24 May Thirty Year Anniversary for Es Torrent
Time flies and, as this summer rolls round, it will mark thirty years since we first opened our doors to the public. It almost seems like yesterday, but, somewhere along the line, the rustic wood shack we started out in has been refurbished and enhanced with more comfortable amenities. We’ve come a long way since our early days and it seems appropriate to look back and revisit the history of Es Torrent and its founder Xico Sala.
In the early 80s, Es Torrent was a rocky, lonely cove on the coast of Es Cubells. It lay deserted most of the year. The only discernable trace of human presence was a fisherman’s hut (still standing on the left shore) and a ramshackle road, riddled with bumps and potholes, that wound down to the beach.
At this stage, Xico Sala had never even set foot on Es Torrent. He was busy working in the Balneario at Cala Carbó, where, among other skills, he mastered a superlative formula for oven-baked fish, the same one we still use at the restaurant today. After all these years, it continues to be one of our most consistently ordered dishes. During his time at Cala Carbó, Xico struck up friendships with a good number of customers who valued quiet, authentic, stress-free venues with no hurries and no worries. After nine summers there, he decided to try his luck in town (Sant Josep), but after five minutes, he was already homesick for the sea and the beachy atmosphere. When he heard about a craggy nook called Es Torrent, he made a beeline to see it. As soon as he got there, despite its remote location, he knew with certainty that he had found the right place.
This rocky cove – with its crystalline waters and exceptional views over the islet-studded bay of Porroig – was allocated with a sun-bed concession that no one had ever bothered to apply for. At the cove next door, Sa Caixota, there also existed the possibility of applying for a kiosk installation, an option that had never aroused the interest of a single restaurateur or business owner. Xico asked the Town Hall to transfer the beach bar concession to Es Torrent, and his petition met with approval. The rest, as they say, is history.
Xico acquired a second-hand kiosk that had done time at Cala Vadella, and, in the summer of 1986, Es Torrent opened its doors to the wide blue sea and little else. The staff, at the time, consisted of three people: a cook, a bar tender and Xico, who waited on a dozen tables set up on the open-air terrace. In those days, the kiosk was placed closer to the shore, on a spot where today there are a few tables and a section of the spa. In addition to oven-baked fish, the early menu included paellas and rice dishes and even some meat dishes. Over time though, Xico decided to specialise exclusively in sea-based dishes. Back then, when the rains of October put an end to the season, Es Torrent was fully dismantled and not a trace of the restaurant remained on the cove.
The first years were tough. To get the best fish, Xico had to get to market by six o’clock in the morning. Being the first in line was the only way to ensure top quality and maximum freshness, the local custom being that fishmongers set aside the best jewels of the catch for long-standing customers. In regard to business volume, with the exception of a handful of friends and acquaintances from his Cala Carbó days, nobody had ever heard of Es Torrent; patrons were conspicuous by their absence. Luckily, those who did discover the restaurant came back and transmitted their secret to others. After a few seasons, word of mouth wove its web and Es Torrent became popular.
By his eighth season, setting up and breaking down the kiosk each year, Xico was able to place the restaurant in a land next to the beach. Success notwithstanding, he did not want to stray too far from the charm of the early days, so he incorporated the old wooden kiosk into the dining room. Today, it comprises Es Torrent’s bar.
The original three-person team has expanded to a staff of twenty-five, seven of whom work in the kitchen under the leadership of Pepe Tur, the fifth chef to command the restaurant’s fires. The rest navigate the dining room, coordinated by the headwaiter, Vicent Tur, Es Torrent’s longest-standing employee, whose seniority grazes twenty years. The tables have trebled from a pauper’s dozen to thirty-something, while every year fourteen tonnes of fresh fish are served – John Dory comprising four of them – to over 25,000 customers.
Xico continues to search out the best fish in Ibiza, although he no longer has to rise at the crack of dawn to do so. He has paid his due and earned the respect of the fishmongers, who now set aside the choicest specimens of grouper, John Dory, dentex, scorpion fish, red prawn, lobster and more. He is an atypical restaurateur, inasmuch as his days at Es Torrent are spent variously dispatching suppliers, greeting customers, peeling potatoes, grilling red prawns or slicing the sheerest cuts of Joselito Iberian ham, an art in which he is a consummate master. He readily acknowledges his role as resident gofer, helping out wherever he is needed, especially in the kitchen.
The menu has also evolved over the years as it incorporates new recipes, adapting them to the preferences of our customer base. Now, in addition to our oven-baked fish Es Torrent style, which constitutes an emblem, we have brought in dishes by popular demand such as bullit de peix con arroz a banda (stewed fish with rice on the side), fish in brine, fideuá (a paella of pasta), fish and seafood paella, salt-baked fish, and of course, raors. Our wine list has also grown and offers a wide range of reds, whites, sparkling spirits, champagnes, cavas and liqueurs. We won’t even begin to enumerate the sin-drenched pleasures on our dessert menu.
Our dishes are now served on linen tablecloths, while our furniture (like our sun-beds) caters to creature comfort and aesthetic sensibility. But, in spirit, Es Torrent continues to be a laid-back beach bar that stoutly forefends evolution into a trendy beach club. There is no music to compete with the sound of the sea. We retain the ethos of our early years and are keen to see our patrons enjoying their food and feeling good. That eagerness to please has not faded. In revisiting our thirty-year trajectory, we feel deeply satisfied with what we have achieved yet humble as we look to the future. Our aim is to continue serving our customers for at least another thirty years!
So, to everyone who, over the past thirty years, has been a part of Es Torrent, whether as a staff member or as a customer, we extend our heartfelt appreciation for helping to build this dream with us.