Text José Silva
It’s a very recent five star hotel, in Vila Viçosa, deep in the Alentejo interior, in a region with a big marble production. And this noble product is everywhere through the wonderful facilities of the hotel, in traditional combinations and others much more modern and even some more audacious ones. In this hotel, as it should be, there is a restaurant, which presents some very particular ornamental solutions, of extraordinary good taste, such as lighting.
They’ve got a table in the main room that is a piece of art: a huge marble table with a glass top, which is made from a single marble block, beautiful!
It’s used as the main table for the breakfast’s full buffet and for group meals, giving an exotic touch to a wonderful meal.
The restaurant has a young portuguese chef leading the kitchen team, developing a remarkable work, teaching his even younger workmates, giving them the necessary knowledge so that nothing misses or fails, either in breakfasts of everyday life, in the executive and working lunches, or in the more sophisticated dinners, with more time.
Chef Pedro Mendes can this way develop his work, with the support of excellent products, the majority of them being portuguese and some not so usual, like the use of seaweed and acorn cooking, among others. The name is “Narcissus Fernandesii” and already has a devoted clientele, with a lot of foreigners going there looking for sophisticated and assorted menus, some surprises that the chef and his team may sometimes prepare and also for the wonderful harmonizations with some of the best Alentejo wines.
The room team, leaded by an experienced and attentive professional, gathers all conditions to provide us with a service of affection and skill, delivering us a gastronomic experience we will not forget.
In my last visit, along with some friends, we had a wonderful dinner, full of balance and tremendous notes of good taste.
Couldn’t miss the regional bread and a wonderful Alentejo olive oil, to soften our palate.
Then started a parade of tasty dishes, presented with sophistication and explained by the room staff in a simple but efficient way.
First came a Moganga (Pumpkin) soup with truffled cream, served in a nice cup, then a superb malabar gourd soup with acorn bread – one of the products that chef Pedro Mendes works with passion – smoked ham powder and quail eggs.
First came the plate with the contents and then broth was added, very hot, with a good result. It was delicious!
Then came the Algarve’s carabineer, fleshy and tasty, with cauliflower cream and coriander, endive and lemon emulsion.
Hard to describe, so much simplicity and sophistication, so much elegance, with all the elements making a perfect harmonization.
But we were still surprised by an on point “foie-gras”, close to perfection, with persimmon emulsion making a fantastic pairing and a half “foie” bom-bom, with the company of crispy acorn toast, a refinement finishing, excellent.
The meat dish that was presented was exotic, complex, but very, very good: smoked deer meat in holm oak wood and rosemary, with Madeira wine reduction, small broad beans with coriander, quince cream and some small pieces of breaded cauliflower, such a wonderful dish!
Then it was dessert time. Firstly, field pumpkin and whey in a wonderful marriage between not so ordinary products, then honey pie, acorn’s sponge, persimmon ice cream and lemon cream, superb contrasts and a voluptuous result, in a great final.
The wines that accompanied this feast of the senses were Herdade do Pombal white 2011, an Alentejo wine from Estremoz, already with some evolution, therefore with great elegance, smoky dry notes, wonderful volume, fat, involving, proving that white wines age very well with time.
The other wine was an excellence red wine Lima Mayer 2008, from Monforte area, great freshness and acidity, very complex and thus fascinating, dealing very well with the proposed harmonizations for this wonderful meal.
Alentejo at its best…