Last week, as I mentioned, I read Giles Coren’s review in the Times on La Blanchette in Soho, dashed off there for lunch and was suitably impressed. However this week, he is writing from the Algarve.
Funny , he was staying at the Conrad , which is a short hop from Faro airport. I was there with a bunch of lady golfers. At my club, we are truly spoilt, the ladies have a “tour” just like the men, and this is duly organised by the noble soul who is Lady captain at the time. So far we have been to Northern France, Brazil, Rome, Switzerland, Normandy, Florence, Germany, Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Austria and this year to Portugal.
We too stayed at the Conrad, which was perfect for us, placed as it is amidst a bunch of top golf courses. I agree with him, insomuch as, it is a modern hotel, beautifully landscaped, with lots of pools,I could not fault the rooms, beautiful and functional. He went there with children, which I am not sure I would do, true they have kids clubs etc, and apparently great kids food, but for me this is an adult type of place. It is a couple of miles from the beach , which is beautiful, but the only way to get there ( if you do not have a car) is on the hotel shuttle bus, which runs hourly from 10 am until 4 pm. To my mind Kids need beaches.
Breakfast was the highlight of the day at the Conrad. We sat outside, we could have the buffet ( hotel buffets usually fill me with horror, ) this was amazing and something for everyone, and Nothing there you fancy, well then a la carte was also available. Attentive service, great staff. We too ate in the GUSTO restaurant, “cheffed” by Heinz Beck. Fo us it was a superb meal, and we were the only diners there. However, for me the only complaint about the hotel were the stairs, or rather the lack of them. Our room was at the end of the first floor, but the only way to get up or own was via the elevator. My room-mate and I tried every which way Not to use the elevator, all to no avail, we found routes to the rear of the bar, to an office and outside but to the lobby, No! there were stairs leading from the lobby down, but not up and where there should have been stairs, there was a weird art installation. check out the picture and judge for yourself.
However we were there for golf. The highlight of our golf experience was a day at Monte rei, about an hours drive from the resort. This was Millionaires golf, the service was impeccable,as was the course. Clubs were cleaned for us, loaded onto carts for us, course Marshall duly kept the four grumpy men following 28 ladies, at bay and the sun shone. After golf we had a drink on the terrace, and had our daily prize giving. This was done in style as Matt Pinsent and Steve Redgrave did the honours for us. Grumpy men beware, when following 28 ladies, is all I can say!
What Giles Coren, also said on Saturday, was “Don’t go to the Algarve for Tapas, go to Wapping”. Well he was correct in the Don’t go to the Algarve bit for Tapas, as Tapas, are as we all know ( but not Giles Coren, or so it would seem), are Spanish and not Portuguese. Petiscos are the Portuguese equivalent of Tapas .There are Tapas bars in Portugal, but they’re an adaptation of the Spanish fare and not interchangeable with Petiscos. Petiscos, like Tapas, aren’t easy to define. A good example would be bifanas (thin pork sandwiches) or snail soup, the difference between a Tapa and Petisco is also in the seasoning of the dishes. Spain colonised mainly in the West, Central and South America whereas Portugal went east to Goa, to China and to Africa.However the one spice that really distinguishes Portuguese food from its Spain is their use of Piri-Piri, made from African Bird’s Eye Chili Peppers. So Chicken Piri Piri, is a real Portuguese dish and not just something that Nando’s or Marks and Spencers ready meals have decided to call their own.
The BIG dining out experience that Mr. Coren missed out was a trip to Sr. Frango. Cheap and Cheerful with the best chicken in town. Kid friendly and lady golfer friendly to boot. ( his kids would have loved it,So eat your heart out Mr. Coren, you had better get over to Wapping to eat your Tapas, whilst enjoyed Portuguese chicken. Oh I forgot, he gets paid to write his reviews, Ah well never mind!