British chef Tess Prince grew up in a social whirl. Her parents were both just shy of their twentieth birthdays when they married, children soon followed and Prince’s Saturdays were spent with her mother in the kitchen making petit fours.
“I was in charge of jam tarts, which were probably inedible,” she recalls, “but I was always in awe of my Mum. It seemed to me that Dad would pop his head round the door and say ‘hey, there are 5, 10, 15 people coming for dinner’ and she’d just get on with it. In a pinch, there was nothing she couldn’t do with a packet of Philadelphia and some sweet Thai chilli sauce.”
Fast forward 20 years and Prince had a chef’s certificate and a degree in food science, by way of 1 year as a fashion student. Her signature short blonde hair wrapped up in a colourful bow and 1950s garb hinting at what might have been. “When I realised all I was going to learn was how to do was make a gingham blouse I asked if I could transfer to where I thought people were having more fun – the kitchen,” she tells me, which seems to sum up her general joie du vivre. Lunch à la Prince is a convivial affair of sparkling chat, raucous laughter and the prettiest of table settings all set against the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.
Last year she launched LoveFoodIbiza after ferreting out the best eats on the island as well as spilling the beans on the food secrets of the superstar DJs that come here (husband Dan is a music writer and it’s not unusual for the great and the good of the club world to rock up for Sunday lunch), catering on-board brunches, secret beach picnics, lavish lunches and moonlit dinner parties, all the while chewing the fat with some of the world’s hottest chefs – lately her biggest inspirations have come from some of the dishes being served at Heart, Albert Adrià’s summer food fest collaboration with the Cirque du Soleil. If you want to fast track into the increasingly sophisticated world of gourmet Ibiza, Prince is your gal.
When I called her up to see if we could get together for a chat, she invited me to her charming little villa on the north coast of Ibiza, where the couple moved 3 years ago. Perched on top of a cliff with heartbreaking views of the sea, the open-plan living space is bright and airy with an eye-popping, flower-festooned portrait of Marie Antoinette that could easily be a selfie of Prince dominating one wall. In the kitchen a blackboard is scrawled with all the things she and Dan love about Ibiza. The terrace table is laid with trinkets from her travels around the world including little Buddha napkin rings, and while Dan pops the corks on a couple of bottles of salmon pink, French rosé, Prince ushers me into the kitchen where she’s riffing on her mother’s legendary party dip. In her hands it’s a rather more refined concoction: 48-hour old labne pungent with garlic and fresh coriander and drizzled with her own chilli sauce made from vine-ripened island tomatoes and fresh bird’s eye chillies, which she serves together with organic prawn crackers and a bottle of homemade lime, lemon and mint cordial. If I’ve ever had a snappier or more refreshing pre-cursor to lunch I’m struggling to recall it.
“My cooking style tends to be either super healthy or super indulgent,” Prince explains while turning organic chicken skewers on the grill in preparation for a satay sauce she makes from scratch in a powder pink enamel pan, “I try to abide by 20 healthy eating guidelines – using agave for sweetness for example – which often as not turns out to be just as good as the less healthy version, and I always cook seasonally and in a way that supports island artisans: locally reared meat and fruit and vegetables from gardens down the road.”
True to form our lunch rolls out like a spread in the much-missed Gourmet magazine, all cool, calm, collected, sun-dappled fantasy where the host makes the cooking seem utterly carefree and easy. Prince brings out a delicate Vietnamese noodle salad to go with the satay, followed by her sangria infused watermelon (I tried both hers and the one at Adrià’s Heart by the way – Prince’s was better), a gooey apricot frangipane scattered with freeze-dried lavender petals and garlanded with a thick wreath of bougainvillea, and a decadently creamy barley and coconut pudding.
There’s so much originality in Prince’s style of cooking that I couldn’t help but wonder where it all came from: it didn’t seem at all like hospitality school fare? It isn’t. As a child she and her best friend would play a game in which they’d both take a plate and sneak off into her mother’s pantry to collect 10 things. Her friend always got the baking cupboard – chocolate chips and sugared almonds – Tess got the herbs and spices and it’s this early experience she credits with developing her palette for flavour combinations that go pow. “These days I go to bed with cookbooks and wake up thinking about colours and crockery,” she says, “but really it all comes down to sharing. I want to nurture people and make them happy. Just like my Mum.”
And boy she does. Theatrical as Fanny Craddock, more glamorous than Nigella and brimming with an infectious enthusiasm that makes you immediately fall in love her, if you plan just one thing for your next trip to Ibiza, make it something à la Prince.
Tess’s Top 5 Ibiza Eats
La Paloma, San Lorenzo
Run by a mother and daughter these guys are like a family to me and I love their passion. The menu is constantly changing, which keeps it fresh and it was here that Dan and I decided to move to Ibiza. We were sitting out under the stars, eating fabulous food off eclectic crockery and I felt I’d come home.
La Olivia, Dalt Vila
On my very first trip to Ibiza Dan gave me a whistle-stop tour over 4 days. My parents had warned me it was bound to be a dive, so when I found myself in La Olivia, eating Breton oysters from the very village where they have a house in France, I thought, yeah, that shows them. It’s got a great buzz and really cool pre-party energy.
Can Pujol, Sant Antoni
This one is run by a father and his son, and although you’ve got to go through grotsville to get here – think tattoo parlours and greasy spoons – it’s frequented mainly by locals who really know their stuff. It’s rumoured they only open if the seafood is up to scratch and it’s full of people proposing and having wild family celebrations.
Es Xarcu, Cala Jondal
Super expensive despite the sand floors and plastic chairs, but it’s worth every penny for the backdrop: sparkling sea, bobbing yachts and a vibe that feels more remote than the rest of Ibiza. They’re very proud of their prawns caught off shore that morning and the whole fish baked in salt is sublime.
Cas Pagés, Sant Carles
This is where I go if I want a really great meat fest. Run by two sisters, you can only pay cash, and their suckling pig and lamb chops are incredible. One day my Dad asked for mint sauce and out comes an artisan jar from Borough market. He nearly fell off his seat. That’s attention to detail.