After two hours of being ‘awake’ on Day 3 I seemingly opened my eyes for the first time. Before me was a glorious hotel swimming pool surrounded by bodies in various states of sunbathing undress and equally varying states of consciousness.
Slowly the two days before returned to me as the pool water lapped at my ankles. In a Fear and Loathing style montage the drinks, the villa, the nightclub, the missed flights all started to flood back. I quietly cursed myself for not having this experience 5 years ago otherwise it could have been me getting rich from penning The Hangover.
Slowly bodies stirred, Lee Potter-Cavanagh, in true Australian style, handed me a cold can of beer. Stuart Ekins, who had done a pretty good job of disguising himself as a pile of dirty washing on a sun lounger, stirred into action and we were on the move, to the hotel that would be our home for the next 24 hours.
On the journey over it became obvious that only two courses of action were open to this disgraceful bunch of degenerates. Option 1 – curl up in a small ball in a dark hotel room, sob quietly and get a few hours kip, Option 2 – take a big man-up pill and get back on that gin covered horse.
My decision was made for me the minute I asked Sam Fish where she was going for a drink. Ibiza, you see, is now home to Amanda Blanch and Chris Edwards who I had not seen in a couple of years after they left the UK following the end of their reign as Brighton Royalty when Blanch House closed.
They have got a new bar in Ibiza called ‘Hidden’ and I wanted to check it out more than I want to check out if Shakira’s hips really do lie. A surprisingly large number of people took Option 1 but myself, Sam, Lee and Sarah Moorhead were not to be deterred.
As we walked down a tree lined pathway towards Hidden I already started to fall in love, compared to the rest of Ibiza the tranquil nature of the location (just off a little beach) immediately endeared the place to me. The relaxing feeling turned to pure joy when Lee tapped me on the arm and pointed to a crazy golf course through the branches, a bar with a crazy golf course? Surely not.
Surely flip-tootin’ yes. No more than 20 minutes later, at approximately 3pm, myself and Lee were playing crazy golf in the tree dappled sunlight sipping on an awesome Pina Cola with a bacon sandwich on order. I can officially announce to the world that there is no better hangover cure out there – FACT!
Hidden doesn’t stop at the Crazy Golf, within the meandering outdoor grounds you will also find Table Football and Giant Chess (just for the record I beat Lee at all games over the course of the day) all surrounded by ample seating spaces.
However with Chris and Amanda at the helm there is one other factor that comes as highly as the atmosphere of the venue on the check list and that is the drinks. Boy they really do not disappoint. A circular bar (think the beach bar in Cocktail) sits pride of place in the venue with a spirit collection better than pretty much anywhere on the island helped, no doubt, by regular visits from friends from the UK.
Chris’s touch behind the bar is fantastic. He was knocking out crowd pleasing drinks all day and night from corking Pina Colada’s and Watermelon Daiquiri’s to classic Negroni’s and Manhattan’s. With him behind the stick and Amanda on hosting duties I was reminded just how much I miss Blanch House and just how underrated a really good industry double act is.
As the afternoon turned to night and the photo’s got more and more ridiculous I realised that my face was sore from laughing. I also realised that I had just had the most enjoyable afternoon/evening in a bar I’d had in a very long time, it was partly the company, but Hidden, Chris and Amanda had a big part to play.
Get to Ibiza, get to Hidden, don’t plan to do anything else that day and say hello from me. Hidden is undoubtedly of my favourite bars in the world right now….. say it quietly but it may well top the list.
The Global Final
Day 4 saw us heading back to the Villa for the Global Final of the Gin Mare Mediterranean Inspiration competition. Everyone was excited about the day ahead, the sun was shining, the pool was calling and we knew that Dee Ann Quinones had a great chance of taking out the title for the UK.
I was also looking forward to a nice relaxing day, I had no judging duties and as we were getting the plane back that night I was planning on not having a big drinking day. As I walked into the Villa the first face I saw was Stu Hudson’s – bugger.
As I was handed my first G&T I was introduced to the competitors taking on Dee – Jorge Camilo, Portugal; Perryn ‘Pez’ Collier, Australia; Andrew Nicholls, Holland; Torsten Spuhn, Germany; Adriana Soley, Spain and Alexandre Peyraud, Switzerland.
As the judging panel (all 8 of them!) took their seats the UK cheerleading contingent took up position on the sun loungers. The competitors had been busy in the kitchen prepping all morning and as soon as the competition started we knew it was going to be a tough one.
As the first half of the draw went through their presentations it was really interesting to see techniques and flavours that you just don’t see in UK competitions. Even the styles of presentations were often very different with the friendly, relaxed, jokey ‘UK’ style often shunned for a more ‘professional’ approach.
It is hard enough and nerve racking enough to present in the final of a competition in your own language but for those who spoke in English despite this not being their first language my hat is doffed.
During the lunch break we had a presentation from Michelin Star chef Ángel León from Aponiente who is dubbed Chef of the Seas. He has been working closely with Gin Mare over the years and has produced a plankton Gin & Tonic which sounds odd but tastes fantastic and looks brilliant.
The post lunch half of the draw contained Dee so we woke Stu up from his snoring slumber and got right behind our UK representative. She did us proud, a flawless performance and we knew her drinks tasted great, she was definitely in the running – if only we were judging.
The last few days I had been wondering if anyone was going to jump in the pool after finishing their presentation, it took until the final competitor of the whole comp when Andrew from Holland dived in to big cheers. It was a great finish to the presentations and, whilst the judges went to deliberate, led to an en masse pool party.
As I lounged in the pool with limes and grapefruits whizzing past my noggin as another game of ‘throw fruit around the pool’ (it’s more fun than it sounds) took place I realised just how important these sort of international competitions are for bring our worldwide industry closer together. Then a lemon hit me on the temple and I went off the idea…. Bloody Aussies.
Unfortunately we weren’t to see the announcement of the winner as they had one more round left serving their G&T twist to consumers at an event later that evening and we had a plane to catch. So the goodbyes started and the torture of not knowing continued for the competitors.
Team UK had one final drink on the beach before we jumped the plane and as we waited at the airport news came through of the winners. Taking out the title was Adriana from Spain with Pez from Australia in second and Dee coming a very respectable third.
Congratulations to all the competitors and especially Dee for representing the UK so well. Once again thank you to everyone at CASK Liquid Marketing and Gin Mare for a great trip as well as Chris and Amanda for a wonderful day.
Keep an eye out for news of next year’s competition as this really is the opportunity to go on the trip of a lifetime.