Last week, my wife and I enjoyed a wonderful day in Porches, at the launch of some new Portuguese cookery master classes at the Vila Vita Parc resort.
For those not in the know, the Vila Vita is a huge five-star resort and one of the “Leading Hotels of the World.” It boasts, amongst many other things, over 54 acres of grounds, a private beach, accommodation ranging from suites to butler-serviced villas and one of only two restaurants in the Algarve with two Michelin stars.
The day started with fresh juice, coffee and pasteis de nata and a quick glance off the hotel terrace towards one of the Vila Vita’s many stunning fountains. After being introduced to executive chef Paulo Fortes, we set off for Portimao fish market.
We were introduced to the resort’s fish supplier and Paulo was patient in answering all of our questions. All the fish on the stall was sparkling fresh and our appetites began to build.
Back at the hotel, we walked out to the kitchens of the Atlântico restaurant via the resort’s opulent grounds. After soft drinks, we were provided with aprons and chef hats, and the cookery lesson began.
Our dish for the day was a monkfish noodle stew, prepared with two monkfish procured from the market. After showing us how to fillet them (and making it look laughably easy), Paulo assigned tasks to eager volunteers, but with no pressure on those who preferred to watch. My garlic chopping skills left much to be desired compared to those of a professional chef, but the fact my fingers remained attached was triumph enough for me.
While our monkfish noodle stew took shape, we noticed the sous chefs preparing a stunning tapas feast, which we were delighted to find was intended to form the starter for our meal (I think several of us may have been devastated if it hadn’t been!)
With the cooking done, we headed for the restaurant’s breathtaking terrace to enjoy our meal, complete with unobtrusive and accomplished silver service.
The tapas starters were divine, with an octopus carpaccio, complete with incredible baby tomatoes, worthy of a particular mention. Our monkfish stew was a success – more delicate in flavour than I might have expected, leaving plenty of room for the character of the fish to come through.
Dessert was a creamy, fig cheesecake-based concoction that seemed to be greatly enjoyed by all, and by the time the coffee came round, everyone around the table looked decidedly content with their cookery day.
As well as the fish cookery day we experienced, the Vila Vita is also running an afternoon and evening event at its German Biergarten. The classes start at 85€ per person, which I sincerely believe offers great value. In fact, I already have a couple of relatives in mind that may find themselves attending shortly after Christmas. I think I’ll probably want to go back with them.
The resort’s website can be found here.
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