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Food review: El Gallo Viejo hits all the right notes

Fresh and homely food cooked the Ibiza way and keeping things traditional in Port des Torrent.

Why go? To experience an authentic piece of Spanish cooking in a relaxed atmosphere

What kind of food is it? Traditional Ibicenco and Mediterranean fare, with particular emphasis on fresh seafood and grilled meats

What diets does it cater for? Pescatarian heaven and plenty for meat-lovers and omnivores, alongside a handful of vegetarian-friendly rice dishes

Ibiza Spotlight tip? To choose fish or shellfish dishes is to play to the restaurant's strengths

Save for a brief period of closure, El Gallo Viejo - translating to The Old Cock - has been serving tourists and locals in Port des Torrent in San Antonio Bay since 1959. This longevity alone is enough to be applauded on a dynamic and ever-modernising destination like Ibiza. We went along to see how the restaurant has remained top of the game after so many years.

Venue & ambience

July's arrival has seen the return of high-temperatures - and today is a scorcher.

Fortunately, the overhead canopy of creepers and Cyclea offer more than adequate shelter from the sun. It's lunchtime and those who have been sunning themselves on the beach in the earlier half of the day, now start to trickle inland in search of food.

Inside sits a proud stone sculpture of the restaurant's mascot, made by the late patriarch of the family, no less. The cockerel is a universal symbol of virility and dominance. Visitors are likely to be familiar with the works of Antonio Hormigo already. Amongst others, he is famed for sculpting the "The Shouting Man" statue in San Antonio.

The setting is unpretentious - homely, even. The bamboo-lined ceiling, sturdy wooden tables and terracotta tiled floor give an authentic feel. The furnishings may not have changed much in the last decade, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

While the aromas drifting from the kitchen grill certainly turn our heads, it's the group consensus that it's too hot to labour over a cut of meat at the height of the day.

Our waiter grapples with the catch of the day

The beach is literally yards away. Surrounded by the Mediterranean, Ibiza is gifted with a bountiful source of ingredients right on its doorstep. Naturally, fish is just what we do well here and have done for centuries. El Gallo Viejo is no exception. Our choice is made.

Food & drink

Seafood can only call for white wine. Again, keeping things traditional, we select a bottle of the native Ibizkus. Made from locally grown Malvasia grapes, this yellow-hued wine with citrus notes is a refreshing tipple on a day like today. The perfect foil for the food set to come.

Condensation runs down the neck of the bottle and is a reminder of the humidity outside.

To start, we are instantly drawn to the raw delicacy of oysters, happily ordering a couple each. A squeeze of fresh lemon and a seasoning of pepper later, we tip our neck back, open wide and slide the molluscs down. Delicious.

An acquired taste, perhaps, but for just €4 each, anybody curious should definitely consider taking the plunge. Who knows, this could be a dawn of a new personal discovery? What the heck, you're on holiday, it's the ideal chance to step outside your comfort zone.

Our other starter, steamed mussels, arrives at the same time and is the next to be tackled. Coming in a light broth laced with shards of onion and chopped garlic clove, these tender shellfish give aid to our growing appetite.

The main course calls for something expansive and seeing as we're on a good streak with the seafood, we muse over the menu only momentarily. The parrillada de pescado sharer is unanimously selected.

Upon presentation of the seafood platter, we crow in delight. The board is filled with freshly caught spoils of the sea and there's more than enough to pile two plates high.

From the fleshy monk fish to juicy red Ibiza prawns, a generous cut of squid and a humble scattering of clams, finished by the eye-catching roja fish, it looks like it's been served from the kitchen of King Neptune himself.

They say you eat with your eyes, and this rings true, but when the aroma hits, our hunger doubles-down.

Back in the day, the fishing trawler would return from its dawn voyage and bring the catch fresh to the kitchen door.

Today, that ritual doesn't happen exactly that way, but the core principle remains. Ethical island-wide suppliers Peix Nostrum catch fish living in Ibiza's waters; delivered, cooked and plated later the same day.

Our feast comes served with crunchy patatas pobres with a medley of onion and red and green peppers - the perfect accompaniment.

We're not quite finished yet. Those with a sweet tooth will want to carry on reading.

Chopped vertically in half, bored out, filled with pineapple chunks and ice cream before being finished with a crema Catalana glaze, the Ibicenco Pineapple is a dream. It's no hyperbole to say, it's amongst the best desserts we've had in recent memory.

An unforgettable end to our meal.

Breaking through the crema Catalana skin into the oozy centre

By the time we come to take leave of our seats, the restaurant floor is suitably filled with only a couple of tables left unoccupied. Changes come and go, but some constants remain absolute. El Gallo Viejo remains top of the pecking order.

A trail of thought exists, that places such as this are being squeezed out in favour of high-end, fusion cuisine and Instagram-able restaurants. There may be an element of truth in that, but the thirst for tradition will never go away.

Speaking of tradition, we end on the holiest of them all: a round of Hierbas, the Ibizan herb liqueur, on the house. Salud!

When it comes to fresh ingredients and honest, homely food cooked the Ibiza way, El Gallo Viejo still rules the roost even after all these years. There's life in the old bird yet!

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