The family-run Mar i Vent is a totally charming Mallorca hotel, tucked away in the quiet village of Banyalbufar on the fertile and hilly north-west coast of the island. It’s a very popular base for hiking and cycling, and the hotel has its own lovely swimming pool and a very good restaurant, both of which we enjoyed to the full during the several days we spent there.
Many hotels describe themselves as family-run, yet they’re vast places and when you stay there you wonder ‘where’s the family?’ Not at the Mar i Vent, which is now in the third generation of the Vives family, and if you stay a few days you gradually get to know who’s who.
History of this Charming Mallorca Hotel
The houses which now make up the hotel were built in 1931 by Juan, a fisherman, and his wife Margarita, the grandparents of the present Manager, Francesco. Back in those days it was more of a restaurant, but it began to get busy in the 1950s – and has been busy ever since. The hotel has a lovely mix of antiques, paintings, charming old photographs (including the family and the hotel as it was), tiled floors, and an air of 1930s grace and calm, livened with modern facilities like the terrific swimming pool, flat-screen TVs in the rooms, a computer for guests to use and free wifi in the reception area.
Facilities at the Mar i Vent
The pool (above) is a lovely place to relax, on a terrace at the rear of the hotel with views over the sea and along the coast. Above the pool is the breakfast terrace, which has even better views and is also used for dinner in the evenings, as well as a place to enjoy snacks and drinks during the day – or just to enjoy being there, and relaxing. There’s a bar menu available all day long, with simple things like sandwiches and soups. The Mar i Vent also has its own tennis court, and a solarium.
Mar i Vent Restaurant
The restaurant is open Monday to Saturday for dinner, and on Sunday for lunch. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon and enjoyed a pizza in one of the village’s other restaurants that evening. However, once we’d tasted the food at the Mar i Vent on Monday night, we ate there the next two nights as well. You can choose from the à la carte (where you could have 3 courses for €25) but there’s also a 4-course Menu del Dia for €25, which includes house wine. The price would be a bargain even if the food was only average, but it was superb, every night, and we weren’t surprised to learn that the grandmother in the family keeps a close eye on the kitchen and its local specialities.
Soups included a cream of carrot with a dash of cava, and a fantastic gazpacho, perked up by the waiter sprinkling fresh chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and onions into the soup after he served it. Second courses over the three nights included beef carpaccio with manchego cheese, and an aubergine gratin which was so wonderful we praised it the following night and the waiter said they’d still got some in the kitchen if we wanted it again, even though it wasn’t on the menu. So we did.
On the first night one main was salt cod pasta, and the Manager, Francesco, working tonight as a waiter, explained how they make it. The cod was washed again and again in clean water to reduce the saltiness, and the sauce was made from the last of the water they use for the washing. However, we both chose duck with an orange sauce, and were glad that we did. It must have been slow baked as the meat just fell off the bone, and the orange sauce was superb and intensely flavoured. Just orange and honey, Francesco told us, when he heard us singing its praises. Desserts included almond cake, creme caramel, and the best chocolate cake ever: a light cake on the outside with a rich liquid chocolate inside. It was seriously good Mallorcan food, considering the Mar i Vent is only a 3-star hotel.
Breakfast at the Mar i Vent
The breakfast highlight was definitely the tastiest tortilla we’ve ever eaten. There were huge slices of fresh pineapple and other fruit, like watermelon, fresh figs and persimmons. The orange juice was freshly-squeezed, the coffee good, and there was also a mouth-watering array of ensaimadas, croissants, rolls, boiled eggs, meats, cheeses, yoghourt and cereals – and when it's warm you can enjoy it all on that lovely terrace (above) with its views across the Mediterranean towards the Spanish mainland.
Hiking and Cycling
The hotel and the whole area are popular for hiking and cycling. We got used to the sight of bikers in their bright lycra gear racing along the winding roads, and the Mar i Vent is especially good as the Manager, Francesco, is a keen cyclist himself. We assumed he was another guest when we first saw him walking into the reception in his cycling gear, but no – he’d just got back from his regular daily cycle ride.
Francesco knew the hiking trails too, and suggested a couple we could try. One took us along the coast through shady pine woods to the next village to the north, Port des Canonge, while another took us into the hills where we had magnificent views and hardly saw another person all day. One of the services the hotel offers is to drive hikers to the start of walks, so you can walk back to the hotel. On another day Francesco drove us to Valldemossa to save us having to get the bus into Palma and another bus back out again to Valldemossa
Banyalbufar (above) is a pretty and quiet little village of a few hundred people, with a handful of hotels, shops and eating places. The unusual name is a mix of Moorish and Catalan and means, roughly, ‘the settlement by the sea’. It’s mainly an agricultural place, made all the more lovely by the terraces which grace the steep slopes of the hills, with tomatoes, vines, lemons and other produce grown in abundance. Water pipes and water tanks are used to irrigate the terraces, and hiking trails criss-cross the hills and run along the coast. It has a lazy appeal, and we fell for it the moment we arrived – especially with a base like the homely Mar i Vent.
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