‘Es Verger’, more commonly referred to as ‘the lamb restaurant’ is a great day out and a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the local culture. The rustic restaurant is situated on the Puig de Alaró mountain and offers authentic Mallorquin cuisine. Es Verger can be reached by car or by foot and is often combined with a spectacular hike to the Castell d’ Alaró (castle) situated at the top of the mountain.
The restaurant itself is a modest white building tucked away in the mountain-side and is essentially a barn with a concrete floor, simplistic tables and plastic table cloths. You are likely to be greeted by roaming goats and sheep, upon entering you will encounter the wonderful aroma of wood smoke and slow-roasting lamb originating from a 100+ year old wood-fire oven. It is a modest family run restaurant passed down the generations and the dedicated lady preparing your food looks a similar age to the oven. The service is as basic and rustic as the restaurant and many of the waiters cannot speak any English, however, this only adds to the restaurant’s authentic charm.
The journey to Es Verger is not for the faint-hearted, we recommend a 4×4, although it is very achievable in almost any vehicle (leave the beloved sports car at home). Once you find the town of Alaró (about 30 minutes from Palma) follow the signs to Castell d’ Alaró, the scenic drive follows a winding and challenging dirt road with steep drop-offs to either side. The roads should be driven with caution, especially when encountering cars heading in the opposite direction. However, you will undoubtedly be taking it slow already due to the breath-taking countryside views. When you finally reach the restaurant, there is a large parking area, also used by the hikers, this can become very busy and you may have to leave your car on the side of the road, further down the mountain.
The lamb shoulder or ‘paletilla de cordero’ is the most popular and ultimately the dish that made the place so ‘famous’ after BBC’s Rick Stein declared it the best lamb he had ever tasted. There is also suckling pig, prawns, fish, snails and a handful of other offerings on the traditional Mallorquin menu. We highly recommend sampling the ‘pot of cremat’ or one of the other adventurous local alcohol offerings if you are not behind the wheel on the way back.
The restaurant opens at 10am and closes at 8pm but is at its busiest during the lunch hours (the shoulder of lamb often runs out after 1400). Traditionally the restaurant was open every day of the year apart from Christmas but recently has started closing on Mondays. If you are around in the winter months, it is a great time to visit Es Verger, you may be lucky enough to catch the snow-capped mountains. Additionally, the steaming slow cooked lamb and flaming rum taste that much better on a cold wintery day.
For the more adventurous there is the option of combining Es Verger with the hike to Castell d’ Alaró. The fitter hikers may begin their journey in the quaint town of Alaró, which will result in a 2-3-hour hike to the top, but the majority opt to park near the restaurant and only tackle the second half of the mountain, which will take between 1 and 2 hours depending on your fitness levels.For the more adventurous there is the option of combining Es Verger with the hike to Castell d’ Alaró. The fitter hikers may begin their journey in the quaint town of Alaró, which will result in a 2-3-hour hike to the top, but the majority opt to park near the restaurant and only tackle the second half of the mountain, which will take between 1 and 2 hours depending on your fitness levels.
The hike itself is challenging but the path to the castle is well marked and safe and there are many steps along the way. The castle is steeped in history dating back from the 15th century and offers breath-taking panoramic views of Mallorca in every direction (we highly recommend doing this hike on a clear day). Enjoy visiting the chapel and reading about the history of the Castle and this famous landmark before heading down for a well-deserved shoulder of lamb and a local beer. You should aim to be back at the restaurant by 1400 latest, to avoid missing out on the lamb which can sell out on busier days.