh-so-close to the island’s undiscovered coast. Then, a short drive away, is Santa Ponsa: Moorish in spirit, but rebuilt during the 19th century as an aristocratic British residence and still daubed in the distinctive red paint once used to denote their houses across the island. There are restaurants and bars to cherry-pick from, so guests essentially get two hotel experiences in one. Add to that a duo of architects, who’ve transformed each building afresh, plus two owners from the art and fashion worlds – and you’re in for a double bill.