The ‘bravas Almudaina’. | Andrew Valente

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The law of averages is a supposed mathematical principle stating that future events are likely to turn out so that they balance any past results — the presumed average. When applied to eating at restaurants, this means that if I have had superb meals at a certain place, then one day there will be culinary mistakes galore — and the law of averages will have been at work again.

Well, I have had some absolutely superb menús del día at the Sky Bar of the Hotel Almudaina in Jaime III, with its amazing views over the Bay of Palma with the Cathedral standing stately and staunchly over on the left. So according to this presumed law I am due to run into more than a few culinary mistakes — and that’s exactly what happened on a recent visit.

It wasn’t that a couple of dishes didn’t even get a pass mark (usually one between 5 and 5.9) but there were service failures I have never come across at Sky Bar.

The first disappointing dish was one called ‘bravas Almudaina’, the Sky Bar’s take on a traditional Spanish tapa called ‘patatas bravas’. This is a dish of boiled or fried wedges of potato served with a hot sauce — the ‘brava’ part of this dish. That word ‘bravo’ (‘brava’ is the feminine form) can mean fierce (when applied to a fighting bull, for instance) or rough when referring to a stormy sea.
When used for the hot sauce for this potato dish, it means spicy hot — sometimes ultra spicy hot. Some bars boast that their ‘patatas bravas’ are the hottest in town — any town in Spain, not just in Mallorca.

The salteado de sepia with crispy matchstick potatoes
The salteado de sepia with crispy matchstick potatoes.

These Sky Bar ‘bravas’ were most certainly not the hottest in town —they’re not even the hottest in Avda Jaime III. In an interview many years ago, John Lennon was asked if Ringo Starr was the best drummer in the world. “Ringo isn’t even the best drummer in the Beatles,” Lennon replied, somewhat crudely and cruelly. Or perhaps it was a Liverpudlian joke.

The Sky Bar version of ‘patatas bravas’ was completely lacking in spicy heat (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing) but it had lots going for it in texture. It contained a fair amount of peanuts, which not only added their usual extra layers of taste, but also made for crunchy contrasts of texture.
But in the end this version of ‘patatas bravas’ was a failure. Someone in the kitchen should have realised that and it should never have been on the menu.

The pear tarte Tatin
The pear tarte Tatin.

The other dish that wasn’t up to snuff (when did you last hear that very English expression?) was on the menu as ‘salteado de sepia’. ‘Salteado’ in a culinary context means an ingredient (in this case, chopped cuttlefish) is stir-fried over a high heat so that it has a golden exterior and is juicy inside.
But what was on the plate was a cuttlefish dish that was more like a soup than a stir-fry — another blatant case of cooks giving a dish a name that has northing whatever to do with what’s on the plate. Someone in the kitchen (the head cook, perhaps) should have realised you can’t call this dish a ‘salteado’ when it’s a thickish and very tasty soup.

I had asked for chips with this dish but what I got were deep-fried potato matchsticks with a texture like crisps — and, like crisps, they probably came direct from a packet.

The ‘gató’ with ice cream
The ‘gató’ with ice cream.

The kitchen fortunately went back to its usual 10-rated cooking with the desserts, so the law of averages didn’t work with them. A pear tarte tatin with ice cream was quite sensational and a traditional Mallorcan ‘gató’ was a round individual one and was also served with ice cream. Both were awarded immediate 10s.

Food

The Sky Bar has amazing views over the Bay of Palma and the old town. And what’s on the plate is is also worth looking at — and eating.

The Bill

Bravas Almudaina, €8
Salteado de sepia, €13
Gató con helado, €7
Pear tarte de Tatin, €7
Patata fritas, €4.50
One caña, €3
Total cost with VAT, €42.50

The Verdict

When eating at the Sky Bar I usually have the €17 menú del día which is great value for money — one of the best in central Palma at that price. The prices of the à la carte dishes are normal, although the starter and main course weren’t up to the high culinary standards I usually get at the Sky Bar. In both cases the kitchen was at fault for serving two dishes with the wrong names — a defect I keep running into at places all over the island, not just in Palma. Their version of ‘patatas bravas’, a well known dish of wedges of potato (boiled or deep-fried) was served with a hot sauce, but the cooks messed around with this dish and their supposedly modern version simply didn’t work. It was the same with the ‘salteado de sepia’. This should have been a stir-fried dish of chopped cuttlefish and veggies, but they served instead a thickish soup. That is not on. Everything fortunately came back to normal with the desserts. Sky Bar cooks take a great deal of care with the desserts and they are never less than very good. One was a pear tarte Tatin with ice cream that was most successful. The halves of pears were cooked in red wine and the pastry had the right texture. Their ‘gató with ice cream was an individual little spongecake that also had the correct texture and taste. The cooks didn’t mess about with these well-known and beloved desserts and each was worth a 10.

The Place

Sky Bar, Hotel Almudaina, Avda Jaime III 9, Palma. Their menú del día is served from Monday to Friday, with à la carte dishes on Saturdays, Sundays and fiesta days. I went on a Sunday, so I had à la carte dishes.