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Ibiza opens exclusive whimsical dining club

Ibiza has a new place to see and be seen, a venue that promises to be the 2015 celebrity hang out of the White Island. And of course it comes with a price tag: €100 just to visit the terrace.

Ibiza opens exclusive whimsical dining club
The men behind former "best restaurant in the world" ElBulli have opened a new venture in Ibiza. Photo: Jamie Reina/AFP

Take top Spanish chefs Ferran and Albert Adria, the founder of circus troupe Cirque du Soleil, Guy Laliberte, and Japan's foremost pop artist Takashi Murakami and mix them all on Spain's Mediterranean party island of Ibiza.

The result is “Heart” — an explosion of taste, colour and sound designed to delight all the senses.

“This is not a restaurant, this is a dream turned into reality,” said Albert Adria, one of the founders of the project which opened on Tuesday and runs until September.

“A dream of many people. We have sound technicians, image technicians, make up artists, wardrobe masters,” he told AFP during a preview party at the luxury hotel in Ibiza where the event is held.

Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

Around him a group of hooded youths performed urban dance routines as a DJ spun tunes and guests munched on Peruvian, Mexican, Japanese and Thai fusion cuisine surrounded by sculptures and video installations.

“It is a very bold project which combines three things that normally don't mix: cuisine and art with entertainment,” said Laliberte, a former stilt-walker and fire-eater.

“It is totally different from Cirque du Soleil, it is more in the spirit of Ibiza,” added the 55-year-old, whose circus troupe and its whimsical plots have toured all over the world.

The idea for the project was born from Laliberte and the Adria brothers' shared passion for art and cuisine.

Laliberte met the chefs over a decade ago when he ate at their award-winning elBulli restaurant, which closed in 2011, and they started work on “Heart” two years ago.

Murakami, whose sculptures combine Japanese traditional art with a “manga” aesthetic, joined the project later, drawn by Laliberte's creativity.

“I met him a year ago in Tokyo. He had brought one of his big Cirque du Soleil shows and it brought tears to my eyes I cried from the emotion of it all,” he said, while on the stage nearby a painter worked on the body of a scantily-clad model.

'Too big to tour'

Murakami's works mix with those of New York artist Dan Graham and France's Miguel Chevalier, who created two multimedia installations for “Heart”.

One of them, “Fractal Flowers”, is a virtual garden where flowers evolve into new shapes when they die. The installation is run by a computer programme and it uses motion sensors to interact with the public.

“In every age artists appropriate the tools of the era and art in the 21st Century can be done with the tools that we use every day for the Internet,” said Chevalier.

Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP

In a vast terrace decorated like a street market overlooking the luxurious yachts in the port, chefs reinterpreted world street foods with a sophisticated touch including watermelon infused in sangria, parmesan cheese pizza, tacos al pastor and oysters with soy sauce.

Inside the elegant indoor dining room, the offer is even more sophisticated. There, guests can make a gastronomic journey through five worlds – the Iberian, Mexico, Oriental, traditional Japanese and Japanese food with a South American twist known as “nikkei”.

But that comes at a price. Mere access to the terrace will set you back €100 ($110) while to have dinner inside, see the show and party until sunrise starts at €315 per person.

“Heart” will be open for just 77 days this year, said Alberto Adria, coinciding with the high season in Ibiza which draws celebrities from around the world. It is already almost fully booked.

After September there are no plans to set up “Heart” somewhere else. “It is too big to take it on tour, I don't even want to think about it,” said Albert Adria.

Laliberte said the project stems from “a search for emotion, and the pleasure of working with these people and their creativity.”

“Though we also want commercial success,” added the showman, who in April sold a controlling stake in Cirque du Soleil to American and Chinese investors.

By Anna CUENCA

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FOOD & DRINK

Where can you get free tapas in Spain?

Not everywhere will offer you free tapas in Spain, but there are some cities where the tradition lives on. Read on to find out where they are, how you can get a free 'tapa' and the slight differences between each place.

Where can you get free tapas in Spain?

Tapas are an important part of Spanish culture, not only because of the gastronomical aspect but because of the social aspect of sharing dishes too. 

The word ‘tapa’ – meaning ‘lid’ – is thought to derive from a 13th-century law passed by a Castilian king requiring taverns to serve food with alcohol, perhaps in a bid to avoid inebriation of the serfs.

A ‘tapa’ was a small plate of ham or olives used as a lid to keep insects and dust away from a drink and usually came free. 

The tradition of free tapas has died out across much of Spain, but there are still some cities where it is alive and well. Most of these cities can be found in three regions – the eastern part of Andalusia, Castilla y León and Galicia. 

READ ALSO: Fourteen classic Spanish dishes to celebrate World Tapas Day

Granada

Granada is the undisputed king of free tapas in Spain, famed for its offerings which can be anything from a piece of Spanish tortilla to almost a whole meal, such as a mini burger and fries or small fried fish. It works like this – each time you buy a drink, you will be given a free tapas dish. If you order consecutive drinks in the same bar, each of the tapa dishes you get will be different. Free tapa will come with everything from beer and wine to soft drinks and sparkling water, but not with coffee or tea. Keep in mind that the price of drinks in Granada is slightly higher than in some Spanish cities, which helps to cover the cost of the food.

Calle Navas, Calle Virgen del Rosario and the area around the Cathedral offer some of the best tapas in the city. Remember that if you’re a vegetarian or vegan, ask for una tapa vegetariana o tapa vegana. While most bars in the city should have a suitable alternative, some of the more rough and ready ones might not, or you may just get something simple like bread and cheese. One of Granada’s best-loved vegetarian tapas dishes is berenjena con miel (deep fried aubergine drizzled with treacle). 

READ ALSO: What to order at a restaurant in each region of Spain

Almería

Just southeast of Granada on the coast, Almería is another of Spain’s great free-tapas cities. The tradition is a little different here than in other Spanish cities because you get to choose your tapa instead of just getting a surprise. Many of the tapas menus here are vast and you’ll be spoilt for choice. It could be anything from a goat’s cheese and caramelised onion montadito (small sandwich) to paté on toast. Almeríans love their toast, so don’t be surprised if you find many different variations of topped toasts on the menu.

You’ll also have to speak up here, waiters will often come over to ask for your drink order, but not come back and ask for your tapa order. It’s best to tell your waiter what you want when your drinks arrive.

You may be able to get a free pulpo (octopus) tapa in Galicia. Photo: MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP

Jaén

The city and province of the same name to the north of Granada is also known for its tapa gratis when ordering a drink. Like in Granada, here you’ll be given the tapa of the house and generally won’t be given a choice in what you get. The prices of beers here are not as high as in Almería, but tapas portions are generally pretty generous, meaning you can easily have enough for dinner by going to just a few places.

Dishes here may include a plate of migas (fried breadcrumbs or flour with pieces of meat and fried peppers) or morcilla (blood sausage or black pudding). You can try asking for a vegetarian or vegan tapa here too, but the bars may not be as accommodating as the ones in Granada and may not have so many options, although they will try with what they have. 

León

It’s not just the eastern provinces of Andalusia where you can get free tapas. One of the best foodie cities in northern Spain that has carried on this tradition is León. Some of the most typical tapas dishes you may be served here include patatas leonesas (León-style potatoes), or morcilla de León (blood sausage or black pudding from León).

During the pandemic, a few bars in León started charging around €0.30 to €0.50 for tapas, but you’ll be happy to know that the majority of them still offer it for free. Bars will generally charge less for the wine, beers and other drinks here than in Granada too. The best places to go are around the famed Barrio del Húmedo or the Barrio Romántico. There are even some bars that will offer free tapas with your coffee order for breakfast here, which is unheard of elsewhere. 

Ávila

In almost every bar in Ávila you will be served a free tapa along with your drink. You’re unlikely to be served a simple piece of bread with a topping, here the dishes are almost like mini meals. Much of the cuisine here is based on meat, so you might expect a small plate of stewed wild boar or kidney with potatoes.

You will also find that they’re pretty big compared to free tapas in some other cities and filling too, but along with that, you will be paying slightly above average for your drink. The best street to head to for free tapas here is Calle San Segundo.

Alcalá de Henares

There may only be some bars left in Madrid that will offer you a free tapa with your drink, but head just east to the student town of Alcalá de Henares and you’ll find that they’re given out freely. Lots of places here will let you choose what you want too. You’ll pay above average for a caña here, around 3, but for that you’ll get a fairly decent tapa which could include patatas bravas, burgers or scrambled eggs with potatoes.

READ ALSO: Top ten Madrid bars serving free tapas, one for each barrio

Santiago de Compostela

When you’ve finally completed the Camino, what could be better than sitting down to a nice cold beer and plate of free tapas? The majority of bars here offer simple tapa such as a piece of bread with some type of meat on top, such as jamón or sausage or a small slice of tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette).

Lugo
Another Galician place, known for offering free tapas is the walled city of Lugo. Here you’ll be given a free snack with your glass of Albariño wine or beer. Lugo’s tapas scene works differently from elsewhere too, here a waiter will come around with a tray of various types of dishes and you’ll select the one you like the look of best. These may include anything from pulpo (octopus) to empanadas (Galician-style pies), tortilla rellena (filled omelette) or anchoas (anchovies).

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