Playa d'es Codolar, Salinas, Ibiza
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There’s nothing like a frontier to discover or an adventure to pursue - where the destination is known but the outcome undefined - to get the heart beating a little faster. A great book or film performs that trick so well. Think of the tales of – to use a sliding scale – Lawrence of Arabia, or Jack London’s dog Buck in Call of the Wild, or Bridget Jones (the first film, before it got a bit crap). Wild, wilder, and wide-eyed in turn, but all embarked on a voyage into the unknown.
Food, or to be precise, a great experience wrapped around good eating and fine drinking, can perform the same kind of shakabuku, the swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.
Take the Experimental Beach Club in Ibiza. Now, Ibiza has long been a spiritual place anyway, and in so many ways, good and bad. Yogic retreat. Blissful dance paradise. Roasthouse jail (two millennia back, the Romans would send their true lunatics here to stew in exile).
But Experimental offers a new side to the white, glinting Balearic isle. There are many great beach clubs here, from Nassau on Platja d'En Bossa to Amante in Cala Llonga, but none quite like this. It isn’t easy to find – rule of thumb, when you reach Cami de la Revista, a raised dyke leading between two salt pans, on the way to Platja de ses Salinas, turn west and follow the stream of hire cars wending their way along a dusty road, toward the setting sun.
That this is no longer one of the island’s hidden secrets is no great misfortune: there’s room on this rocky southern outcrop for everyone. Some come here to eat; others to lounge at one of the three bars; others just to grab a beer before wandering down to the floating pontoon to dip their toes in the Mediterranean one last time.
But lets look at what Experimental offers. Good food? Tick. Not out of this world great, but really up there with the best on the island. Our group had the Galician blond sirloin steak with an excellent side of vegetables – not bad given that pretty much everything has to be imported – and the seabass in salt crust for two, which was decrusted, gutted and filleted at the table, and which was simply heavenly: flaky, light-but-filling, richly evocative of the seas lapping at our feet. A few starters and tapas to start: ham croquetas, mini chorizo, patatas brava. We were a happy crowd.
To drink, variously: a bottle of crisp white Terra Prima from Penedes in Catalonia; a bottle (or two) of Bollinger special cuvee, which went down an absolute treat; the driest of dry G&Ts, courtesy of Ferdinand’s gin distillery in the German Saarland; and a couple of (real) stubby bottles of Jamaican Red Strip beer. We dipped into the cocktail menu too, an imaginative compendium that includes signature favourite ‘Old Cuban’ with plantation rum, ‘Green and Tonic’ with Mare gin and Granny Smith apple juice, ‘Sangre Del Mar’, with samphire-and caper-infused vodka, and Red Bliss, a rosemary-infused vodka dappled with a host of springtime berries.
There are two times to visit Experimental: just before sunset, and just after. Or do both. We did. Twice. Sunset Ashram on the island’s west coast is the best place to see our great radiator disappear over the horizon, but Experimental comes a close second. As day ends, the heavens glare white-gold before turning to hues of yellow, amber, thick velvety crimson. Slowly, attention turns back to the company we arrived in, as we ponder the great mysteries of the universe – and determine whether to have that last glass of white.
Experimental has become popular in recent years – but not, at least yet, too popular. It still has a friendly and somewhat makeshift air, from the additional bar by the stony beachside, to the somewhat haphazard (yet still endearing) service. Barstaff are friendly and engaging and happy. The clientele is genuinely mixed, including blow-ins in search of a cheap beer and a great view, to the elegantly attired attending a notable anniversary or wedding reception. You leave – bouncing down the dirt track toward Eivissa town – wanting to come back again. And you will. It’s that kind of place.