Former executive chef Roberto with the fresh catch of the day this week. | Roberto Ruiz


Roberto Ruiz, who originally hails from Andalusia, comes from a family with centuries of experience and rich history in fishing. And after having spent the best part of 25 years of working as an executive chef in some of Mallorca’s best restaurants, he and his wife, Priscilla, who is from Seville, have decided to cast aside their past and set sail on a new journey by opening the first fishmongers in Calvia, if not the newest in Mallorca.

Pescados Y Mariscos El Rebalaje opened nearly three weeks ago in Portals Nous and it is already proving to be a major catch in the area.

“We knew things would be slow, not only are we a new business, there are not too many second home or holiday home owners about yet. But having said that, we are making the most of the soft opening to find our feet and also connect with the local community, and the response has been extremely positive,” Roberto said.

“Opening a fishmongers has been a dream of both my wife and I for many years. It’s been a long-term project, but I felt it was time to hang up the pots and pans and embark on this new venture.

“Two things we pride ourselves on is price and the fact that all our fish and se food are fresh. There’s a catch of the day every day and we’re open from Tuesday to Sunday.

“Operating costs have obviously risen over the past year, as has the cost of living, but we do our best to make sure that our prices are accessible to all. We offer much better value for money than the main markets in Palma for example,” Roberto said.

What is interesting is that while Balearics waters continue to face serious threats from climate change and the increase in the number of marine heat waves which pose a threat to marine life, and from plastics and pollution, fish stocks have increased over the past few years.

Ninety percent of our fish and seafood, believe it or not, is caught locally. I am down at the fish market in La Lonja every morning at 4am and a vast amount of fresh fish is being caught and that bodes very well for the future.

“There are certain products which I obviously source from the mainland, in particular Galicia or Andalusia, which both have excellent seafood and fish and for which I have first-rate suppliers, but the bulk of my produce is local. People are surprised by how much seafood is produced in Balearic waters as well as by the high quality - from the famous Soller prawns to clams, lobster, Necora (Velvet crab) and octopus. Then there is all the fish and my personal favourite Mallorcan fish is the cap roig, but we’ve also got great salmonetes, lubina and rodaballo, for example.

“To eat, well for me there’s no beating fried boquerones or sardines, which are typical to Andalusia and where they are cooked and taste the best in my opinion,” he said. “The other week a client bought some rodaballo and came back to tell me it was the best he had eaten in a good ten years.

“So yes, we’ve been welcomed by the local community and like I’ve said, we’re not abusive with our pricing. We haven’t embarked on this project to make our millions. We clearly have to cover our operating costs and make a living, but we’ve carefully worked out our margins and percentages and right now are taking it step by step and expect to fully up to speed when the holiday home owners start arriving next month.

“But I think the important thing to stress is that we’re selling fresh produce, we’re not dealing with producers from fish farms where the fish are fed on dried fish food.

Eating fish from a fish farm is like eating straw and people who know their fish and seafood notice the difference immediately, so we can’t afford to try and cheat people, otherwise we’ll get caught out and that will damage our reputation.

“And, for example, we are selling a kilo of fresh lubina for only three euros more than a leading supermarket chain is selling its lubina from a fish farm. So it’s not a major difference in price but it makes all the difference when it’s eaten.

“The only minor problem with most fresh fish is that it has to be eaten within two days, especially the smaller species such as sardines, which are also common and very tasty in Balearic waters. But most of our clients are not only aware of that but come for the fish of the day which is to be eaten that day. And another important service we offer is that I can source and fresh fish or seafood to order within 24 hours, be it local or from the mainland. Obviously there are a few exceptions, such as the highly coveted percebes barnacles - the very best come from Galicia where people brave the elements and risk their lives to harvest them off the rocks in high seas - but I have my suppliers and those normally take me two gets to obtain fresh,” Roberto said.

“But I have to admit that what does annoy me and does not help fishmongers on the island are the prices charged for ‘fresh’ fish by certain restaurants.

“A few weeks ago, we went to a restaurant, naming no names, and it was charging 79 euros per kilo of lubina, when I’m charging 17.

“I know it has to be cooked and the chef needs to be paid, etc., but having been an executive and a chef and knowing the true value of fresh fish, the price was extortionate. The restaurant was making a 5,000% profit and that abuse of the client does not do the fish trade any good at all because there is a danger we all get tarnished with the same brush and people will simply stay away from ‘fresh fish’ and opt for slightly cheaper alternatives of inferior quality from the large supermarkets, which is a great shame because fresh fish and seafood do not have to cost a small fortune in Mallorca.

“It’s a case of knowing where to go and having the confidence that you are buying fresh quality produce. That is what we at El Rebalaje pride ourselves on and intend to continue doing as we move forward and create a name for ourselves. Since the weather has calmed down over the past few weeks, the local catch has been plentiful and well priced, so there is no excusefor paying over the odds for fresh fish.”