A NEW AURA
Shortly after the much heralded relaunch of Aura; a restaurant/lounge bar on the affectionately named “strip” of the Sant Joan road, North Ibiza, we reflect on the only too familiar battle to successfully overcome the obstacles of starting up in Ibiza’s merciless hospitality market.
Aura’s owner of five years, Hayden Trethewy, is the first to admit that, despite his considerable expertise elsewhere, he could never have predicted what a hard task master Ibiza’s entertainment industry would turn out to be. His unexpectedly challenging journey serves as a cautionary message to anyone starting a business in Ibiza. However, his story also offers the welcome assurance that with perseverance and adaptability, it is possible to embrace the lessons learnt and ultimately triumph.
Hayden, 35, met his now wife, Gypsy, in London. In the mid 90s, she introduced him to her homeland, Ibiza. In 2001, they made the decision to lay down roots on the “white isle”, where their son, Lucas, would later be born. After years of managing gastro pubs and elite membership bars, including “Home Bar”, in London, Hayden slipped seamlessly into managing Manumission and the Mao Rooms here. In 2005, “young and cocksure” and with near on no financial backing, he decided to go it alone and boldly opened Aura. With so much hospitality experience under his belt, he would be forgiven for his self confessed over confidence that a small island would be an easy nut to crack.
Gypsy, Lucas y Hayden
At last, time would soon tell that this new venture was not going to be as easy as he had hoped. Testament to his later success, Hayden had always been mindful of the locals’ needs and the importance of understanding the culture and subtle nuances of island life. Moreover, he made it his business to push through severe dyslexia to learn Spanish fluently. However, what he admits he had gravely underestimated, like so many others before him, was the impending impact of the transient nature of a land governed so strictly by seasons. Granted, the local ‘ex pats’ revelled in Aura’s home cooked food, movie nights and nostalgic treats like gourmet fish n’ chips, but, just as the sun diminished for winter, so did Aura’s crucial main patronage; the visitors from overseas. This left Aura gathering dust and Hayden nursing an ailing bank account for the most part of the year.
Over time, summer parties like “Dantz” gathered increasing momentum and, thankfully, afforded Aura both formidable international press and, its owner, Hayden, room to sit back and humbly assess where things had gone wrong. He had set up originally with a gastropub style restaurant, but, albeit fresh, bright and reasonably priced, something was not working.
By his own admission, Hayden had overlooked the irrelevance of familiar British food to the crucial target market; namely, the summer tourists hungry for something different. To remedy this, he stepped things up a gear in 2008, substituting gastro cuisine for tapas, but this time, the renovated restaurant’s success was thwarted by the increasingly populated bar nights burgeoning between the kitchen and the eating area. This effectively rendered the restaurant inaccessible to the waiting staff. It soon became clear to Hayden, that to survive in the highly monopolised and ruthlessly seasonal entertainment industry of Ibiza, Aura would have to undergo a complete transformation. Only then could it optimise on its full dining and bar potential, and, in turn, capitalise on the few profitable months on offer.
In 2009, four years on from Aura’s initial opening, Hayden was faced with two choices: Either to hang up his catering apron in defeat, or to bravely forge on to create the ultimate Ibizenc dining/nightlife experience that would pay homage to his lengthy, and at times painful, research through personal trial and error. Thankfully, he chose the latter. A vital next step was to surrender to the reality that he would need a business partner, to both boost financial investment and act as a welcomed mentor in the months ahead. Albeit a humble move that many businesses battle against, Hayden recognised that this was the only way to truly do justice to his future endeavour. The resulting partnership has proven invaluable in securing the Aura that proudly stands today.
In a bid to emancipate the sidelined restaurant from the merriment inside, Hayden has masterfully transformed his car park into a luxurious alfresco dining area. Offering the visual delights of bougainvillea, evocative aromas of jasmine and romantic charm of sitting amongst orange trees, the new restaurant is designed to encapsulate the magic of rural Ibiza. Leaving nothing to chance, Hayden has embedded these gems in a futuristic, yet comfortable, design concept which he hopes will delight his diners for many years to come. His carefully thought out menu, averaging at a very justified 40 Euros per head, now fuses Spanish classics with international favourites, and is served up “tapas style”; inviting sharing. Along with the comprehensive main bars, Hayden has added an outdoor cocktail bar, and enlisted renowned drinks aficionado, Chris Edwards, to offer up a range of concoctions delivered in true Tom Cruise style. Inside, Aura’s trademark musical prowess lives on, still with no entrance fee attached and powered up with resident A-list DJs and Aura’s trademark weekly parties.
To top it all and creating boundless synergy, the very man that Hayden jokingly claims to have “left London because of”, John Beach – whose reputation in the upper echelons of fine dining and entertainment was too impressive for even Hayden to compete with – has now joined forces with him here as Aura’s Marketing Director. Together, they share the non elitist philosophy that all their clients “are VIPs and should be treated as such”. This attitude is enjoying a timely renaissance in Ibiza and, in Hayden’s case, is certainly reflective of his years of observing the island’s changing needs.
Text: Cat Weisweiller