Menorca: the well-hidden gem of the Balearic Islands is now on everyone's lips, because in just a few years the island has been thrust into the limelight with the opening of a few boutique hotels.
Our fear? That it will attract jet setters, bored with Mallorca, Formentera or Ibiza, its very busy neighbours...
Fortunately, Guillaume Foucher and Frédéric Biousse are not doing anything like the others: they have opened Fontenille Menorca in July 2019 - two secret properties, very different from each other, with, in common, the family house spirit and respect for the earth, which are dear to them.
No famous interior designer. No signs on the main road. No commercial lounge music in the background. Discretion is the order of the day. I love that!
Torre Vella © Yann Deret
Used to turning historic places into charming and lively residences, they fell in love with Menorca and opened two properties, that are both Relais & Châteaux certified!
Santa Ponsa © Yann Deret
Santa Ponsa, Babylone luxuriante
We fell in love with this former aristocrat's finca, its red façade, its luxuriant terraced gardens, its fountains that cradle travellers' siestas under the trees - one thinks of the Alhambra.
One hundred hectares of greenery. Birds singing incessantly. No aggression from the modern world disturbs
the peace of this oasis.
One sits on an armchair under a palm tree, swims in the 31 degree water of the indoor pool or in the cooler one of the outdoor pool, reads, live. Armchairs are placed here and there in the garden.
With only 22 keys, each traveller has as much privacy as necessary in this garden of Eden.
© Yann Deret
The estate's Spa, located in 18th century cisterns, offers treatments using ecological and vegan products: you can treat yourself while respecting the Earth.
The decor reminds us of a cabinet of curiosities: duck green, greyish blue, prints of exotic birds, empty bird cages scattered around the garden, bottle green zellige bathrooms.
In the evening, the ancient stone is tinged with pink, the hundred-year-old palm trees rise higher towards the sky, the candle holders are lit.
Santa Ponsa is warm and comforting.
© Yann Deret
Torre Vella, the bohemian chic spirit
The second property in Fontenille Menorca, located less than ten minutes by car from the first, is a whitewashed finca.
More than two hundred hectares of prickly pear trees, olive trees and vines, a courtyard with rough wooden tables and chairs, waxed concrete floors, driftwood, wicker baskets: the decoration here is resolutely more bohemian.
White, nothing but white. The impression of being in Puglia, in fact...
© Yann Deret
Half of the 17 rooms offer a small private swimming pool and comfortable outdoor lounges that invite you to take a siesta, with a view of the sheep grazing in their pens - because the farm is still in operation.
If Santa Ponsa is green and cosy, Torre Vella is mineral, pure and geometric.
And the gastronomy?
It is excellent!
Albert Riera, a Catalan chef who worked for Eric Guérin in France, has created a menu that changes regularly according to the season: most of the organic veggies come from Santa Ponsa's permaculture vegetable garden. Each bite has taste and character; the seasoning, textures and service are perfect.
We love a Chef who cooks - and Albert Riera is one of them.
Fresh and natural lunch today: three types of hummus (aubergine, chickpea, beetroot), a fresh watercress soup, a green salad, a plate of cold meats and Minorcan cheeses and homemade bread.
The special sunset basket, which you can enjoy while watching the Mediterranean gradually fade into the night, is memorable: fleshy and tasty olives, rosé from the Fontenille estate, cubes of Mahon cheese.
In the summer, a sea view bar is open - we are out of season and so much the better. The Mediterranean belongs to us.
The dinner is also delicious and affordable: we are in a Relais & Châteaux but one of Fontenille's philosophies is to offer luxury at an affordable price - in the restaurant, in the Spa and in the rooms. We love it!
Fontenille is a family house. You come with your tribe, with your friends. There are books in every corner, the staff are incredibly kind, the herbal tea is hot when you return to your room after dinner - a very delicate and rare attention.
The hours tick away at a slow pace - the rhythm of rest, of escape, of reunion with oneself and one's family.
We look forward to the opening of Domaine de Primard, the next Fontenille project close to Paris, before summer 2021!