The mixology geniuses behind Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris are helping transform the Spanish island of Ibiza into a compelling food-and-drink destination.
Ibiza, the legendary ittle island off the east coast of Spain, might be famous for its decadent 24-hour raves, but it has a quieter side—there are meditation and yoga retreats, hidden coves and secret beaches accessible mainly by boat or steep, unmarked trails. “That’s why I love Ibiza,” says celebrated mixologist Romée de Goriainoff, co-owner of Experimental Beach Ibiza. “You can do everything or nothing—whatever you want.”
Two things you couldn’t do until recently on Ibiza: eat or drink very well. “Even at the best places, there was a tendency to put a big Buddha at the entrance and serve sushi and pasta on white Plexiglas tables,” de Goriainoff says. Now that’s changing. The extraordinary chefs Ferran and Albert Adrià are the latest to open a place there. Meanwhile, de Goriainoff has launched his Ibiza bar and restaurant with partners Olivier Bon, Pierre-Charles Cros and Xavier Padovani.
De Goriainoff has a history of creating sophisticated vanguard lounges in major cities around the world. Eight years ago, he opened the Experimental Cocktail Club in Paris and changed the European mixology scene by offering exquisitely crafted drinks in a swanky space. He and his partners went on to establish clubs and wine bars in London and New York; they’re now expanding into the hotel business with a new cocktail-centric property in Paris, Grand Pigalle, where the lobby bar is the major focus and a vintage Citroën car will take guests to the group’s other bars and lounges across the city. Having a place in Ibiza has been a secret dream for de Goriainoff, a regular visitor to the island. When the chance came to buy his favorite chiringuito, a thatch-roofed beach shack, he took it. Situated in a nature reserve on the island’s southernmost tip, the property had long been overseen by two brothers who looked like “they had seen their share of parties,” says de Goriainoff. “But the location has the best sunsets on earth.”
At most chiringuitos, the design is very simple and the specialty of the house is a sandwich and an Estrella beer. The Experimental Group wanted something modern but still true to a chiringuito’s casual beach vibe, so they brought in the French designer Dorothée Meilichzon. She transformed a small fishing boat into a bohemian bar and outfitted the restaurant with rattan, natural wood and sky-blue cotton. Chef Alex Larrea serves simple Mediterranean dishes like tender pan-grilled octopus with local chorizo. As for the cocktails, the group eschews the avant-garde ones they’re known for, instead preparing whimsical takes on the classics, like a mai tai mixed with a hit of whiskey so it’s not too sweet. The signature drink is the Pineapple Express, spiked with rum and served in a frozen pineapple with a pair of straws. It has a splash of grenadine, which gives it a pretty pink color that looks a lot like an Ibiza sunset. It’s an image that continues to inspire de Goriainoff. “I’d love to open up a hotel in Ibiza,” he says. Las Salinas; eccbeach.com.
Gisela Williams is Food & Wine’s European correspondent. She lives in Berlin with her family.