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Review: Ca'n Pilot grill house, Ibiza

Love fabulous steak and fine wine? Step inside...

A cool autumn night and a yearning for T-bone steak can only mean one thing here in Ibiza. A visit to Ca'n Pilot.

Easily finding parking in the village of San Rafael (just one of the joys of autumn), we headed over to the muted glow of candle-light and the warm, homely ambience of what I must admit is one of my favourite Ibiza restaurants.

Excellent wine list

Owners, Carmen and Juan, along with their daughter Rachel and a team that have been running this superb grill-house for well over 20 years are a finely oiled machine, dear reader. Within a minute of arriving, I was sat at my cosy, rustic, candlelit table and one minute later, gleefully sipping a really excellent glass of red wine, recommended by Carmen. She later confided that every year she makes a pilgrimage of pleasure to the boutique bodegas of Spain, particularly around the Ribera del Duero and Rioja regions. These areas are home to some of Spain's most celebrated vineyards and Carmen has real passion for good wine. We had a silky smooth, elegant, boutique Rioja called Muga. Oh boy.

Artisan cheeses

Skipping the usual, albeit delicious bread, olives and ali-oli, we proceeded directly to a huge plate of dry-cured, corn-fed, serrano ham served with toasted country bread. This was accompanied by 2 cheese plates, Torta de Casar - a strong tasting, pungent delicacy from Extremadura and a creamy Galician cheese called Ulloa, both served with membrillo (quince jelly). We polished it all off embarrassingly quickly, eagerly anticipating the mouth-watering house signature dish to arrive - the princely chuleton de buey (mature, T-bone steak).

With their usual efficiency, the staff had the table cleared and ready for the next course in the flick of a napkin. Glasses were topped up, water was replenished and a couple of minutes later, the star of the show arrived. Joy!

Steak, glorious steak

I love the way they serve the chuleton de buey at Ca'n Pilot. Thinly sliced, raw, salted steak is served on a large tray which you cook yourself to your liking, at your own table, on your own bbq. It adds an extra dimension to the sociable nature of dining out, not just eating with your chosen companions, but cooking together too. Looking around at the smiling, chatting diners around me evidently also enjoying themselves immensely, I could see I wasn't alone in my happy bubble of communal cooking and steak-love. Succulent, juicy and melt-in-the-mouth, I was in steak heaven.

Carmen sat down to join us and the conversation flew merrily around the table, confiding that the doors leading to the restaurant, bought second-hand from an old place in San Antonio had an Ibiza Spotlight sticker that was over 30 years old! It was a proud moment, dear reader. I asked if Carmen had served any celebrities this year. She laughed. “Every week we serve celebrities, so I don't really notice so much. It's important to us that all of our guests get the same good service and quality.” Needless to say, ladies and gentlemen, there is no VIP section in this Ibiza restaurant.

Down-to-earth

As a case in point, Carmen recounted a recent visit from a World boxing champion (who shall remain nameless). Rocking up one evening without a reservation, he tried to jump the queue for a table. Explaining that the restaurant was fully booked, Carmen informed him that unfortunately, there was nothing available. So he sent his chauffeur in to try again. The answer was still no. So he sent his agent in to insist further. Still no. Moral of the story? Everybody is treated with equal courtesy and respect at this Ibiza restaurant - no special treatment for visiting glitterati.

Carmen, her staff and family are great hosts. It takes real talent and a genuine heart for hospitality to make diners really feel like guests rather than punters - as warm, welcome and comfortable as you might be at home. Indeed, one of its many charms is that Ca'n Pilot is a genuine family business and that family vibe runs through everything that happens in this gem of an Ibiza restaurant.

Full to bursting, we finished our meal, not with dessert but, at Carmen's suggestion, a deliciously refreshing gin and tonic. This is a drink I would never have thought of finishing a steak night with, but actually, after the fairly heavy meat-fest we'd just gobbled up, to my surprise it was just the ticket!

Time flies when you're having fun...

I felt genuinely well-looked after, indulged and as though I'd just taken a culinary tour of the best of Spain. It wasn't just a dining experience but a cultural one too. I was full, blissfully content and I'd discovered some wonderful new Spanish delicacies that do not usually appear on menus in Ibiza.

After more chatting over coffee and ‘chupitos' (shots) of gorgeous carob liqueur, I glanced at my watch (for the first time all evening I might add). Good grief! I'd been there for over 4 hours!

And that says it all really, ladies and gents. Next time you fancy a very fine steak and impeccably chosen wine in a cosy, warm environment, head down to Ca'n Pilot. You may want to take some friends and keep the whole evening free...

For reservations click here


Quick Facts

What? Ca'n Pilot Grill House

Where? San Rafael, Ibiza

When? Everyday except Wednesday. Lunch 12.00-16.00, Dinner 20.00-00.00. Closed 26th December – 8th January for holidays and again from 12th April to 15th May.

Why? For incredibly high quality meat and wine.

Disabled facilities? Yes

Veggie options? Yes, although not many, this really is a meat restaurant.

Cost? Around €40 per head, including wine.

Top Tips? Have the spectacular chuleton de buey and don't forget to make a reservation in advance, they're nearly always busy.

Room for improvement? None whatsoever.


WORDS | Jane Charilaou PHOTOS | Cat Milton

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