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Four volumes of SUITCASE Magazine, with a new issue delivered to your door each quarter
That pre-internet Côte d’Azur time capsule where Salvador Dali used to party alongside Brigitte Bardot has become like chasing a pot of gold under the rainbow; mesmerising and largely unattainable. But if you’re looking to reclaim that bohemian glamour of 1970s St Tropez, the mountain village of Deià in Mallorca might just be the answer. Offering spectacular views and wild, untouched landscapes paired with low-key luxury and boho watering holes, keep it hush hush, but this is the coolest holiday spot on the block this summer.
Hidden in the north of Mallorca between the Serra de Tramuntana mountains and Mediterranean Sea, Deià is a pocket of understated glamour, famous for its artistic and literary residents. Here, Porsches park up alongside push bikes and Vespas, while lavish couples of a certain age (the ones who used to party in St Tropez) and in-the-know creatives populate the streets and restaurants. Everyone socialises together, whether that’s squeezing up on the rocks at the cala, or getting down to a live soundtrack at Sa Fonda. Kate Moss, the Geldofs and Catherine Zeta Jones are just a few of Deià’s regulars.
Flowers in full bloom burst from every street in iridescent hues of fuchsia, sapphire and topaz, gleaming like gems in the light. Once an agricultural village, the whitewashed limestone buildings now occupy small art galleries and ateliers. Local artists paint on canvas and mold ceramics, showcasing Spanish produce: lemons, oranges, figs and olives. These fruits, too, feature abundantly on the menus of the restaurants, of which there are many for such a small place. From Michelin-star dining and decadent tapas to takeaway pizza, you’ll find something for every mood.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site for its astounding natural beauty, Deià is immaculate yet rugged in a wild, untouched sort of way. And untouched is what encapsulates its sheer value. Mass tourism, tower-block hotels and Magaluf are all a safe distance away on the other side of the island. For Deià’s summer residents, the only thing that matters is hitting reset in this dream spot. Here’s what they get up to…
Hotels are becoming increasingly hard to book in Deià, but there are plenty of excellent Airbnbs to choose from. Think rustic with roomy terraces overlooking the mountains, traditional Spanish interiors, farmhouse-style kitchens and plenty of exposed stone and wood features. If a pool is what you’re after, there are plenty of fincas just a stone’s throw from all of the best restaurants and at a fraction of the price of the hotels.
At the other end of the scale, you’ll find ultimate luxury at La Residencia; once owned by Richard Branson, it’s now a Belmond hotel and known as the finest place to stay in the area. Set in two stone manor houses, the hotel has a modern rustic aesthetic with quirky details. If you can prize yourself away from the tranquil mountain-facing pool area, there are two restaurants and a bar to discover. El Olivio is highly reputed as one of the best restaurants in Mallorca; if romance is on the cards, executive chef Guillermo Méndez’ tasting menu will deliver. With decadent bathrooms, pop-up televisions and private terrace jacuzzis, everything is curated for pure relaxation. And we wouldn’t want it any other way.
Since its opening in 2016, Restaurant Nama has served ingenious combinations stemming from Asian – notably Thai – cuisine in an impossibly chic and comfortable setting. Offering up different portion sizes from tapas to fresh plates and mains, you can construct your meal as you like. Think fresh lobster wontons in soy sauce, fiery Thai green curry and scallop shells laden with zingy fish ceviche. Vegans, forget one token dish – here, you have plenty of options. The terrace opens out onto the Serra de Tramuntana mountain range and the sea and colourful hanging lanterns bob from side to side as the wind flows in. The sign of a genuinely exceptional restaurant? The staff at Nama love their jobs; it’s obvious from the way they welcome you in to the recommendations they give. A refined, atmospheric spot where the food is unbelievably good.
Lunch at this seafood restaurant is brilliant, but it’s dinner that will knock your socks off. Why? The sunset is hard to beat. Ask for a seat on the periphery of the restaurant for an unobstructed sea view, where you can watch horizon turn jam-red, then gold tinged with blue, before finally submitting to the dark of night. Located on the cliffs of Cala de Deià, the famous rocky cove, the restaurant’s wooden structure is like a beach shack from a 007 movie. Here, it’s all about the handwritten “catch of the day” menu. You’ll find a varied shoal of fish that you’ve never tried before, alongside seafood favourites like lobster, each served simply with fries or salad. Sourcing their fish from Mallorca and Galicia they take getting the best produce seriously – and that pays off in taste. For romance and a dash of Mediterranean drama, Ca’s Patro wins.
Do as the locals do and swing into one of Xelini’s floral terraces. With ivy canopies and a view straight out onto the Mallorcan mountainscape, the setting is idyllic – but you came here for food, and this place delivers. A large menu of traditional Spanish tapas has plenty of options from platters of cured mountain ham with a side of manchego to fresh bread, fish dishes and moreish veggie plates like patatas bravas. As for the wine, Xelini offers a solid selection of local varieties, so make the most of it. On weekend nights, expect live music, a buzzing ambience and an unrivalled view.
It would be criminal not to shoot for a Michelin star dinner at least once. With one étoile to its name, as well as an incredible terrace, Es Raco d’Es Teix is pretty special. The brainchild of Josef Sauerschell and Leonor Payeras, this family-run establishment is located over two floors within a stone house typical to the agricultural village, adding to its rustic feel. Expect complex dishes drawn from classic cuisine and infused with modern techniques. Sauerschell focuses on meat like Mallorcan suckling pig, so this menu may come as a welcome break from all of the seafood you’ve likely consumed. A dedicated sommelier is on hand to help you draw out the best wines to match your meal, spotlighting a different Mallorcan vineyard every month. We recommend the four- or six-course tasting menu at 72-100€.
If you’re on the fence, dreamy images of Cala de Deià will make you confirm your holiday booking immediately – and fortunately, the sapphire-blue waters, dramatic cliffs and beach-side shacks are as picture-perfect in reality as they look in pixels. One particularly large rock in the sea is the focal point, with children and adults jumping from its peak into the sea and sunbathers cheering on the more nervous among them. The old-school feel is brought home by snorkelers paddling around the rock pools and the chic disposition of the Céline-clad sunbathers, tactically in position on the stoney beach (no sand, here). To make the cala work, invest in a lilo as a smooth base for your towel. It’s a genius move to avoid bruises and cuts that are party to this beach. Be prepared for the 25-minute hike down from Deia, too: trainers are advised. Wild and unembellished glamour is what you’re after, though, and Cala de Deià is worth every scratch. Best on a Saturday evening, when nearby Ca’s Patro turns its speakers up and music echoes around the cove as the sun begins its descent.
Deià is famously where the artists, literaries and bohemians go to get away. Accordingly, the village is filled with small, independent galleries and ateliers, though bigger establishments like Hotel La Residencia often host exhibitions, too. Meander from the main street, around the winding road that leads up to the church at Deià’s peak and, en route, you’ll stumble across these largely unannounced art spaces. Pottery, paintings and vases are commonly found alongside jewellery in bright hues of gold and turquoise. Ceramica Joanna, located on Es Porxo, is the best of the lot. Inside the tiny atelier, you’ll find Joanna, or one of her makers, painting lemons, oranges, olives or figs onto large dishes, bowls and jugs. Each piece celebrates the vibrant fruits that are local specialties; a welcome injection of colour into your home. The team will also make sure your buy is packed well enough to take survive in your hand luggage.
If you splash out on just one activity, let it be Mezzo Magic. The British private yacht charter is based in Port de Soller, the next town along from Deià, which is accessible by bus, car and bike. You could go private, but we suggest registering interest in a group charter for which you’ll pay around 75€/head for a half-day trip, 120€ for a full day or 50€ for a sunset trip. The skipper sets sail, taking you out to different coves like Sa Fordada and Cala de Deià, where you can dive, snorkel and paddleboard. At sea, local knowledge is unrivalled, so you’ll be able to safely do things that you otherwise couldn’t have. Think swinging from a swing rope near Smuggler’s Cove and diving in a secret cave, where bright shafts of light illuminate swirls of rock and fluttering fish deep below. The skipper will provide you with as much cava, wine and beer as you like (within safe reason) and, who knows, you might get on so well with your fellow charterers that you head out for drinks together afterwards. The live jazz and food truck evening on Thursdays in Port de Soller is unmissable (and unheard of by tourists).
The best way to take in the vast mountains and endless sea is by bike or on a hike. The roads in Mallorca are perfectly smooth, which, along with the mountains, is why professional cyclists choose to train here. Equip Deia is run by the Reynés family – two of whom are ex-pro cyclists – and offers a bike hire service. For a reasonable price, they will kit you out with a bike, helmet and repair kit, and give you all the route advice you need before heading off. If biking isn’t your thing, sign up to one of their guided hikes. The surrounding mountains make for incredible hiking opportunities, but are best when professionally led. If you’d prefer to go it alone, one of the most popular and straightforward trails goes from the cala to Soller. The two-and-a-half hour hike takes you over the mountains, with stunning sea views which are best at sunset.
Just as you’re acclimatising Deià’s surreal charms, Nama Bar steps it up another level. Opened in July 2017, this cocktail bar was designed by celebrated British designer Matthew Williamson, who lives part-time in the village. Stepping through the threshold is like entering a whole new dimension; every table, cushion and chair is different, with Williamson’s signature prints injecting intense colour and coasters outed for playing cards. The women’s loo is covered in a vibrant flamingo print and you’ll find many men poking their heads in to get a glimpse of the already famous feature. That same detail goes into the cocktails. The bar is headed up by a Londoner who has lived on the island for 16 years and, while the menu is sufficiently exciting, his skill means you can order anything. Nama Bar is defined by both luxury and eccentricity. You’ll probably end up getting pulled into conversation with a group of locals and expats and blow your entire budget on bubbly – but that’s an experience that goes beyond currency.
Ask the locals and you’ll learn that Sa Fonda used to look like a mushroom of smoke hovering in the sky. One floor up on the main street of Deià, the terrace of this particular bar has a reputation that means it’s always buzzing. Open-mic nights that attract Mossy and the Geldofs coupled with a low-key aesthetic means that well-known fashionistas can blend into the large crowd as the live music wafts over them. Rumour has it that Sa Fonda was asked to calm itself down, so the wild child has grown up. But old habits die hard; spirits are served generously and cheaply and the mood is always stellar. Everyone is welcome here, from locals of all ages, to expats and holidaymakers, which means there’s a liberal spirit in the air and everyone gets on. A sign saying “silence is sexy” hanging ironically in the main terrace is testament to the contrasts that make this bar tick. The time-old question remains: if you aren’t at Sa Fonda on a Saturday night, are you even in Deià? Probably not.
If you’d do anything for a view, the super riche setting of La Residencia is for you. The front terrace looks out on one side to the mountains, and on the other to the sea. In between, its immaculately pruned gardens pop with flowers so vivid it looks like they’ve been picture edited. With views this dramatic, you can expect a menu to match. A mix of classic and signature cocktails makes for the perfect aperitif or lunchtime drink, but there is also a fine range of spirits, ports and cognacs which are better suited as an after dinner digestif. Look to the wine list and you’ll see that much of the it has been locally sourced, with most bottles from Mallorca and mainland Spain.
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