✅ Joan Bagur, chef and owner of Rels Restaurant is Icon Hidden. The perfect balance of tradition and Menorcan avant-garde.
▷ In a Snapshot, Hidden Icon
Rels is the interpretation and study by Joan Bagur and his team on traditional cuisine, of the recipes of grandparents written in notebooks, marked in paper books, with a slight adaptation in the presentation according to the current canons in gastronomy.
A chef who studies and dedicates a lot of time to achieve the balance of his dishes with the aim that if his customers are satisfied, they will return.
It is a “hidden place” and “hidden treasure”, highly recommended in Ciutadella de Menorca: an interior courtyard that gives you a wonderful gastronomic experience of Menorcan tradition and culture.
1- JOAN. How have you experienced confinement?
I have experienced the confinement relatively well, taking into account that Menorca has been little damaged by the COVID-19, and that I normally dedicate a lot of hours of my day to the restaurant, I have made the most of it by enjoying my wife and son.
I have also been able to restructure the restaurant, prepare the recipes for this season’s dishes much more calmly than usual and I was also able to carry out several experiments earlier. This year we have changed the format of the menu a bit, reducing it significantly but at the same time including some “ephemeral” dishes.
2- RELS.Where does the name come from?
RELS comes from “ARRELS” (roots) but as we say in Menorca, “xerrant en plà, deim RELS” and with my old partner, the name remained like that, it evokes everything I want from the restaurant and little by little we are establishing this line.
3- CREATIVITY. What have you done to keep it active during this confinement? Are there any new ideas or new dishes that we will soon see on your menu?
Creativity is a huge word, I don’t know if we do creativity in RELS, what I do know is that it takes us hours of study and work to get a dish out to the room, we try to have it ready at 70% before going out to the dining room and that the customers themselves, with their opinions, finish outlining these nuances that may be missing. Normally they appear on the midday menu as an advance.
4- PLAYLIST. Your music, books or favorites that surround you.
Playlist… difficult! Every moment of the day has a type of music, for the “mise en place” we usually have happy music, fun and with rhythm. During the service, I love playlists with jazz, blues, piano, and guitar covers… I also like classical music a lot.
5- TRADITION & AVANT-GARDE. You have managed to combine traditional Menorcan cuisine with avant-garde technique and presentation, you have worked in some of the best restaurants in the world. Tell us about your cuisine, what inspires you, and who is the greatest critic of your dishes.
I believe that tradition and the avant-garde must go hand in hand, our cuisine is characterized by an “apparent” simplicity, and what is apparent is in inverted commas because everything entails its work and its idiosyncrasy. We are always searching in family books, old books of island cuisine and we mark as a common thread these cultures that have settled on the island to mark what is our gastronomic offer.
I am inspired by the garden and see how it grows, I am inspired by those old cookbooks in which you read the recipe and start to see “how” your dish would be based on that recipe, how you would cook it, which direction you would take… My biggest critic/judge is my mother!
6- PRODUCT. We know that one of the differentiating values in your kitchen is the local quality product. How does cooking with a quality product influence a normal one?
From the good, you can do something bad, from bad you can do nothing good. This premise is one of those we have in RELS. The local product, whenever possible, besides being of quality and not having traveled (more than from the field to the table), is a commitment to the local economy, which now more than ever is key. It has an influence on the fact that you must look more at the seasonality of food, you must know who produces it and how they do it…
7- RELS TEAM. What did the Rels team do during the confinement? Did you all stay in touch, working on new ideas, or did you prefer to “disconnect”?
The RELS team has moved, each in their own field, but we have also opted for a partial disconnection, every week we talked and commented a little on how we saw the situation.
8- COVID. What did you miss about your work during your confinement?
We missed the good atmosphere between us, those “WOW” faces when we tried something new and it was a blast… the “family” meals in which we sat down together to eat, almost out of obligation.
9- OPEN. You’ve opened your doors again. What welcome are you getting from your customers, do you remember the first customer who came in?
Yes! We opened the doors of RELS again on May 22nd (although to this day I think we would have waited a little longer) and the acceptance is good, as we have much more time to reflect on the menus, the result according to the “feedback” with our clients is very positive.
Of course, the first two tables that came in one was Rafa, a RELS supporter who we are lucky enough to have visiting us very often! And the other was Joan and Sol, the parents of a friend who always support the cause.
10- RELS TOP. We know it’s very difficult to choose, but what do you recommend as a basic to try from your menu?
It is difficult to choose, but I firmly believe that on a first visit to RELS you cannot miss: Crustaceans in Thermidor, Steak Tartar, Cold mayonnaise soup, Dry rice, Suckling pig, Asia in sweet, Black Forest
It’s almost half a menu (laughs), but if there are any of these dishes on the menu or it’s made up of them, I think it’s a reason to repeat.
Menorca is an exceptional place. Joan Bagur, Chef and owner of Rels restaurant tells us some of his hidden recommendations to live an experience of authentic places and true Menorcan tradition.
For me a “must go to” is always Ciutadella, but to choose a more “hidden” place, Cala Pregonda.
A “must-do” is to walk along sections of the “Cami de Cavalls”, to go around the island from restaurant to restaurant or to visit the island’s wine cellars.
A “must-see” site are the ports of Ciutadella and Mahon, one for being small, secluded, and very charming and the other for its greatness!