(Thanks to VisitPortugal for highlighting this review. http://www.visitportugal.com )
DURING my travels I try to take in as many of the local talking points as possible – the places that those in the know go to but that are possibly not on a typical tourist trail list. I’ve been to Portugal (wow, what a beautiful country) several times and once did a photo-shoot for OK! magazine with the actresses Bo Derek and Stephanie Powers at a Lusitano horse ranch… let’s just say I have not been able to forget it.
A few years ago, I had another unforgetable Portugal experience staying high up on a heavenly mountain in Monchique, attempting to write the early chapters of a book. The problem was I was so distracted by the beauty around me and the people I met (real characters) that I had to surrender to the charms of Portuguese life and put my laptop back in my suitcase. Wise choice … tough life!
Anyway, as a foodie on holiday recently in the Algarve, I was introduced to the charms of the 2 star Michelin restaurant and luxury boutique hotel, Vila Joya. I am very fussy about spa hotels as some are so inconsistent – you often get lots of pretty pictures in the brochures but a big dissappointment when you visit. On this occasion, I was visiting Portugal with my friend, and both of us wanted to have a really indulgent and memorable break. That means a luxury spa and best food we can find.
Anyway, I was reassured by my Portuguese friends I would not be dissappointed at Vila Joya. Both the food and of course the boutique spa hotel have a well-earned reputation for excellence and exclusivity. I’m not obliged to write about my experience (this was a personal trip) but am delighted to as testament to our wonderful time and the consistently good standards of Vila Joya – very impressive.
Portugal’s leading 2 star Michelin restaurant…
Okay, let’s start with the food: we went for the restaurant’s signature taster menu – celebrating the amazing imagination of the award-winning chef Dieter Koschina. (I will add the menu asap). We sat in the most beautiful surroundings (the restaurant overlooks the ocean) and the design of the restaurant with its centrepoint serving table creates an exciting ambience while allowing for intimate seating arrangements. Great for romantic dinners a deux. We were waited on by a team of about 10 super-efficient and very friendly, informed staff, who worked like clock-work. The sommelier Arnaud was charming, charismatic and delighted in our willingness to surrender to his expertise! This meant we had a sublime time enjoying many regional wines – Portugal really does have some truly fantastic vinho. Thank you to the restaurant manager Paulo and the whole team. The taster menu experience took several hours – several hours of delicious bliss!
Talking of bliss… the spa here is in a league of its own. Based on Avurvedic nature principles, as soon as you enter the spa reception it is officially time to stop, breath in the jasmine… and let the therapists do their magic. The facilities are state of the art – including a fab rain forest jet shower. My friend and I loved that we could walk around outside in the private gardens (only for spa users) and watch ocean while taking a skinny dip in the outdoor jet tub – heaven!
I opted for The Atlantic – salt scrub . deep tissue massage . joya foot care . energy mocktail – fantastic! Following my massage, I was led into a private chill-out booth complete with two sumptuous day beds and silk cushions galore… I seriously didn’t want to leave.
Vila Joya – culinary excellence
Vila Joya regularly host events and conventions for the cream of the culinary world, attracting the top chefs (Michelin) from around the world. With their exacting standards, it is no surprise they flock to this gem of the Algarve. Highly recommended.
Score: 5 out of 5
Praia da Gale