Casa Lhasa: where low intervention meets high vibrations.
As many places shutter for the winter, San Lorenzo’s Casa Lhasa is firmly in its flow, with a cool-season schedule that offers a low-key, upbeat alternative that’s jam-packed with winter fun. Maven loves the rotating chef edit, with Jamaican, Thai and Senegalese (who knew?) cuisine all on the upcoming cards. Sundays remain the go-to for Ibiza’s fun-loving international set, who descend en masse for sun-soaked Sunday roasts, low-intervention wines and al fresco DJ sets from music maestro (and yoga guru) Carl Faure. But it’s been a leap of faith for founders Cassady Sniatowsky and Ben Shpunt, who had to deal with a global pandemic and a shut-down Ibiza during the inception of the business. So just how did a Canadian sommelier and an Israeli bartender end up with a natural wine bar in the Balearics? ‘Ben and I actually met in Bar Brutal in Barcelona’, explains Cassady. ‘It's a famous natural wine bar and Ben happened to be working there when my friend from Canada was the manager.’ The two hit it off and when the pandemic struck, Ben reached out. ‘Ben basically got in touch and said, I see you're working on a wine bar in Ibiza. Do you need some help? He came to Ibiza for a few months in the summer of 2020 while he wasn’t working. He really helped me with the concept, helped me set the bar up, did the first service. We clicked right away, and the next summer he came back to join the project.’
Natural wine may have been the starting point for Casa Lhasa, but the spotlight now shines just as brightly on the food. The vibrant, hyper-fresh menu was originally devised by award-winning Irish chef Gareth Storey, an alumnus of the revered kitchens of Jeremy Lee (Quo Vadis) and Margot Henderson (Rochelle Canteen), who spent ten years cooking in Paris before joining Casa Lhasa. ‘Gareth has always been very involved in the natural wine scene and he's as eclectic as Ben and I in that he’s not from the food industry originally: he was a creative writer who learned to cook at a young age and ended up falling in love with it. He absolutely fit the fit the mould of what we were looking for and he quickly found a way to make a bridge between a restaurant and a wine bar menu.’
And Casa Lhasa’s menu is just that – a conduit between the type of smaller sharing plates that customers might graze on at the bar as they focus on the wine list, and larger, more substantial dishes that fit the long, lazy lunch remit. The thread that binds it all, however, is provenance, with as many ingredients as possible hailing from the island. Sniatowsky, however, admits that it’s not always easy – Ibiza doesn’t have cows, for example, so beef comes from the mainland. ‘We’ve avoided calling ourselves farm-to-table because we don’t want to be pigeonholed,’ he muses, ‘but the majority of what we serve is local, and that’s certainly what our clientele are looking for. It makes me happy to see the same people who are discerning in the provenance of their food now asking the same questions of their wine. Low intervention is very clearly the way forward for wine and for the planet, and I’m very grateful to be able to champion that movement here in Ibiza.’