Hotel Torralbenc Menorca review: unassumingly chic
Exclusivity and seclusion just 11 minutes from the stunning island’s only airport
Despite its weathered peaks jutting out of the Mediterranean and rolling down to pristine beachside coves, the full geological punch that the small Balearic island of Menorca packs is mostly hidden from view to the casual observer.
The identity that this rugged little dot of land has forged for itself is - on the surface - given away by the rather literal name it was given by its Spanish occupiers over a thousand years ago. The name Menorca is derived from the classical Latin name Insula Minor, meaning “smaller island”, purely to distinguish it from its nearby neighbour named Insula Major, which you may know as nightclub-clad mega resort Majorca.
But to suggest that this wondrous and gleefully undeveloped island is somehow “lesser” than Majorca in any capacity would be a grave error. Despite being almost five times smaller than its big brother across the water, Menorca is home to more individual beaches than both Majorca and the most famous Balearic island, Ibiza, combined.
But while its white-sand beaches may be the envy of the archipelago, it’s what’s inland that really catches the eye. Never an island to play its cards too early, you might miss Torralbenc at first glance; once an unassuming Menorcan farmhouse hidden among dense fields of lavender and rosemary, it has since been restored into a luxury rural retreat acting as the ideal base from which to explore the best that Menorca has to offer.
From our vantage point, the view is nothing but vineyards and olive groves - 70 hectares to be exact - tumbling down the gently sloping hills before bleeding into the surrounding scrubland and waters beyond. The southeast of the island is perhaps the most convenient region of Menorca for holidaying purposes; sparsely populated with an air of exclusivity and seclusion, but in reality not remotely isolated at just 11 minutes by car from the island’s only airport.
Over the past four decades, Menorca has built up a significant reputation as a holiday destination mainly through its wealth of villas and holiday homes, lending the island a somewhat subdued atmosphere that was crying out for a hip hotel like Torralbenc. And to say Spanish hotel guru and owner Pablo Carrington has taken the opportunity would be an understatement.
The 27 rooms, which include those in the main building and a handful of private villas, are Menorcan through and through, constructed with gorgeous flourishes of the ancient sandstone that runs through Menorca’s veins. Delicate shades of grey and beige are the order of the day here, lending a bright and unobtrusive framework to the pristine white four-poster bed that acts as a makeshift centrepiece in a generous living space free from clutter and kitsch.
Despite this, the interior is far from austere, with flatscreen TVs, Wi-Fi and air-con all available, and in the evenings staff help guests decide which beaches to head to by leaving a weather forecast, including wind direction and speed, in the rooms. Every room in the resort has also been kitted with a full private terrace, offering guests a wonderful spot to take their hamper-delivered breakfast in the mornings, or a glass of the fascinating local wine at dusk.
Those looking for a hot tip should look to book Sea View Room 10, where the original owners of the farmhouse resided while the building was still in use. From the comfort of this tasteful room, the views - of a seemingly endless expanse of open ocean to the horizon - are reason enough to visit this remarkable little island.
The adjacent bathrooms - bathed in bright sunlight for most of the day - are a sight to behold, featuring walk-in showers, raised sandstone sinks and angular, ultra-modern bathtubs. Even in these hidden corners of the hotel, the use of local produce takes centre stage in the form of delightful lavender and rosemary-scented bath products.
Beyond the tastefully under-decorated white Mediterranean walls of the farmhouse, Torralbenc’s outdoor pool encapsulates the hotel’s unwavering dedication to extract opulent luxury from all things natural. Here, surrounded on all sides by wide sloping hills of deep green grass, guests can take a dip in this refreshing, uniquely un-chlorinated pool for a red-eye-free swimming experience before hopping onto one of the adjacent sun loungers to soak in the remarkable silence of Menorca.
And to those for whom total isolation is a must, never fear; the Pool and Garden Cottages both feature their own private pools, hidden from view by rows of olive trees.
Slightly further afield is the Natura Bisse Spa, Torralbenc’s well-equipped on-site wellness centre. Just a short walk from the farmhouse, the spa offers treatments from massages to facials, making ample use of oils and lotions scented with local wildflowers.
Next door at the mini-gym, guests can take advantage of daily yoga classes that do more than just guide - they teach. At Torralbenc, yoga trainers can help get those less familiar with the basics started, while veterans can be taught to improve their existing practice with intensive classes on request.
During downtime at the resort, it may be difficult to envisage undertaking much physical activity beyond indulging in an afternoon of sunbathing or gently swimming lengths in the sun-warmed outdoor pool. But in much the same way that the hotel has opened its doors to all things Menorcan for inspiration, so too should guests head out into the island for a real glimpse at how this little island functions, and how it has informed the decor of Torralbenc.
The biking opportunities here are ample, with snaking paths leading down to the nearest sandy beach taking just 15 minutes to traverse. At the base of the hill is Cala'n Porter, the closest but also one of the busiest stretches of coast on the island, awash with touristic umbrellini and noisy tourists. Instead, head east to sample the isolated inlets of Playa de Cales Coves, before cycling over to the adorable little hamlet of Es Canutells for a bite to eat.
The more high-stamina bikers - or those who have rented a car - musn’t miss the gorgeous, shady cobbled streets of Ciutadella de Menorca on the extreme west of the island. This lively, exotic town is the smaller - but nicer - of the two mains settlements on the island, and the one of the world’s foremost destinations for classic examples of Moorish architecture.
At night the city brims with activity, in stark contrast to the rest of Menorca, as the bars and restaurants punctuating the ancient old town attract the young and old of the island. It’s an intoxicating mix of the smell of sizzling tapas and the sound of the unique Menorqui Catalan language, underpinned by the faint wafting of ball d’es cossil music, taking its name from a traditional Menorcan dance.
On the way back Cova d'en Xoroi at Cala’n Porter is worth a visit in time for the sunset, as this clifftop bar and nightclub offers perhaps the best oceanic views on the whole island. But when it comes to the ultimate tipple on Menorca, guests should hot-foot it back to their base at Torralbenc. After all, what else could those 70 acres of vineyard be for?
At just 12 years old, this rustic winery is undeniably young, especially as the first batch by the site’s winemaker Cesar Palomino Guzman only hit shelves in 2016. But boy does it punch above its weight, with three superb offerings of white, rose and red, and although the breezy, warm weather might persuade guests to inch toward the floral, aromatic former, it is the gorgeous merlot-syrah blend of the red that really hits the spot. Exhibiting a dark, intense cherry colour in the glass, this wine sits with considerable mouthfeel on the tongue, offering hints of forest fruits and a robust woody flavour.
But this is far from the only gastronomic treat at Torralbenc. In my opinion, eating out in Spain or on its myriad archipelagos is perhaps the choice culinary experience one can have in all of Europe, both in atmosphere and food. But despite this, Torralbenc’s restaurant, with chef Luis Loza at the helm, packs enough prowees to keep even the most explorative foodies firmly put.
At lunch, Loza is the coolest man in the resort, barely breaking a sweat as he sears everything from Iberian pork to locally-sourced red prawns over a barbecue, lending the food a rich charcoal essence. But the fare, originally the brainchild of Michelin-starred chef Paco Morales, really comes to life at dinner, where the a la carte menu takes guests on a remarkable rollercoaster of Menorcan cuisine.
A delicate lobster aguachile kicked things off, followed up by rosemary-clad roasted baby lamb shoulder sourced from Torralbenc’s own flock, before a a platter of locally-sourced cheeses rounded things off. And once the dust from this gastronomic storm settled and I found myself out on the breezy terrace, washing down an unholy amount of fine food with a first-class rose, it hit me; there were few places I would rather be.
Rooms at Torralbenc from £160 per night, wine tastings from £26, torralbenc.com; Easyjet flights from London or Bristol to Mahón from £57 return