A yogi friend of mine just got back from a silent retreat and she literally won’t stop talking about it. Apparently, it was 7 days in jaw-dropping scenery in Northern Portugal where she ate, swam and lived in absolute silence with a group of others desperate to unplug from life. She won’t shut up now. It’s “silent retreat this”, “silent retreat that”. It’s everything but silent to my ears.
I know I’ve only got an hour of ‘wellbeing’ in me at a time
Monastic life has always given me the shivers. In theory I’m all for meditation, solitary stretches and leather sandals, and I love the overall notion of sanctuary. I just couldn’t handle such a highly structured existence, a world filled with regimented waking hours, work, meditation and study – a world where idleness is particularly discouraged, and everything is in moderation. I’d want it on my own terms, like perhaps when I am sleeping. I know I’ve only got an hour of ‘wellbeing’ in me at a time.
Ex-monastery and now elegant hotel, Son Brull, sits on the north west tip of Mallorca and has created a get-away where both relaxation and gluttony are encouraged in equal measures. Two more ticks.
Son Brull’s history goes back to the 12th century and the building had many lives before becoming a hotel in 2003. Initially a farmhouse, it became a Jesuit Monastery in 1686, providing food and shelter as the resident monks worked the land. It returned to being a farm house once again before being restored to the hotel it is now. You can still see the oil presses in the bar and the bistro, whilst sipping on cocktails. Keeping to tradition, Son Brull has a commitment to sustainability, growing its own produce on site and supporting local organic producers.
The rooms are tastefully, neutrally decorated – each with its own spa bath and the longest pillow menu I’ve ever seen. When we arrived, there was a bottle of the hotel’s own cava chilling in an ice bucket – the antithesis of a welcome drink on a silent retreat, I’m sure. Still battling against unplugging just yet, we switched on the Bang and Olufsen television. Sandwiched between the obligatory English language news and Spanish language telenovela stations we chanced upon a channel which seemed exclusively devoted to showing repeats of the Brit hit 1980’s quiz show ‘Strike It Lucky’. We marvelled at the crap prizes and Barrymore’s wholesome wit and twist of camp in those innocent days before his downfall. Soundbars are placed in the bathrooms which I’m sure are useful to play meditation podcasts on, or sync Barrymore through to the loo (as we did).
I loved the bar space, with its super long glass fire place, and wished the main dining room, Restaurant 365, was in here. The dramatic stone walls of the restaurant did reveal the character and history of the monastery, but the the Bistro has more warmth and charm. We were here to sample the seasonal 8 course tasting menu that Mallorcan head chef Rafel Perelló crafts from produce in the hotel’s own organic plot. I could have happily eaten two more portions of the perfectly flavoured ‘sea and mountain black rice’, with tempura and samphire, but the stand-out dish was the squid with yellow foot chanterelle. The squid, shaped to appear like pasta, was subtle in flavour which, when combined with the mushroom, became complex and delectable. Unfortunately, the mushroom theme continued beyond the savoury with not one, but two, mushroom based desserts. I always appreciate a novel taste but I’m not sure sweet mushroom is one that I can get along with. The mushroom ice cream wasn’t too bad, it’s just that I would prefer ANY other flavour and the texture of black chanterelle was just unpleasant in a dessert for me. The third sweet course stayed on a somewhat savoury theme with a subtle but distinguishable taste of pine and pine nuts and this really worked.
After a dreamy night sleeping on, as per the pillow menu, “white goose down feather: extreme softness”, I started the day with a yoga class in the newly opened spa with views of the vineyards ahead. Guilt free, I guzzled my way through the breakfast spread. I’m sure on most days in Mallorca you’d be able to eat with a beautiful vista on the terrace, but we’d picked an unusually bad week, weather wise. Conversely this did make my trip to the spa even more appealing.
An overnight stay wasn’t enough. I was finally shutting off and feeling pretty smug about it as we handed our key back. Apparently, the week before the heavy rains and flooding had cut off the hotel so nobody could arrive or leave. We were not so lucky – our car was brought round and we drove back onto the storm filled roads. C
Son Brull, Careterra Palma-Pollença, MA 2200 – KM 50C, Mallorca 07460, Spain
+34 971 535353; sonbrull.com