The influx of the sea-and-sun-seeking masses has brought an international flavour – or lack thereof – to many Balearic cafés and restaurants. There are, perhaps, notably few dishes which are unique to the islands but that’s hardly surprising given their history of foreign invasion. Typical dishes, which are often of Catalan descent, consist of hearty stews, soups and spiced meats.
Fish and shellfish are the mainstay of most menus. Caldereta de llagosta (a lobster stew cooked with tomatoes) is a common speciality, especially in Menorca, as is salted cod, grilled squid and prawns cooked in antisocial – but delicious – amounts of garlic.
As in mainland Spain, the most enjoyable way to experiment with local cuisine is by sampling smaller portions in the form of tapas, or pintxos (typical of the Basque country). Pa amb oli (bread rubbed with olive oil) is an obvious cheap eat and is typically eaten for lunch or breakfast. For the sweeter-toothed, another source of Balearic culinary pride is a spiral pastry dusted with icing sugar called an ensaimada.
Menorcans were inspired into gin-making by the British, and Xoriguer gin made in Maó has a potent kick – it’s often drunk as a pomada (gin with lemonade). Mallorcan wine – particularly red Binissalem – is experiencing something of a resurgence and is worth seeking out.