“ Address: Sitio dos Caliços / 8700-069 / Moncarapacho / Algarve / Portugal „
The Orangerie restaurant is excellent, it belongs to the Vila Monte Hotel, a stylish hotel and Spa set in wonderful grounds in the countryside, ten minutes away from the shoreline, half-way between Faro and Tavira. Don't think that because the hotel looks posh and expensive that you have to be a resident to book a table. You don't but you might have to bring a bit of extra cash as the meals on offer are more expensive than your regular restaurant in and around Montecarapacho, a small country town situated in an area filled with orange groves.
I've been to Montecarapacho several times, not a lot happens. It is one of those rural Portuguese towns were afternoons slowly drift into evenings without you even noticing anything different. People don't rush here, they carry on as normal in their typically friendly and relaxed way. The town has a church clock that strikes on the hour and even that is sleepy and a cobbled square where old men and women sit underneath the jacaranda and palm trees chatting about days gone by.
The Vila Monte Hotel has a different atmosphere with allsorts of stuff happening. It isn't the type of place I generally visit but I had arranged to meet an old buddy from our Algarvian days who was staying in Faro. My friend didn't arrive as she had to rush off back to the UK on family business so I was left stranded. Still, I am used to eating in restaurants on my own and it was certainly no hardship sitting on the terrace, breathing in the aroma of orange blossom and observing other guests.
Firstly, let's start with the dining area. The room inside is huge with a very high ceiling and so much floor space in between tables. You can't help noticing the Moorish influence, it is everywhere from the arches, copper plates and ornaments decorating high white mantelpieces. There is an L shaped bar in this room and at the side a relaxing area to sit with heavy chocolate coloured sofas and chairs. These are very Moorish in style as are the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Instead of heavy, individual crystals these light fittings have delicate pin-like shards of sparkling glass. The floor is tiled which helps keep the room cool, the furniture is made from rattan with glass topped tables and chairs that have fitted cushions. On the back wall of the restaurant there are 3 abstract canvasses but I didn't like any of them as the colours are too muddy. Huge, windows open up on to one of the biggest terraces I have ever seen in the Algarve and the views are of the garden but also of the ocean and rows and rows of blossoming orange trees. I think you can guess why I chose to sit here!
Regarding the cuisine, I think you pay more for the presentation which is beautifully done, than for the actual taste of the food. Don't get me wrong, the cooking is innovative but I think the fusion of raspberries and red cabbage won't be everyone's cup of tea when eating a roast meal. The chef bases his dishes on Mediterranean style cooking so when you look at the menu you will notice that the word, Mediterranean highlights most meals. There is a tasting menu which does include a vegetarian option but unless you particularly want to try out different wines with courses or have a huge appetite then I don't recommend this as it is very expensive and with an extra wine supplement of 20 Euros, also 5 courses to get through. I did notice the evening I visited that the couple on the opposite table from me seemed to be rushed by the waiter and the young gentleman hadn't finished his first glass of wine and first course before the sommelier came with a different type of wine and started pouring it out into another glass. This put me off as I don't like to be rushed when drinking my wine.
Choosing from the ordinary menu is easy enough and many of the ingredients used like fruit, vegetables and herbs are taken from the gardens surrounding the hotel. As for the fish and seafood, this comes directly from Olhao. Rich game and other meat products come from local suppliers inland. Portions aren't huge which suits me fine and I do love the way the meals are presented, I also like the idea of interesting marinades like ginger and honey and vinaigrettes like strawberry and passion fruit. Rather exotic, don't you think?
I didn't want a heavy meal so kept my order simple, I chose a shrimp and Mediterranean salad which is salad of prawns served on a bed of lettuce and juicy tomatoes that have been drizzled with passion fruit vinaigrette (12 Euros). This was refreshing and delicious. For the main course I went for the veal medallion with asparagus (23 Euros), the meat was a bit too red for my liking so I asked the waiter to ask the Chef to cook it a bit more which he did. When the veal returned it was just right and he also replaced the cold asparagus with new, warm stalks of the green variety. These had been coated with melted butter and were so scrumptious! For dessert I chose a piece of citrus cheesecake decorated with carob and almonds (9 Euros). I didn't think this was a bad price for a dessert and the portion was large enough. It was filling but cooked beautifully with just the right amount of citrus coming through the smooth cheese mixture. I was tempted to treat myself to a glass of Vinho Verde but after looking at the wine list which is extensive and has many fine wines from all over Portugal and other countries, I changed my mind. They had heavy price tags and I didn't feel like splashing out on this occasion.
There are traditional dishes like cataplana on the menu and a Vegetarian menu consisting of ratatouille, risotto, salads, soups etc. It was nice to see a regional cheese platter too and a children's menu covering meals like spaghetti Bolognese, soup, fish and fried potatoes, small steak and salad. Starters cost 2 Euros per person and are the usual Portuguese couvert with bread, olives, cheese, and sardine pate.
The selling point of the Orangerie is its peaceful location and the wonderful views from the terrace. I left before the night drew in so I wasn't able to get the full benefit of the terrace being lit. There is a long glass thoroughfare running through the centre of the orange groves with lights set underneath it, like a runway and silver lanterns placed at intervals underneath branches to illuminate blossom in spring and fruit in summer and autumn. What a sight, I should imagine it is a very pretty one. The food is different than the run of the mill Algarvian cuisine and served with panache. Also, there is definitely an air of professionalism about this restaurant with staff being on the ball, pleased to be of assistance and very friendly. Here are my personal ratings:
Overall rating: ****
Food Rating: ****
Ambiance Rating: ****
Wine rating: ***
The restaurant is open every day of the year.
Car Parking is Available.
Prices of meals including wine start from 60 Euros.
Address: Sitio dos Calicos, 8700-069 Moncarapacho, Algarve
Tel: 351 (289) 790 790