The elegant pastel de merluza. | Andrew Valente

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One of the many attractions of Palma is that it’s a biggish city with everything of interest to me within shortish walking distance of where I live or work. I walk everywhere and never take the bus. I have never had one of those season tickets that allow you to travel by bus at much reduced rates and even change from one bus to another without paying extra.

Even so, there are some parts of Palma I would consider as being central, which I seldom get round to visiting. One of these is behind the Town Hall and it goes from Plaza Santa Eulalia towards Calatrava and other sectors of the old town. In pre-pandemic days, which was just a couple of years ago, that area housed at least seven restaurants, some of which were very good and worth visiting again. So 10 days ago I took a walk up Calle Conquistador and down into that old part of town.

The Russian salad was a generous portion.
The Russian salad was a generous portion.

From Plaza Santa Eulalia downwards, a very short walk in a small area, every step that took me further away from the square filled me with considerable sadness.

I quickly realised that not one of the seven restaurants I was hoping to visit was still in business. None of them had survived the pandemic. One was a place called Las Olas, owned by a man called John who was Irish (I think). The kitchen was in the hands of a Cambodian (I think) called Eveline who was talented and versatile and knew about Jewish and Sephardic cooking. On two occasions I had good meals at Las Olas and I was looking forward to eating there again, but the façade looked as if the place had been closed since at least the start of the pandemic.

I took a walk along Calle Morey looking for a place that once had a very good Cuban cook. I knew she had married some time ago and had given up cooking, although the restaurant still functioned a few years ago. But it had also disappeared. Then I saw something I had forgotten about — Bodega Morey, a tiny place that was a wineshop when it first opened in 1955. At that time these bodegas were in every Palma neighbourhood and some areas had more than one.

The escalivada with sliced bacalao was a 10.
The escalivada with sliced bacalao was a 10.

When I lived in Calatrava, there was a bodega in Calle Montesión, in front of the church, and one at the other end of Montesión and a third in Calle Sol. Then there was the nearby Bodega Morey. There were no Palma supermarkets at that time (London’s first didn’t appear until 1951) but every area had places called ‘colmados’ that were grocery shops and general stores.

Up-market ‘colmados’ sold a few bottled wines but the vast majority of people bought their wine at the bodegas, where it was served from barrels. Even a tiny place like Bodega Morey had at least one barrel of red wine and another of white. But some of the bigger wineshops had several barrels of wine, including one of sherry, and smaller casks with brandy and other spirits and also vermouths and similar drinks.

A few of the bigger wineshops even had backrooms where they served two or three seasonal dishes, based on Mallorcan or Spanish recipes and cooked by the owner’s wife. But with the advent of supermarkets in the 1960s and 70s, the ‘colmados’ were badly hit and many of them went out of business. The wineshops disappeared at an even faster rate because it was easier (and a novelty) to buy bottled wine at supermarkets.

The Russian salad even looked good.
The Russian salad even looked good.
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I don’t know of any bodega in Palma that still sells wine from the barrel. One of the last to leave the scene was Bodega Morey but the premises remained in use after someone turned it into a tiny tapas bar. It’s a great survivor and the last of the original bodegas in central Palma that is still functioning as a bar of some kind. It is now run by a Madrileño called Octavio Caballero and the tapas are done by a very good Moroccan cook called Malika.

There are only six tables and two stools at the bar and the minuscule kitchen is behind the bar and so is the dishwasher. So you frequently hear a great clattering of plates and cutlery and the occasional squalling of a tourist’s baby.

The dish of escalivada was one of the best ever.
The dish of escalivada was one of the best ever.

But Malika’s tapas are so extremely good and the portions so incredibly generous that it’s worth putting up with the racket. If the music’s on at a high pitch ask them to turn it down. I did and that made everything a bit more bearable.

Food

Spanish and Mallorcan tapas served in very generous portions and at low prices.

The verdict

Calle Morey is in a part of the old town that tourists traipse through, especially on cloudy days when going to the beach isn’t an option and everyone seems to come into Palma to do some shopping…and to go drinking and eating at bars and restaurants. Tapas bars don’t come much smaller or noisier than Bodega Morey but there are compensations — such as the quick turnover of tables and Malika’s excellent cooking. Her Russian salad was superb, the vegetables nicely cooked and seasoned. One of the main reasons this Russian salad was so memorable was that Malika had included a most generous amount of canned tuna.

That ensured lots of taste and a creamy kind of texture. It’s worth going to this bar just for the Russian salad. The pastel de merluza is a kind of thick hake timbale with a beautiful even consistency (but not ultra smooth) and a delish taste of hake. It’s worth going to this bar just for this pastel de merluza. But the star of this tapas trio was the escalivada with thin slices of salt cod Malika’s version was a superb melange of tomatoes, peppers and aubergines and I asked for it to be topped with splendid slices of salt cod. It all added up to a 10. It’s worth going to this bar just for the escalivada with bacalao.

The place

Bodega Morey, Calle Morey 4, Palma. Tel:607- 252730. At the moment they are open from Monday to Saturday from around 11am until about 5pm. The place is so small it fills up very easily, but it’s a tapas bar so there’s a quick turnover of tables.

The bill

Ensaladilla rusa, €4.50
Escalivada and bacalao, €6.50
Pastel de merluza, €6.50
One caña, €2
Total cost with VAT: €19.50