at The Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort
Stunning beaches, vibrant cities, historic towns, lush islands and culinary delights, a place where you can do as much as little as you wish, somewhere like this has to be at least 8-10 hours on the plane right? No, we’re talking Portugal, one of the must go to countries whether you’re a first time visitor or you’ve been before, it’s somewhere that you want to go back to time and time again.
We were off for a short break staying at the recently opened five star luxury Anantara Vilamoura Algarve Resort – Anantara is brand famous in Asia and the Middle East, and this is the first resort it has opened in Europe.
The luxury influence is evident the minute you pull up outside, with a Ferrari and Lamborghini taking pride of place outside the sleek glass entrance. Doormen greet you with a big smile and help you carry your bags into the large open plan lobby. Marble is a heavy influence here, as is local crafts and traditions.
Check in was reminiscent of our stay in Thailand, we were taking into a bright and airy lounge, where we relaxed on sofas with a cold towel to cool down with, glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (Portugal is known for refreshingly sweet oranges), nuts and traditional Portuguese hot drink.
Our room a Deluxe Pool View Room, looked out over the lush green gardens and Cascade adult pool. With a soft colour palette of creams, whites and greys, coming together to create a luxurious, elegant space to relax. The semi open-plan bathroom, featured Elemis products, a rain shower and large bath, and the balcony was the perfect place to enjoy a glass of wine from the mini bar or a coffee from the Nespresso machine. In total there are 280 bedrooms, 17 are suites, with the one of a kind rooftop Presidential Suite complete with its own whirlpool and personal butler!
The adult only Cascade Pool is surrounded by luxurious day beds and champagne cabanas, the emphasis here is adult indulgence with Veuve Clicquot Champagne being evident everywhere you look, the cushions, the towels, and ice buckets all make you feel as if you are in an exclusive club. There are Sunshine Butlers that ensure you don’t have to lift a finger unless you want to, bringing you drinks and snacks and if you do decide to venture off your bed, there’s always the small cascade bar that serves drinks and bar food for you to visit.
There’s a real emphasis on gastronomy at Anantara Vilamoura, Algarve and we can see why. First there’s breakfast served on the terrace, again its all about the personal touches with a freshly squeezed daily juice given on arrival and then the fresh artisan breads and meats, traditional Portuguese dishes, a pancake station, hot dishes, an egg station, and the fresh fruit platters, that have some of the sweetest tasting melon and pineapple I’ve ever tasted, all enjoyed whilst sitting in the morning sun or shade looking out over the gardens – this is how breakfast every morning should be.
And then there’s Ria Seafood restaurant, overlooking the Palms Pool. You can sit outside or inside, with a nautical haven of white washed furniture, white walls and turquoise blues with fresh lobsters swimming around in large tanks – and fish caught daily. I have to say although I’m a fish lover I never venture out of my comfort zone and will normally stick with fish I know such as prawns, salmon, etc. So when we were told the chef was going to bring us an assortment of dishes to try I was just a little apprehensive – But I needn’t have been, the octopus salad was a dream and the freshly caught fish served with Portuguese potatoes and a Montenar salad (this is only served in the Algarve) was so tasty and delightful I couldn’t get enough of it. The restaurant offers guests a traditional menu, including the likes of monkfish rice and cataplanas (seafood stews cooked in copper pots which are native to the region).
Ria restaurant is open lunchtimes and evenings, but if you’re looking for something a little more formal for dinner (or if you’re celebrating a special occasion whilst you’re away) then a visit to EMO restaurant is a must. A wine centric restaurant where Chef Bruno Viegas and wine guru António Lopes tempt your palette with gourmet food and fine wines.
Although there are tables inside the restaurant, the place to sit is on the outside balcony, with stunning views, and a calm and peaceful ambience that’s helped along with candles and soft lighting – if you time your dinner just right you may even get to see the sunset.
Again we left our food in the hands of the chef, and our dining experience began with the freshest tastiest artisan rosemary foccacia and sundried tomato bread, (I would have been quite happy to eat this all evening) and then with the advice of Antonio we began with a Port and Fevertree tonic aperitif, before the scrambled egg foam with jubilee chips tempted our taste buds, the foam just literally melted in the mouth and the jubilee chips were tiny stick like crisps – divine. A cockle ravioli with red curry pearls followed, paired perfectly with a white wine that was served at room temperature – strange you might think, but it worked! Next came the Braised Turbot with puree green peas, truffle oil and shitake mushrooms, this was full of delicate flavours and as with all fish here was so fresh – dessert was different chocolate flavours made all the more elegant with gold leaf and edible flowers, it tasted divine.
A little tip before dining in the evening head down to the Anantara Bar and Lounge for around 8pm grab a cocktail or aperitif, some Portuguese tapas and watch the live Fado performance (Traditional live Portuguese singing) – it really is worth it.
Anantara Vilamoura, has tried to keep local influences and traditions throughout as much as they can (something they do in all their hotels) their motto being “Life is a journey” each hotel trys to let you experience the diversity of each destination; be it cultural, gastronomic, adventure lead, cosmopolitan pursuits or simple respite.
In between enjoying all the culinary delights on offer, be sure to find time to visit the spa, an oasis of pure indulgence and sensual tranquillity, evident from the minute you arrive. A welcome drink of fresh lemon water (you can have herbal tea), helps you relax before your therapist takes you for your treatment – The Anantara signature massage, began with the ritual of a foot soak with a coffee scrub that smelt so amazing. Then the body massage followed, exotic essential oils were skilfully massaged into my body helping me completely relax and stimulating my circulation and restoring my flow of energy, once finished I felt as if I was walking in a bubble of calm.
Just because your treatment’s finished doesn’t mean your spa experience is, cinnamon tea with honey and fresh fruit is brought to you whilst you continue to indulge in the whole experience and relax on the heated tiled beds overlooking the indoor vitality pool. Not forgetting the fitness lovers amongst us, there’s a state of the art gym open 24 hours, so no excuse whatsoever!
In between eating, spaing, sunbathing, sipping champagne and cocktails, don’t forget to arrange a Tuk Tuk Tour (the hotel has their own Tuk Tuk’s in the bright orange/yellow Veuve Clicquot colours) – You can tour the fishing villages, old town, castle ruins, shops or beaches – and you can hop off if you decide to stay and call the hotel to send the Tuk Tuk back to your later – Nothing beats driving down the road in this open air mode of transport.
And then of course there’s the golf, something else Portugal is well known for – Just moments away on the hotel’s doorstep lies the expansive golf course, for guests to enjoy.
It’s clear to see that Anantara’s rise into Europe is a big hit, a hotel that ooozes luxury and elegance at every turn, with staff that are warm and friendly and genuinely seem to love what they do. A foodies paradise, golf lovers heaven, couples romantic retreat and family fun getaway, they have thought of everything, I can’t wait to go back, although I may have to save for a few more years if I want to experience the Rooftop Presidential Suite!
Prices start from €242 for 2 people sharing a Deluxe Pool View Room on a bed and breakfast basis per night in November 2017.
Prices start from €2,125 per night on a bed and breakfast basis in the Presidential Rooftop Suite in November 2017.