Can Pasqual. Tradition meets innovation in one of Formentera’s oldest restaurants
At Formentera’s narrowest point, where the island is no more than two kilometres wide, and just a stone’s throw from the limpid, blue waters of Es Caló beach, stands Can Pasqual, one of the island’s oldest and most prestigious restaurants. This establishment has been in existence since 1964, when it was opened by Pasqual, the father of the current owner Pep Mayans.
A few years ago, Pep’s path crossed with that of Juan Exojo. The latter was a chef from Valencia who had come to spend a season on the island, and eventually decided to stay there, along with his wife Cristina, now the pastry chef at Can Pasqual.
This hard-working, swaggering chef immediately demonstrated his talents, and found favour with the Mayans family, who gave him free rein to introduce some major changes to the business. Without question (whether thanks to the confidence of one, or to the good judgement of the other), the partnership formed by Pep Mayans and the Valencian resulted in a transformation of the business, which today aims to earn the highest accolades in the world of international cuisine — although, as Mr Exojo himself puts it: “We work so that the customer goes away happy, and not for prizes, although you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”.
We work so that the customer goes away happy, and not for prizes, although you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth
It is impossible to set foot inside Can Pasqual and not be impressed, spellbound even, with the thoughtful décor of the dining room and of the terrace, where wood, stone, natural fibres and glass are the stars of the show. The result is a natural, organic, welcoming ambience, in total harmony with the Mediterranean pine and juniper wood in which this mansion house is set.
Traditional recipes, Formentera products and unlimited imagination
In strictly gastronomic terms, Can Pasqual blends tradition and cutting-edge innovation. Juan Exojo remains faithful to the Can Pasqual’s underlying tradition as casa de comidas [an economical eatery], and there is always room on his menu for a section featuring traditional island dishes. Local fish served in traditional style, salted fish or a good fish stew rub shoulders with the incredible rice and noodle dishes that could not be absent from a restaurant whose head chef is Valencian. There are also innovative dishes, prepared with immense precision - the product of the creative genius of a chef who claims to be obsessed with cooking, to the point where, if asked about his hobbies, he laughs, looks at you in astonishment as if the answer were perfectly obvious, and exclaims, “Cooking!”
Can Pasqual’s cuisine is all about the ingredients. Even more than that, it’s all about ingredients from Formentera. Juan Exojo is, in fact, in love with the island, with its cuisine and with its ingredients. Ever since he docked on Formentera, he was determined that he was going to cook traditional dishes of the type that (as he puts it) don’t need to be changed because they’ve been doing well for generations. However, he is also a very restless person, who likes to improvise and experiment: “With an establishment as lovely as this, we couldn’t just restrict ourselves to producing traditional dishes”, he says.
As no meal is complete without a good dessert, it is worth highlighting the amazing work of Cristina, the pastry chef, whose home-made puddings impress even the most demanding connoisseurs.