Three of us were lucky enough to visit Michelin starred Zaranda while we were visiting the Palma Yacht Show at the end of April. The concept of the restaurant is like no other. The building was discovered to be built upon the grounds of an old tannery. Instead of disregarding this architectural perk, Head Chef Fernando Pérez Arellano took it upon himself to retain as much of the original architecture as possible, and pay tribute to its history by designing the menu around the building’s roots. We were soon to find out that their commitment to the theme is impressive, and extensive.

Arellano began his career washing dishes in Dublin, before working in esteemed restaurants including Patrick Guilbaud in Dublin, Le Gavroche in London, Don Alfonso 1890 in Naples and  Can Fabes in Barcelona. He opened the first iteration of Zaranda in Madrid in 2005, earning a Michelin star just one year after opening. Zaranda in Palma came next and gained its own Michelin star in 2015.

There are three menu options to choose from – Hipodermis, Dermis, and Epidermis. We opted for the 16 course Dermis, enjoying the menu in three parts. Firstly, at the bar. Secondly, in the kitchen, sat by the pass, and thirdly, in the dining room.

The experience began with fermentations galore. Our welcome drink was a glass of home brewed kombucha. While it was delicious, it felt ever so slightly reminiscent of the start of a spa experience. We were excited to sample the drinks menu, and while there were champagne cocktails and a selection of vermouths, the alcohol selection overall was fairly limited, and we were certainly not encouraged to order drinks. I mention this, because it felt rather out of the ordinary, to have to make a concerted effort to order drinks, in a restaurant setting.

The first course was a selection of fermented vegetables, infused with different aromatics. Endive, turmeric daikon, miso cucumber, apple, aubergine and beetroot pickle – our collective gut microbes were having a rave.

Our second course at the bar was a nod to the painting of the leathers. This was the first of many times we would see Zandara’s signature hide motif. We were to paint the crackers with their prospective accompaniments. The sumac cracker was paired with a peppermint pistou, tahini sauce, and paper thin cured beef. The paprika cracker came with monkfish pâté, saffron aioli & a punchy pippara relish. Our favourite cracker packed a real umami punch. It was dusted with mushrooms, and spread with smoked butter, anchovies & a mushroom & plum duxelle.

Moving through to the kitchen, we sat at the hot pass, practically beneath the heat lamps. The chefs welcomed us with genuine smiles and were game to be quizzed and photographed.

Our first delight was a pairing of two dishes, completely different in nature yet made with the same ingredients. The cup was filled with an egg and San Simón cheese custard, with a layer of truffle. The little plump bite next to it was a savoury mochi, made with the rind of the same cheese, and sat in a truffle syrup. Both were outstanding.

A bespoke waffle machine was smoking away in the corner, pressing lamb skin into a beautiful print. After a light spray of edible golden glitter, it was presented to us alongside gently spiced lamb belly in a lettuce cup. We were to sandwich the lamb in between the crispy skin. Somehow, we managed it, but we made a bit of a mess in the process.

Moving through to the dining room, we enjoyed a mini pint of ‘Guinness’, in homage to the time the head chef spent in the emerald isle. It was made of salmon stock, with an espuma foam over the top, which complemented the caviar adorned four leaf clover cracker perfectly.

The razor clam dish was a triumph. Little slices of razor clam were dotted in amongst fresh peas, all coated in a layer of veal jelly.

Then came the chef’s interpretation of a vitello tonnato. Paper thin slices of veal tongue were layered over a tuna emulsion.

Perfectly cooked monkfish was served with chermoula, and spirulina accented greens. You don’t often see blue food – this dish was a delight to the senses.

More painting! The pigeon was served with sweet little pastry paint pots of succulent braised meat.

This course admittedly looked a little alarming. It called to mind a skin transplant? But yet again, another nod to the tannery. It was our pre-dessert, towing the line between sweet and savoury, celebrating goats cheese and sumac.

While the desserts were beautiful, the menu truly excelled in its savoury elements. We enjoyed a light, squidgy, lemon mochi, with a lemon gel. Visually, it was excellent, but we all agreed that it would have benefitted from even more lemon flavour. A celebration of the Balearic’s iconic pastry came next – ensaïmada. Sadly, it was a little dry, but the light as air cotton candy with apple ice cream was a fun addition.

The meal ended with about eight different flavoured colourful biscuits, shaped like little horns, crackers galore, and more creams to ‘paint’ them with. The bill was presented to us inside in a chocolate pig, which the server smashed with a hammer. While the theatrical element was a bit of fun, we all thought that it was rather wasteful, and didn’t align with the circular kitchen aspect that the other dishes displayed so well.

All in all, Zandara offers a unique culinary experience, which celebrates the history of the site. The journey through the building really adds to the dining experience, with the service on offer being light-hearted, fun and personable. The kitchen’s collective talent and individuality is clear on each and every plate. In our opinion, their pastry would benefit from some tweaking, and more attention and focus on the beverage side of things wouldn’t go amiss. There is no wine pairing, so that’s something worth keeping in mind. Definitely give Zandara a try if you find yourselves in Palma, for something completely different. You might just come away with a newfound appreciation for all that goes into leather.

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