The chips were perfect and worth a 10. | Andrew Valente

Many years ago, soon after I started to review restaurants for sister paper Ultima Hora, I went to an expensive place that specialised in top quality steaks.

Our starter was croquettes that were beautifully fried with a crisp exterior and without any traces of residual oil.

I would have given them a 10 rating but for one essential detail that was missing: they were chicken croquettes but they didn’t taste of chicken.

The John Dory fillet in the ‘mallorquina’ style.

That review appeared on a Sunday and I later learned that next day at noon the owner, the manageress and the head cook sat down and tasted their own croquettes.

All three came to the same conclusion: the review was right and their chicken croquettes didn’t taste of chicken. The head cook got to work on a new recipe in which the taste of chicken was very much up-front.

Some weeks later my son invited the family to a birthday lunch at this restaurant with a whole roast suckling pig as the mains and chicken croquettes as one of the nibbles.

The chips were perfect and worth a 10.

This time the croquettes were perfect in every way and they tasted of chicken. I wasn’t reviewing that meal, but had I been doing so I’d have given the croquettes a 10.

Something similar must have happened at the Palma Blanc Hotel in Calle Ramón y Cajal. I had a meal there at the end of July in which the chips were hard and inedible.

They had been made with a variety of potato that is the worst I have ever come across. In my review on July 29 I wrote: “The chips were an utter failure. But it was the potatoes that were at fault, not the cooks.”

The tagliatelle had three shelled gambas.

Last week I went back to Palma Blanc to try their €20 menú del día, served from Monday to Friday with the dishes changing every day. I had phoned to find out what was on the menu that day and the dishes were attractive.

I was also looking forward to ordering a portion of chips on the side to see if the cooks are now using a variety of potato that is suitable for frying.

When the small plate of chips arrived I could tell just by looking at them that they were going to be very good. But they were actually much better than that: they were perfect.

The yoghurt mousse with apricot jam.

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They were tongue-burning hot and that meant they had been pre-fried and then given a final dip in oil at around 200C before being sent to the table.

They were whitish rather than golden but they also had a crisp-like finish and parts of them were positively crunchy. There wasn’t a trace of residual oil.

The chips first time round were undercooked, hard and inedible but the interiors of last week’s were lusciously soft.

I had the impression they were triple cooked, which is how Heston Blumenthal does them at The Fat Duck in Bray (Berkshire).

The sautéed chicken with cous-cous.

The raw chipped potatoes are first boiled in salted water for anything from three to 10 minutes, or even longer, depending on the cook’s preference. They are allowed to cool down and are then deep-fried at around 170C until they float on the surface of the oil. The chips are put aside until needed and are given a last dip at 200C until of a whitish to deep golden colour.

It’s not difficult to fry really great chips, even in a very busy restaurant. It just needs the right kind of potato and a cook who is aware that perfect chips are one of his everyday little chores.

Last week’s chips at the Hotel Palma Blanc restaurant were worth a 10-rating — and as many gold medals as there are chips in a portion costing €5.

FOOD

Lots of good choices including fish and meats and lovely desserts. And perfect chips with a 10 rating.

THE VERDICT

Whenever necessary, I have no qualms about saying a dish isn’t up to scratch and I’ll even add where the cook went wrong and how he can fix things up. As I don’t usually make an immediate return visit to restaurants, I don’t get to know if the kitchen took any notice of my advice. So it was most satisfying to go back to the Hotel Palma Blanc restaurant after only three weeks to see that the chips, previously inedible, are now absolutely perfect and worth a 10.

The Palma Blanc and its customers deserve the best chips in town and I’m delighted they now have them. We tasted four dishes and two desserts and were more than satisfied with all of them. A cold cream of carrot soup flavoured with orange, ginger and lemon grass was a light and a delish way of starting a summer meal. Tagliatelle finished off in a creamy sauce made with caramelised onion, bacon and shelled gambas, was another starter that thrust the tastebuds into action. A red curry chicken with pineapple and cous-cous was delightfully spiced and the cous-cous grains were nicely cooked and separate.

A thickish John Dory fillet was finished off with a ‘mallorquina’ style vinaigrette and was a lovely dish. A yoghurt mousse with apricot jam and a thin tablet of white chocolate was an especially fine dessert and three scoops of strawberry ice cream really tasted of strawberries.

THE PLACE

Hotel Palma Blanc, Calle Ramón y Cajal 12, Palma. Tel:971-007009. The dining room is large but it’s best to make a reservation, especially if you want to eat in the open-air interior patio.

THE BILL

The Monday to Friday menú del día costs €20 and it includes a caña, glass of wine or water. The menu changes every day. We had a portion of chips at €5 so the bill for two came to €45 with VAT.