Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel invites a Portuguese celebrity chef every month for a special occasion dinner, where guests can have a taste of some the best cuisine that is currently happening in Portugal.
I was lucky to be among the invited media guests to this very special occasion at the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel. Not surprisingly, I ended up meeting some old friends from the kitchen and making some new ones. For this particular occasion the man behind the stove was Chef Miguel Castro e Silva, one of the leading chefs in Portugal. He is better know for his work at Largo, and more recently at restaurants at DeCastro, and at De Castro Elias.
The motto for the dinner created and hosted by Chef Miguel Castro Silva was very adequately fish and seafood. After all we in the Algarve and the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel sits literally by the swells of the Atlantic Ocean. To be more precise on the most south western point in Portugal, Cape St. Vincent.
About Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel
Before we get to the dinner part, let me just tell you a bit more about the Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel and why we accepted their invitation. Unlike many of the horrendous towers of cheap 3 star and 4 star hotels in central Algarve, this property is completely inserted with southern tip of the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina. A natural landscape protected by the Portuguese Government. The building are all one or 2 levels high maximum, with direct views of the water, very spread apart and immersed within the natural vegetation of the natural park.
I was raised in the Algarve, so for me the most amazing thing about the resort is the landscape architecture. Even though it has a huge area, you don’t feel overwhelmed by concrete, the architecture is balanced with its natural surroundings. It all made sense when Ms. Chitra Stern, the owner, told me that the landscape architects lived in the Algarve and studied it’s native species for one year before completing the project.
My first day at Martinhal started with the sun rising on the sea, drinking coffee at the deck, checking “The Martinhal Weekly Times” so cute… Breakfast is plentiful with a very big selection of fruits, pastries, cold cuts, cheeses and cooked to order waffles. If you’re going for an English breakfast I assure two things: everything is made by order; and secondly this super fresh preparation takes its time. Afterwards, I got a buggy ride to the Finisterra Spa for a relaxing massage, adapted to the pressure you like. Very thoughtful. The lunch was at the “Dunas” restaurant, where we ate clams on the balcony, being warmed by the cosy winter souther sun.
When the afternoon came, we went for a walk, and I was just amazed! Martinhal has heated outdoor swimming pools, printed news papers from all over the world, vegetarian food, Algarve Wine, a supermarket inside the resort and the feeling that there’s always something going on even in January. For example, the one year artistic residence of Portuguese Artists Jorge Santos, whose works can be seen all over the resort.
Dinner at Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel
The dinner started with an amuse bouche entitled “Horse mackerel tartar and cod vichyssoise”. Two strongly flavoured fish, presented in a smooth texture and harmonious flavours. Served with a Giroflé sparkling wine.
Starter: Chef Miguel Castro e Silva served scallops inspired on the á galega preparation (sautéed and sprinkled with coarse salt, paprika and drizzled with olive oil) but with “Broa” (yellow corn bread) and olive oil aromatized with sweet pepper and garlic. The olive oil smelled of pinenuts, wallnuts and hazelnuts. Probably why it was one of my favourite dishes. We drank a white Chocapalha from Douro made only from Viosinho grape.
Second starter: The “Rocket risotto with cockle” was our main dish and was cooked to perfection (not an easy task)! Why? Because risotto gets overcooked and mushy very quickly. The white Dalva also from Douro, accompanied this dish.
First Main, the “Sole and scarlet shrimp with beurre rose and asparagus”, this one was my favourite because the proteins were cooked to perfection, the beurre rose was delicious and beautifully balanced with the acidity of the green asparagus. I just loved the fact that the head of the scarlet shrimp was on the plate, it’s the best part! This time we had a white wine from Dão, by Ribeiro Sanches producer.
Second Main: The “Sea bass with wild mushrooms and local salicornia”, just perfect. Define perfect? Was it the texture, the freshness of the fish, the way it flacked on the fork. The sea bass was slow cooked in vacuum which always makes protein smooth, it just melts in your mouth. So, you have sea, and earth from wild mushrooms puree, you also have the salicornia to combine these two elements, because it grows in between them, at the salterns. Served with the first red wine of the evening by Ribeiro Sanches producer.
Third Main : The “Squid and potatoes with two olive oils” plate (name of the dish) such a peasant dish and yet beautifully presented, so colourful with drops from two olive oils, the squid was perfectly cooked but some of the potatoes were a bit burned, just to point out something not perfect for you to believe that everything was pretty much perfect. We had a Dalva red wine.
First Dessert: The “Sheep cheese, fig chutney” served with a Dalva White Port 10 years old and the saltiness of the buttery cheese was well balanced with the two sweet elements.
Second Dessert: I gotta say the “Honey pudding with pumpkin jam and curd cheese” was… well we started discussing umami on the table because of this dish, I thing that can give you an idea of how amazing and unique the experience was. Because it was like our palate was surprised by this mix and umami came because of that. It was surprising and really, really good. On top of that we had the oldest wine, a divine 1995 Dalva Port wine.
My honest oppinion about Dinner at Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel
Chef Miguel travelled with his right-hand man Gonçalo Ribeiro and on the several visits to the kitchen during the service I felt the brigade from Martinhal and the invited chef worked really well together, even with the restaurant working à la carte as well.
It was an incredible dinner, so harmonious, every element were thought and elaborated but in a subtle way, the technique was used not to be noticed but to provide the best of the elements, so the flavours and the textures were at the best. It was a Menu with 8 dishes and I didn’t feel that I’ve eaten too much. I felt everything was with the perfect pace and all the proteins cooked to perfection, bravo, really well done!
Maria Braga was a guest of Plataforma -a, a tourism media and marketing agency in Lisbon and of Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel. Prices for the double room in which Maria stayed in start at : —
Martinhal Beach Resort & Hotel contacts:
Text and photos by Maria Braga.