The 'secreto' a la plancha with mash and carrots. | Andrew Valente

Today’s restaurant started off as a neighbourhood bar in 1955 but it grew little by little, first serving tapas, then meals for those working in nearby offices and shops, and finally as the fully-fledged restaurant it has been for more than 25 years.

It’s now well known for its tapas, its ‘variados’ (a combo plate of tapas) and its menú del día. I live in the area and often pass by on my way to and from the centre of Palma.

The pavement tables are always taken, the bar area (with more tables) is buzzing and there’s a full house at the back where there’s a biggish dining room. For decades Bar Mavi has been on my list of places I want to try.

Last week I finally dropped in on my way to the office and booked a table for lunch. I was expecting to get one of the best menús del día of my life — but instead it was the worst one I’ve ever been served.

We started with paella which, as always for a menú del día, is served from a large paella until it is used up. We were there at 2pm but even so we must have got the tail end of the big paella because what was on our plates was cold and dry and just not good enough for a menú del día that costs €12.40. I have never had such a bad menú del día paella. One of the mains was calamares andaluza — squid rings coated with flour and deep-fried. The rings were over-fried, dried out, tough and cold. Never ever have squid rings been as awful as these. If you were eating them for the first time you wouldn’t want to try them ever again.

The other mains was a ‘secreto’ of pork a la plancha, mashed potatoes and carrots. This is an Andalusian cut with thin streaks of fat that ensure a juicy piece of pork when cooked properly. Our ‘secreto’ was completely caramelised on each side, meaning it had been lying on the hot plate for ages. Like the squid rings, it was overdone and cold. It was thick at one end and thin at the other. The thick end was dry but passably tender. The thin end was so dried out it was difficult to cut with a knife. A woman opposite us picked up the thin part of her ‘secreto’ and shredded it with her fingers.

The mash looked like stodge and a small amount on the tip of the fork was enough to confirm the visual impact. It wasn’t warm enough to be called tepid. It all added up to the worst menú del día I’ve ever had.

The verdict

I don’t know what happens on other days of the week but it was easy to see what went wrong with the meal we had. The restaurant is so busy and the kitchen is under such pressure to churn out dishes as quickly as possible that everything is cooked and waiting to be served. The paella and the deep-fried squid rings were obviously made long before we arrived at 2pm. The ‘secreto’ was started some time before we ordered and it was sitting on a warm hot plate getting caramelised and dry. However, I think the cooks must be capable of better things, so I’ll go back soon for an à la carte dinner — when the cooks should be under less pressure.

The place

Bar Mavi, Calle 31 de Diciembre, Palma. Tel:971-290005. Open from 7am until midnight. They close on Saturday afternoons and all day on Sundays. They have lots of space and there should be no need to book except, perhaps, on Fridays and Saturdays.

The bill

We had two menús del día at €12.40 with no extras so the bill came to €24.80. That also included dessert: a lemon sorbet that comes from one of those machines that churns the sorbet around all day long, and a wrapped factory-made ice cream cone.