Glass discovers two sides to Portugal’s stunning food scene

AS OUR drop-top Volkswagen Beetle careers around the coastline towards Cabo de Roca – the wild and rugged headland that marks Europe’s westernmost point – the driver informs us that we’re pulling in for a pitstop. We slow down on the approach to the sleepy village of Colares, where a half-interested farm dog eyes the approaching car before returning to his slumber. With the afternoon sun still beating down strongly, we creep up a tree-lined driveway to the Casal Santa Maria vineyard.


   The harbour at Cascais

This elegant pile was bought by Prussia-born banker Baron Bodo von Bruemmer in 1962 and saw its first vines planted in 2006. A westerly aspect with views over the Atlantic provides cool year-round breezes that give Casal Santa Maria’s crop a consistency that produces a high-quality yield with a growing reputation. As our host Pedro pours a succession of wines that include a crisp sauvignon blanc, velvety malvasia and fresh, fruity pinot noir, he explains how the region’s location has led to Casal Santa Maria’s unique output – not to mention a lengthy list of hotels and restaurants across the country eager to stock their wines. 


The pool at Pine Cliffs

We take a somewhat slower pace on the journey back to the leafy surrounds of the Sheraton Cascais Resort, where we wave goodbye to our driver before preparing for dinner. Set about half an hour from Lisbon airport, this laidback-yet-luxe hotel features a series of low-rise terracotta villas spread among leafy, verdant grounds that include an expansive pool and bar at its heart, and feels a world away from city life. 


Pine Cliffs Falesia Beach

And one of its major draws is a culinary offering that focuses on high-end Portuguese produce. The Glass Terrace has a menu shaped by herbs from the chef’s vegetable garden, which flavour cocktails as well as the cooking, and fish pulled straight from the Atlantic, which are chosen from Cascais market. That same fish is dished up in imaginative formats at Japanese restaurant Yakuza – where we witness sushi, sashimi and Mediterranean-inflected tacos being carefully prepared on rustic earthenware – while freshly baked pasteis de nata are a staple part at the breakfast buffet. Popular with golfers who visit for the area’s first-class courses, Sheraton Cascais Resort is also perfectly placed for those wishing to explore the nearby town of Cascais as well as Portugal’s wild Atlantic coastline. 


Pine Cliffs Sunset Yoga

After checking out, we make the 130-mile journey south to Portugal’s sunkissed Algarve. The final bastion of the Arabic Iberian occupation, the region formerly known as Al-Garb was finally integrated as part of Portugal in the 14th century – influencing the region’s cuisine as much as the produce its Mediterranean climate provides. Vendors sell piles of oranges on the roadside underneath trees heaving with fruit, while fig, almond and olive groves line our route into the regional capital of Faro. 

The Sheraton Buffet

We wander through the city’s medieval and Moorish architectural patchwork on a tour of the cities best small plates, or petiscos, led by Joana of Eating Algarve Tours. She explains how bread, olive oil, fresh produce and fish – including sardines, which are ubiquitous between June to September – shape the humble but delicious cocina pobre that lies at the heart of the Algarve’s culinary traditions. We’re introduced to the practice of salting and drying fish, vegetables and nuts on the rooftops to preserve them for the year ahead as well as a colourful array of dishes including tiborna, where stale bread is brought to life with peppery olive oil, tomatoes, oregano and garlic, gazpacho, lemon and parsley-topped clams à bulhão pato and fresh goats’ cheese.


A cooking lesson at the Pine Cliffs Resort in the Mimo Algarve kitchen

Just a short journey along the Algarve coast from Faro, Pine Cliffs, A Luxury Collection Resort is perched atop the red sandstone rocks that drop steeply to reveal golden beaches. And among a wide choice of restaurants is a strong focus on Portuguese flavours. From the Piri Piri Steak House, where Portugal’s famed chilli-spiked marinade comes to the fore across a range of meat and seafood dishes, to freshly landed fish at O Pescador and the beach bar Maré, there’s plenty to whet the palate.

The Sheraton Cascais Pool

One of the must-dos at Pine Cliffs Resort is a visit to the sleek Mimo Algarve kitchen, where chef Lucia Ribeiro runs cookery classes that focus on Algarvian classics. After pouring a crisp glass of sauvignon blanc we’re tasked with creating a cataplana – a seafood stew named after the copper pan it’s cooked in, which derives from the tagines left by the Moors. We learn effective techniques to peel garlic, finely chop onions and peppers and sear iberico pork before layering the meat and vegetables with rice, prawns, smoked chorizo and clams and leave to cook for 30 minutes, with the sealed pan ensuring the flavours are retained. The spectacular results are enhanced further by the shared communal experience and takeaway skills to practice at home.


Food Mimo Algarve

After taking in a pink-hued sunset on the Mirador terrace, we continue the evening at Pine Cliffs Resort’s Portulano bar, where, alongside bottles of amarguinha – a local liqueur made from sour almonds – sit a vast selection of ports. Seasoned barman José expertly leads us through a flight of tawny ports and ruby-red vintages with varying degrees of ageing, shining a light on one of Portugal’s proudest exports and adding yet another layer to the country’s sumptuous and storied culinary history.

by Ben Olsen

Classic Collection Holidays (0800 047 1064) offers two nights at Sheraton Cascais Resort and three nights at Pine Cliffs, A Luxury Collection Resort from £1,253 per person. 

Price based on two adults sharing on a bed & breakfast basis, and includes flights from London Heathrow out to Lisbon and back from Faro, private transfers and rail travel between Lisbon and Faro.