A bohemian, a dreamer, nostalgic, highly sensitive, an artist, a traveller and, above all, a lover of Formentera. That’s George, the son of a pair of artists who came from Switzerland to Formentera in the 1970s in a Volkswagen van with their four children and two hounds, just for a season. They fell under the Pityusic island’s spell however and subsequently could never get it out of their hearts. So much so that George’s sister lives on the island, where she has run restaurants, and makes her own cheese and olive oils, while George’s own daughter was born here. Even his parents, who never wanted to leave Formentera, have now been laid to rest among painters, writers and artists of all kinds in a local cemetery.
With great nostalgia, George remembers the simple cottage where the family lived when they first arrived, which had no electricity, and very little of anything else. “There were more books than furniture,” he adds with a laugh. He has fond memories of that simple, bohemian lifestyle of the seventies and eighties, where everyone mingled, locals and arrivals from England, young and old, artists and executives — an atmosphere that he does his best to recreate in his own business, as that was the true spirit of Formentera which, he notes, “is getting rarer and rarer because we make too much of a business of it”.
Protecting the spirit of Formentera
George remembers how happy they were with so little as they travelled across the world with their parents, especially when they arrived in Formentera, and went to a simple ‘casa de comidas’ [a kind of canteen, serving modestly priced meals], where the aproned manageress would serve them a bullit de peix [traditional fish stew] in a clay pot with a few pieces of cutlery, and they loved it when she told them stories.
That simplicity inspires George to create his own spaces where every detail counts, where every corner has a work of art — either one he has created himself, a piece made by a local artisan based on his ideas, or the plethora of items that this former native of Switzerland has collected on his worldwide travels.
His serious nature, his good taste and his love for this land have earned him many friendships on the island, and a reputation as a sober, discreet man. In fact, he says proudly, “There are many people in Formentera who think of me when they’re running iconic business such as Fonda Platé, because they trust me and know that I have good taste, that I am serious, discreet and, above all, that I’m going to run their businesses while preserving their true spirit, that I will do it well, and without showing off”.
Three projects underway
George is restless, always experimenting and painting. This artist with the soul of a restaurateur thinks of his businesses, whether shops or restaurants, as if they were art galleries. Ca Na Joana, the apple of his eye, was his first restaurant. All the time and enthusiasm that George poured into that venture was rewarded with recommendations in both the Michelin and Repsol guides. This impressive, tastefully decorated sixteenth-century farmhouse is one of the island’s most emblematic restaurants. The news this year is the agreement signed by George and the Bichi Group, which specialises in Japanese haute cuisine; it means that the Ca Na Joana and Insula Beach will each have a sushi and sashimi bar.
But if there’s one thing George is proud of is that the owner of Fonda Platé (probably one of Formentera’s oldest ‘casas de comidas’, and something of an institution on the island) thought of him as the person to bring continuity to a business that has been open for over a hundred years. Here George plans to recreate the bohemian ambience of 1980s Formentera, where all kinds of people mixed together, regardless of social status, age or education, and with one main ingredient — music — which will have a prominent role at the eatery.
His latest venture is Insula Beach, a project inspired by the sea, which he could, and would like to, tell us a lot about — as he admits to great excitement at turning back to the colours of the sea: the blues and whites, the yellows of the sun, and the green shades of the protected natural surroundings. We’ll have to be on the look-out, so that we don’t miss it.