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Cova Santa a cave with a colourful history

Few places in Ibiza have such a long and colourful history as Cova Santa and it is a venue steeped in island folklore. Its popularity grew initially as a tourist attraction, centered on a deep limestone cave.

Pirates were believed to have used the cave for shelter and to stash their contraband as far back as the 15th Century. Since then, the venue has had many guises, mainly aimed at an adult market, including some risqué burlesque offerings.

During the 21st Century it has been owned by Amnesia, who have turned it into a more flexible venue: offering a choice between restaurant, cabaret and live events. Over recent years this change has culminated in their immensely popular Music On and Woomoon parties. However few visitors to the island realise that, on the quieter nights, Cove Santa converts into one of the finest dining experiences to be found.

Perched prominently on the side of a hill, approximately 7km along the Ibiza to Sant Josep road at the turning to Sa Caleta beach, Cova Santa sends out powerful lights to draw you in. Surrounded by a dense pine forest full of incessant cicadas, and with a light mountain breeze to cool the sultry summer night, you feel a pleasant thrill of anticipation as you ascend to the terraced restaurant.

Homage to fine produce

The first thing you notice when you open the menu is that it has been designed as an homage to fine produce, both native and from around the world. Chef Martin has searched far and wide for the finest ingredients, to ensure that the quality of his produce is always the star of the dish.

As a group of six diners, we were able to make a wide selection from the menu to discover the best that Cova Santa could provide. Our simple starters were the staples of Spanish tapas, prepared to the very highest standard; glassy slivers of finely-sliced Iberian Bellota (acorn fed) ham, anchovies filets with just the right level of saltiness, light and crispy crystal bread, amazingly delicate ham croquetas – a very good omen of what might follow.

Portion sizes of the starters and fish dishes were very good, reflecting the modern trend for sharing and experimentation.

We were also treated to very well seasoned salmon and tuna tartars, and the ubiquitous grilled octopus. However, the favourite among our group was the plate of Valencian Sardines. These salty filets, with pine nuts and tiny balls of olive oil infused with sweetness from an onion reduction, were sensational.

A buttery, yet pleasantly sour, Beef Tartare, with plenty of mustard, capers and gherkins, followed - each mouthful of which provided a new combination of texture and flavor.

Who ordered the Egg and Chips? It may sound unlikely but, with local potatoes, seasonal mushrooms and just the right amount of truffle shavings, this plate is delicious, despite its simplicity. Where can you even find potatoes that taste that good? We urge you to give them a try.

Argentinian oak wood grill

Chef Martin and his team prepare their main courses slow-cooked sous-vide or on an open charcoal grill of Argentinian oak wood –resulting in almost supernatural levels of tenderness and succulence. For example, the marbled tuna belly from Cadiz, on a bed of samphire and wakame seaweed with soy sauce and sesame seeds, dissolved instantly in the mouth.

The Australian Black Angus beef rack and shoulder of lamb are sous-vide for 36 hours and, although we didn't get to try either of them this time, they are top of my list for our next visit.

Secreto Ibérico Vs. Chilean Wagyu ribeye

But our night came down to a face-off between two of the heavyweight champions of the meat world - Secreto Ibérico Vs. Chilean Wagyu ribeye. The Secreto (a fine cut from the pig's jaw muscle) was seared and pink inside and served simply with sweet potato slices. The flesh was lean, tender and bursting with intense flavour. The Wagyu was almost liquid and so refined, causing one diner to comment ‘you can almost taste the happiness in the cow!' So, which came out on top? You will have to go to Cova Santa to find out.

That's entertainment

One of the many pleasures of Cova Santa is the soundtrack and, as a relief, there is never the relentless thud of electronic music. Throughout the night the tunes flowed from sing-along soul standards to funky disco anthems. All familiar tunes, helping to raise the cheerfulness factor in preparation for the menu of appetizing musical acts to come.

Cova Santa's Manager, Ariel, is an accomplished magician. It is he who chooses the different musical acts each night and he creates a cabaret revolving around one of his own mesmerizing Illusions. Beautiful young dancers provided our cabaret and, as the courses kept arriving, so did the entertainment, the quality of which almost rivaled the food. They treated us to modern interpretive dance or more traditional styles set to contemporary musical arrangements.

The show burst into life with the whole chorus line getting on down to the high-energy boogie-woogie sound of Christina Aguilera's saucy tribute to the era of swing, Candyman. Jaws were dropping among some of the unsuspecting diners, but it was only the entrée.

Tonight's tasty offerings included flamenco, ballet and emotional free-dance set to modern pop classics such as Ed Sheeran's Thinking Out Loud, Muse's Feeling Good, and Treasure by Bruno Mars. Most popular among the customers was a rousing salsa to The Time of My Life from the movie Dirty Dancing, when the whole troupe jumped off stage and danced flirtatiously through the tables.

Dessert time

Rounding off the night we shared a delicious mix of desserts; a liquid chocolate fondant, banana in layers of crispy pastry with custard and caramel, and, my personal favourite, hazelnut crumble with roasted pineapple and coconut ice cream. Each dessert was well executed and beautifully presented.

We were a little too wrapped up in the feast of courses and entertainment to take too much notice of the wines available. On a warm night, we were content with cold beers or the light, summer fruit flavours of the Marques de Riscal Verdejo, which was flowing freely.

There are many reasons to visit Cova Santa. It's true that the dishes are not cheap, but they do come with added value. Spanish food aficionados can enjoy their favourites, interpreted with panache. Meat lovers can go to worship at the altar of carnal pleasure. Or, alternatively, you can just sample the ambience at the bar with friends and a cocktail while you enjoy the show.

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