Flee the hedonistic hotels of the bigger Balearic isles and hide out at Torralbenc – Menorca's first boutique hotel – set in a cluster of whitewashed farmhouse buildings with a romantic restaurant and sea-facing pool. The 19th-century homestead has been reinvented by Antonio Esteva, who’s usually found designing luxurious private villas. Thanks to his handy work, it’s emerged with heritage charm intact, as well as plenty of shady, rosemary-scented spots to soak up the Mediterranean sun.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability and varying costs according to the season. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £139.26 (€157), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional government tax of €1.10 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include Continental breakfast.
In the small spa’s two treatment rooms, a range of beauty and wellbeing treat is on offer, including couple’s massages. In-room beauty treatments, personal trainers and fitness classes – including yoga and Pilates – are all available, too.
November to March.
At the hotel
Spa, gym, WiFi, concierge. In rooms: flatscreen TV, minibar, WiFi.
Our favourite rooms
The Pool Cottage is the place to be if you fancy splashing out, literally; it has its own private plunge pool. If you’d like to indulge your Spanish-island-landowner fantasies, book Sea View Room 10, the original owners’ residence; it has panoramic views from its terrace overlooking local vineyards, and you can see Mallorca on a clear day. Room 4, in the Superior Double room category, has a large terrace and a particularly lovely linen-draped four-poster bed.
The long, rectangular pool is lined with loungers on one side, with views of the coast on the other.
Expect lots of lounging around the pool and in the garden: bring your teeniest bikini or a cover-all kaftan depending on how much sun you’d like to get. There are bikes to borrow, so bring your cycling gear.
All communal areas are wheelchair accessible, and some rooms are adapted for wheelchair users.
All ages are tolerated, but this is quite a grown-up spot: there’s no children’s menu, for example. The pool can be popular with kiddos during school holidays, though.
Aim for a table outside, where the chef prepares sears locally-sourced meat, fish and vegetables on a charcoal grill.
Contemporary cottons will keep you comfortable and help you fit in with the laid-back surroundings.
Torralbenc Restaurant is housed in what was originally a store room for grapes and wine barrels. Executive chef Luis Loza has collaborated with Gorka Txapartegi – the former chef at Michelin-starred Resturante Alameda – to create a menu of updated Mediterranean classics, using the best local produce, herbs from the hotel’s own gardens and fruit from their orchards. Expect regional favourites like seabass ceviche or local leg of lamb with red peppers, washed down with a cup of famous Menorcan chamomile tea. The historic indoor space is cosy and characterful wherever you sit; in warm weather, head out to the terrace under the shade of a cane pergola, to enjoy the views of the garden and sea. Or, find a spot anywhere you’d like in the garden – staff will be happy to serve you wherever you’d like.
Lunch is served 1pm–3.30pm; dinner 7.30pm–10.30pm.
Order drinks and snacks to your room during restaurant hours.
Torralbenc is in the south of Menorca, the smallest of the Balearic islands.
The closest airport is Mahón, a 10-minute drive from Torralbenc. Flights from throughout Europe – including London, Manchester, Belfast and Glasgow – run year round, with more in summer.
If you decide to rent a car to explore the island, there’s free parking on-site at the hotel. Book your rental car from Mahón Airport well in advance in summer.
Worth getting out of bed for
Menorca’s a small island, but it has innumerable Instagram-worthy vistas to discover: hike or bike your way around (Torralbenc has wheels to borrow) to find your favourite rural or coastal view. If you’re going further afield, rent a car at Mahón Airport to explore the rest of the island. You can see the sea from almost everywhere near Torralbenc, but the nearest beach, Cala en Porter, is about a 20-minute bike ride away. Take a boat ride from Cala Galdana beach, a 25-minute drive from Torralbenc, to explore the white-sand coast from the sea… or just stay put and soak up the sun. Enjoy drinks or just take in the view from the remarkable cliff-side caves at Cova d’en Xoroi: island hoppers have been partying here since the 1960s and the night doesn’t end till the sun comes up.
At the forefront of Menorca’s eco-chic dining scene, one-time hippie haven Sa Pedrera d’es Pujolhas updated traditional flavours and panoramic island views. Book ahead to dine at the always-busy marina-side Jàgaro restaurant (334 Moll de Llevant), where the seafood couldn't be fresher and there are myriad Catalan wines on offer. 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: Fontenille Menorca is set in two age-old fincas with a romantic courtyard restaurant and clifftop tables by the sea if you call ahead and request. Next up, new-kid-on-the-block Menorca Experimental is located on the very same country lane as Fontenille, with food and, of course, drinks, from the cult Parisian cocktail connoisseurs.
So, picture this. It’s midnight. Mrs Smith and I have spent 14 hours getting spine ache in a moulded plastic chair in Ibiza airport. Our only sustenance during the flight delay has come courtesy of a voucher entitling us to a dry bocadillo. By the time we landed at Mahon, Menorca, my mood was somewhere between Pol Pot and Sir Alex Ferguson. I was convinced that Menorca would merely be a smaller version of Ibiza – men in espadrilles shouting, vague blondes with mahogany skin, the whine of distant dance music. That slightly complacent ‘can’t do’ attitude that categorizes the richest of the Balearic islands. I had also given up hope, at this ungodly hour, of the car hire place being open.
What a fool I was. There it was, across the empty and shining concourse, a Brave New World, populated by Maria – a chirpy, multilingual form-filling machine. Just 10 minutes later, we were on our way. In Ibiza, you get used to driving at night with full beams, lest you clip one of the many Brits lurching like zombies on their way home from clubbing. Here we were shocked at the silence, the peace. You whizz along empty, newly tarmacked roads bordered by manicured hedges. The air is so clean it almost has an antiseptic tang.
After a brief drive, we came across an elegant olive wooden gate on the right; a mere hint of Torralbenc’s agricultural chic within. We were met down the drive by a demure young gent wearing the sort of beige muted linens that would make Kelly Hoppen weep with joy.
He ushered us to our room, the apotheosis of understated elegance; polished sandstone floors, chalky white walls and pale wood furniture. Scented candles illuminated the living room and on the coffee table rested a plate of crumbly shortbread biscuits. 1,000 miles from home and I still can’t escape baked goods.
The bed was deemed to be ‘very well dressed’, by Mrs Smith, who knows much of these things. Crisp Egyptian cotton, duck feather pillows – just the ticket after the day from hell. Off the bedroom was a smart, west-facing terrace, which hosted the most magnificent light shows every evening.
After a champion kip, we took breakfast on the terrace – Kilner pots of home-made yoghurt, fresh fruit and farmyard eggs – before exploring our surroundings. The hotel is a collection of low-slung, whitewashed farm buildings. The paths between them are fronded with lavender and poppies, which play host to myriad butterflies. Thick, resinous clumps of rosemary poke from the dry earth and leach their perfume into the air. Neat dry stone walls give a formality to the wildness beyond. There are shaded canopies for dining, and a long, slim pool if you fancy giving in to your inner Rebecca Adlington.
The staff are, without exception, magnificent. They do not exist until you need them, and when you do they materialise from the walls, like something out of a herbal tea or air freshener advert, to furnish you with whatever you need, in whatever language you need it in.
On the advice of the reception manager, we drove to the northeastern side of the island, to the picturesque fishing village of Es Grau. The cove is fringed with palms and fingers of rock creep into the gentle sea. We opted to hire a kayak from the beach. Mrs Smith, resplendent in scarlet life jacket, took the helm while I lazily trailed my oar in the millpond azure beneath. Heaven. Just her and me… and a million jellyfish.
We stopped at a tiny beach some 200 metres from shore and swam until the little critters became too scary a prospect. It’s way too uncouth to be weeing on someone in the midst of such beauty, albeit in the name of medical intervention. From there, we rowed to Illa d’en Colom, and sat on the sand topping up our tan, while the fishing boats gently bucked against their moorings.
Back on dry land, we hopped back in the car to check out the northernmost tip of the island, Cap de Cavelleria. Persist through the winding dirt tracks punctuated by sheep, and the reward will be yours. You feel as though you are at the end of the world. The landscape is dramatic, crags of rock buffeted by the tramuntana wind and a sky as wide as your imagination. From July through August, on a clear day, you can enjoy the most jaw-droppingly dramatic of sunsets here, with the sky bleeding across the horizon as it falls to the water.
We dined on the terrace back at the hotel, surrounded by citronella torches to keep the mozzies at bay. We found the ‘degustation menu’ a little intimidating (foam, dust, quenelles – you know the score) but the à la carte offered a delicious alternative, particularly the fresh shellfish summer rolls. For a local tipple, try Binifadet, or Torralbenc’s owners’ own rioja, Remírez de Ganuza. If you like sherry, the Almacenista from Lustau is a must.
On our final day, we headed to the ancient Arab citadel, Ciutadella de Menorca, with its mediaeval streets and bustling markets. After hours of blissful meandering, we wandered down to the harbour and gorged on fresh seafood at the famed Café Balear. I was now so relaxed that the idea of heading home made my heart hurt a little.
Small is beautiful. Oh, Torralbenc in Menorca – we’ll be back.