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Preview: Ancient elements coalesce at the all-sensory 528

Vibrating at a frequency of 528 Hz at Ibiza's newest dining experience.

Opening to the public on Friday 6 August, 528 is a three-headed collaborative project that sees some of Ibiza's favourite sons join forces.

Under the watch of entertainment entrepreneur Andy McKay, he will oversee the vision of wealthy landowner Bartolo Escandell. With the help of vanguard head chef Gonzalo Aragüez and his understudy, Massimiliano Bartellon, each man brings his own area of expertise to the table.

Owner of the sprawling Benimussa estate, Ibiza born-and-bred Escandell has always dreamed of an outdoor dinner-and-show experience on home soil. Out of the uncertainty of the pandemic, the stars have aligned for that ambition to be realised.

528 by Juan McRackin Antonio

Paying homage to Ibiza’s legacy through fine food, music, art and performance, diners will be taken on an allegorical journey. But why the name 528?

528 is a curious number, especially where Ibiza is concerned. Ancient civilisations have long championed the magical and healing powers of 528 Hz - often known as the love frequency.

We gathered at the entrance at 19:55 on press invitation to get a feel for what the 528 experience is about. Here's what we discovered...

An immersive arrival

Quite deliberately, the 528 experience starts when the clock strikes "five to eight". Incidentally, this is also the approximate time that the sun starts to dip below the hills of Benimussa.

Upon arrival, we are whisked through the venue, and through the ages. Ascending the stairs and winding through the terrace, our hostess guides us to multiple station points.

Each one gives a glimpse of the type of sights, sounds and tastes we might have experienced in times of old.

Between stations, our senses become aware of scenes, skits and high jinx taking place in the periphery. Everywhere our eyes look, there is something to draw their attention.

Fair maidens engage in natter as they tend to laundry. Further along, a misfit band of madrigal courtiers jam and jape in over-exaggerated revelry.

Before dinner and the show gets underway, we hear from both Bartolo Escandell and Andy McKay. Welcoming us to the "final dress rehearsal", they explain what a labour of love 528 has been for both of them, under trying circumstances.

The food

From the moment we enter, we find ourselves grazing the delights on offer at regular intervals. As you might expect from a fine-dining experience, portion sizes are modest with emphasis on presentation. Nevertheless, guests are advised to arrive with plenty of appetite.

There is a near constant stream of hors d'oeuvres from the point of arrival and linking courses.

Within moments of arriving, diners are invited to try fresh oysters, hulking Ibizan red prawns, ashen soil-baked potatoes, hand-filled with peix sec (dried fish), wafer thins topped with sobrasada and regional cheeses.

Once seated, service is attentive to the highest order. The staff are always on hand and cannot do enough - you will never find your wine glass running dry. Table water is topped-up regularly and without prompt.

We formally begin the feast with breadsticks and pull-apart dough balls - served with both a rich truffle sauce and a smooth saffron aioli. If you thought standard aioli was moorish, wait until you try this!

The following course is a light salad of cress, pomegranate, pesto, almonds, soft fig quarters and pieces of mellow-salted Mackerel, which we douse liberally in olive oil.

Courses are broken up by a flamboyant assortment of finger-sized bites. These include tuna cradled with a truffle leaf and nested with caviar, chicken on a stick, slow-cooked for 24-hours to create the crispiest of skins and blinis with a goats cheese crown and truffle shavings.

Next to arrive is juicy, lightly grilled calamar twirls, embedded in a wild mushroom and snail broth risotto, made from bamba rice and adorned with sprigs of samphire.

To our surprise, the food keeps on coming.

Braised beef with a red centre is the nominated 'main course'. It's joined by a baby courgette, baby carrot, bed of silky potato mousseline and full-flavour bone marrow jelly - a mouth-watering dish.

Rounding off the feast, dessert presents itself in the form of a deliquesce macaron, a miniature bombe and mini flaó - the native mint and cream cheese pud.

Ultimately, though, it’s the contrast of alcohol-soaked fruit chunks, dunked in ice cream within a pool of eriço melon couli that really invigorates our palate.

The show

Fanfare breaks the conversation and announces the start of the show.

"Are you ready to have fun? Perfecto.”

We begin with island folklore as old as Ibiza herself. Despite being mute for this portrayal, Phoenician goddess Tanit holds our gaze with her stage presence and striking beauty. The other dancers spiral outwards from her centre of gravity - superhuman in every sense.

Afterwards, the band of misfits from earlier storm the stage, crisscrossing around the tables. Each one makes a more dramatic entrance than the last. Juggling limes and bowling pins with bravado-like one-upmanship, they are the jesters at the feast.

We're not keen to spoil all of the surprises in store. Should you be curious enough to keep on reading, we've included a few more notes below.

Electronic music is used sparingly, making for a refreshing change. Instead, the bulk of the soundtrack is cover versions of well-known pop and rock songs from down the decades. Some of the most decorated musicians of the 20th Century get the cover treatment.

I Want To Break Free/With Or Without You/Rehab is the mash-up you didn’t know you needed in your life.

Aside from Tanit herself, there are references to Ibicenco history and culture littered throughout. He, an infatuated farm hand; she, the object of his desire, both dressed in period clothing. As the fateful lovers serenade each other, they perform the traditional dance of ball pagès.

Another Ibiza era sent-up, is the influx of hippies in the swinging '60s. A full cast of free-lovers and new-age pacifists jive in an explosion of psychedelic clothing, daisy-braids and mini skirts to the sound of soft rock protest songs.

A more modern nod to Ibiza’s heritage (and Andy’s) is the medley of Queen hits by a Freddie Mercury impersonator, culminating in a rousing rendition of We Are The Champions. Cue a wave of napkin waving from the front to the back as the crowd is swept up in the moment.

How about some good, old-fashioned, fragrant titillation? We are on Ibiza after all. A troupe of burlesque dancers performing a choreographed routine in black corsets and lingerie, to the sound of ZHU’s Faded is a memorable moment.

Special props go to the acrobat who turns herself into a human pendulum. Suspended only by her hair, she spins like a dime, rotating with grace and decorum.

Another performer who has the audience gasping, is the mohicaned Adonis, who wraps and writhes himself inside-out of a cube in an extreme display of strength and suppleness. As for the rest, you're better off waiting to see with your own eyes.

Needless to say, you're in for a treat. A feast for the senses in every meaning of the phrase.

In many ways, 528 feels like leisure and hospitality pioneer Andy McKay has come full circle, with a return to the theatric-based entertainment model that elevated Manumission above its contemporaries.

We are excited to see how the show, and the concept, evolves over the coming months.

Bookings for upcoming Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Thursday shows starting 6 August are open now. To reserve your table, head below and secure your seats at this exciting new experience.

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