Two households, both alike in dignity, in fair Menorca meet… Torre Vella, stands guard over the Balearic island’s coast and this 18th-century finca, named Santa Ponsa, has Moorish gardens and a superlative spa. 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.
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A bottle of wine grown at sister hotel Domaine de Fontenille
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in 3pm.
Double rooms from £342.40 (€387), 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; Santa Ponsa reopens on 1 April 2020.
At the hotel
Moorish-style fruit and vegetable gardens stitched across the 250-acre estate, a spa with a sauna and hammam, free WiFi. Torre Vella – a short shuttle ride away – has alfresco massage tables, a sprawling farm with animals and clifftop yoga. In rooms: beach bag, Ren bath products, a minibar, free bottled water and a TV.
Our favourite rooms
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.
Santa Ponsa has an unheated outdoor pool that’s open 24 hours a day and a second at the spa, carved into a dramatic 18th-century cistern.
Santa Ponsa’s impressive spa has three treatment rooms, a hammam, a sauna, Nordic baths and an underground pool in a centuries-old cistern. Alfresco treatments are available in the grounds too, 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.
One of the Santa Ponsa Superior Deluxe rooms is wheelchair-accessible.
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.
Sit in the sunny courtyard where you can watch palm trees nod and admire the owners’ green-fingered finesse.
Dark and decadent.
Santa Ponsa’s restaurant Nura – a nod to the ancient Phoenician name for Menorca meaning ‘island of fire’ – has a worldly theme with tagines, grills and other dishes, brought here by the waves of cultures who’ve washed up on the island's shores. It’s open for dinner every night except for Mondays. Catalan chef Albert Riera – formerly of Michelin-pipped La Mare aux Oiseaux near Nantes – brings influences from French and Spanish cuisines to the table. Fresh picks from the hotel gardens, farmland and groves are crafted into delicious vegetarian dishes and local flavours abound on the menu: spiced lamb and honey tagine, Mahón mussels with saffron sabayon, and fish cooked in fig leaves with fennel.
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, breakfast is served from 7.30 to 11am. Torre Vella has breakfast from 8am-noon; lunch noon-3pm; dinner 3-11pm.
Nura’s dishes can be delivered to your door for a €10 surcharge.
Santa Ponsa Fontenille Menorca is a five-minute drive from the whitewashed, hilltop town of Alaior and a 10-minute drive from 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 theCamí 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 flourishing finca 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 Santa Ponsa Fontenille Menorca on Spain’s southerly isle…
Age-old agricultural buildings dot every hay-bale-topped hillside of Menorca’s rural hinterland. But few are lovelier than Santa Ponsa, a finca that’s Moorish in spirit – with Arabian Nights-inspired gardens – 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, and a sister property that’s equally charming close by, so guests essentially get two hotel experiences in one.
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