Palma Restaurant Review: Bar Marti

When the Newsletter began in the early 1960s, the staff quarter was the Bar Martí. This was a most convenient drinking (and eating) hole for us as it was only 80 yards from our front door on Calle San Felio. At that time, Bar Martí was already a mythical place who was busy all day.

When the owner was doing his military service, he cooked for General Franco and his officers when Franco was military governor of the Balearic Islands. Like many other neighborhood bars at that time, Bar Martí opened punctually at 5am and continued until around 2-3am the next day. And it was always busy at this early hour, mostly with men going to work and having some sort of pre-lunch of a black coffee followed by an alcoholic drink – usually single shots of high octane local spirits.

The Russian salad was made in large chunks.

From 10 p.m. to about 2 a.m., Newsletter the editorial office and the printing house had a home delivery service — except that we didn’t call it that at the time. Someone phoned Bar Martí with a list of coffees and soft drinks and they were delivered by the sereno, one of the many night watchmen who covered the central areas of Palma at that time. We tipped him for his trouble bringing the drinks on a large tray.

Another person who delivered drinks was Paquita, the owner’s young, pretty and friendliest daughter. Pedro Serra, who founded the Newsletter and then created Grup Serra which includes Ultimate Hora and other publications as well as television channels, telephoned Paquita and asked her to bring him a coffee. “I liked it,” Paquita said last week, “because it took me out of the bar a bit and I always came back with a tip in my apron pocket.”

Paquita with Luis Montiel and Yasmine Perez.

The Martí family lived above the bar where Paquita was born, and for her and her husband Tony, it is still home. They retired, but the place is now run by a Venezuelan couple, Luis Montiel and Yasmine Perez. They do a menú del día for €11 and also have a good selection of tapas and other dishes. The cooking is done by Lupe Reyes, who has worked at Bar Martí for 26 years.

Every day from Monday to Saturday, Bar Martí attracts a mixed crowd of tourists as well as locals from nearby homes, offices and shops. Tourists find the bar quite easily as this area is in the English and German guidebooks that cover the walks around the old town of Palma. Bar Martí’s reasonably priced Mallorcan and Spanish dishes are exactly what tourists (and foreign residents) want to try. And many of them come back for second and third visits, so the place is always busy from around 1pm. Tourists prefer the half-dozen outdoor tables, but discerning Mallorcan residents and foreigners still opt for the air-conditioned interior.

Meatballs with a delicious tomato sauce.

In the past, Bar Martí functioned mainly as a bar serving coffees, drinks and pa amb olis for those who wanted something to eat. But finally tapas were introduced for the weekend trade then they were served every day. The menú del día eventually became the big deal with quite an extensive list of tapas. This is the current formula and it works well as the place fills up shortly after 1pm.

If you arrive at this time, you will have no difficulty eating inside, but the outside tables can be fully occupied.

The rustic homemade canelones.

THE VERDICT

There are many places like Bar Martí in all areas of Palma, but not all have the same standards of cuisine and none of them have a history dating back 82 years. There are dozens of shops of all kinds, including bakeries and patisseries, celebrating their centenary and more, but bars and restaurants rarely reach old age.

The two oldest restaurants in Palma that I can think of both opened in the mid-1950s… when Bar Martí was already a young teenager. Bar Martí was strictly a bar at first, but the Martí family started adding pa amb olis and some tapas on the weekends and they now have a traditional menú del día and a long list of tapas, which suits very well to their local and tourist customers. . One of the things to keep in mind here is that the tapas and other dishes come in the most generous portions. The ensaladilla rusa, the albóndigas and the chipirones were easily large enough to be shared by four. In this way, the invoice turns out to be the most economical.

The Russian salad was thick and succulent and came with two slices of bread. Most Spaniards I know like to eat potato salad and ensaladilla rusa with bread. Bread was also provided for the succulent meatballs in a tomato based sauce. The Spanish style canelones were tasty but they should have been much warmer, even on a summer day. The chipirones arrive at the table super crunchy but don’t leave them lying around or they will become soft.

THE PLACE

Bar Martí, Calle Can Sales, Palma (a continuation of Calle San Felio, next to Es Born). Tel: 971-726070. The outside tables fill up very quickly and it’s easy to get a table inside around 1pm. There is a rapid turnover of indoor tables.

THE LAW PROJECT

Russian salad, €7.50
Canelones, €7.50
Albóndigas, €8.50
Chipirones, €16.90
2 cans, €5.60
Total cost with VAT: €46

FOOD

It’s mostly well-cooked Mallorcan and Spanish dishes and tapas at home.

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