Salsify at The Roundhouse

Up and down the hill, a lot of green and a blue horizon melting with the blue sky, is the path to The Roundhouse, former hunting house of Lord Charles Somerset, former governor of the cape, and also a hotel, tea room, and some other activities… nowadays it hosts the new restaurant of Luke Dale-Roberts, the successful chef and businessman who dominates the restaurant scene of Cape Town (you can read more about Luke – here).

A historical building, of rare form, round as the name indicates, with one of the most beautiful views over Camps Bay, that was Sandalene’s inspiration to create a completely unexpected scenario for those, like us, visiting the restaurant for the first time.

 The view over Camps Bay

If the experience of a restaurant goes way beyond the food served, at Salsify that’s the case right from the entrance with the decoration. As we are accompanied to the table our host also explains the history of the building and the different areas created by Sandalene. From the Lady Salsify statue to the Lord Charles graffiti, everything makes sense and surprises.

Lady Salsify

Some decor details 

At the table, the show unravels, with the team being ready and with the service nicely prepared, despite being a recent restaurant. We chose the tasting menu, accompanied by the wine choices of Sommelier Nash Kanyangarara.

We are quickly introduced to the first snacks, with beetroot tempura with mustard seeds and celery biscuit with truffle tarragon pesto and parmesan. Both delicious in the texture and flavor combos, opening our palates to what was to come.

To go with, a cocktail is never too much, we started with a signature Gin&Tonic, prepared in situ, with grapefruit and cherry bitters, and a pineapple margarita and fava tonka.

Excellent Cocktails

And then, the bread moment, with an excellent worked butter with oil and dust of fig leaf, it’s hard to ask for a better start…

Spring Minestrone, Octopus, oysters, and herbs 
A clear broth taking us to a tomato water, with octopus bites, oysters, salicornia and some herbs. Very good in terms of flavors and textures, however, a little bit more saltiness would’ve been nice!

On the glass, a Pino Gris, Migliarina Grey Matter 2017. A rare caste in South Africa, here resulting in a cool and super fresh wine, with crunchy acidity and a citrus side that worked wonders in harmonization!

Grilled asparagus, sunflower and hollandaise sauce  
The Sunflower is the key element of the dish, present in different ways, from the seed to the oil used in the hollandaise and the frozen pesto that covers the asparagus. An excellent vegetarian dish, the magic of a good product and good cooking.

Harmonizing was a wine that I loved, Orpheus & The Raven Old Bushvine Chenin Blanc 2017 – demonstrating its stage in wood on the nose, in a good balance with the fruit. In the mouth it is rich and concentrated, resulting nicely with the fatty notes of the dish and the unique flavor of the asparagus.

Scallop, Curry, pomegranate, and onion bhaji 
A trip to the Indian influences on the African coast, with a perfect scallop and several cooking techniques that resulted very well. Fresh, spicy, crunchy and light!

To go with this dish, the sommelier went for a Chardonnay Domaine des Dieux 2014, complex wine with exotic nose and balanced palate due to its citric notes. A certain sweet side of the wine went very well with the scallop and the curry.

Line fish, peas, beans, and butter with yeast 
Kabeljou, a very common fish in the region, simply cooked, with its taste easily being beaten by the different elements on the plate. Mussels, peas, herbs, bottarga and a burnt butter sauce with the distinguished flavor of the yeast elevated this dish.

And another great harmonization, with a Fable Mountain Jackal Bird 2014, a blend dominated by Chenin Blanc, with a long stage with the grounds, resulting in a different wine, complex and insightful. On the nose, a citric, melon and spices side, while in the mouth we get a punch of fruit, with well-marked texture and a minerality that made all the combo work.

Peking duck, Bitter plum and wallnut cream
Far from a true Peking duck, the perfectly cooked breast, the delicious sauce with the plums, the pickles and the nut salsa, created a comfort dish, not heavy like many meat dishes tend to be in a tasting menu.

Accompanying was a Foundry Shirah 2012, with a nice aroma, with herbs, plum, and spices. Complex and intense, becoming a nice companion to the duck.

Strawberry cone, blueberry jam, and raspberry jelly
More a dessert than a pre-dessert, this combo of red fruits in different textures and cooking, sugar balanced and freshened by the ice cream, created a nice path to clean the palate.

Roasted pineapple, coconut cake, iced goats milk kefir >A dessert that perfectly represents the way I like to end a tasting, light and fresh, with a good contrast of flavors and the different temperatures making all the difference. Very good!

We ended the harmonizations with a Keermont Fleurfontein Sauvignon blanc 2017, a Late Harvest, of excellent quality, with dried apricot, citrus, and dried fruit notes, and nicely acidic.

A great ending to an already long lunch, to which would followa ling walk on top of the Table Moutain (without any incidents!!).

The service was flawless! Professional from the first contact, a fine dining ambiance with a relaxed vibe and lightness. Just a side note to the mise en scene, is it really necessary to finish every dish at the table?

In terms of wines, as you read along the article, the work of Nash Kanyangarara, contributed a lot for me falling in love with South African wines.

Final Remarks
Luke Dale-Roberts, his wife Sandalene, and this time the chef Ryan Cole, created the soon to be the “next big thing!” of Cape Town, after The Test Kitchen  and the successful and casual The Pot Luck Club and The Shortmarket Club, Salsify is already a great restaurant in any place around the world. A mandatory visit for those visiting Cape Town, and if you can, choose the lunch menu and enjoy the wonderful view!

I just hope I can get a reservation on a next trip to Cape Town. It won’t be easy for sure!

Salsify at the Roundhouse
Average price: 80€ without wines 
  The Roundhouse, Camps Bay – Cape Town
+27 021 01 06 444
reservations@salsify.co.za

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The Shortmarket Club

“Don’t change a winning team…”

The famous chef Luke Dale-Roberts (nº 44 of the World´s 50 Best Restaurants with his The Test Kitchen) joined his wife Sandalene, and his right arms, Wesley Randles in the kitchen and Widdison in the room to, in 2016, open another successful space, The Shortmarket Club.

The premise is at first sight simple, a restaurant in the center of town, in a bohemian, vibrant area, in a historical building, and a cuisine that combines comfort and creativity.

Randles and Simon, working with Luke since the first steps of The Test Kitchen, are in charge of managing the space while Sandalene shows the brilliance of her decoration.

Arriving at the door of Shortmarket Club for the first time, you can hardly tell what you’re about to experience, a narrow entrance and a hallway that take us to a staircase, that ends in a surprising environment. It could be an English club or speakeasy, but it’s a comfortable and luxurious restaurant in Cape Town.

Already installed we ask for some cocktails while looking through the menu and choosing dishes for a light and quick meal…

Saldanha Bay Oysters
Fresh oysters for the Saldanha Bay, next to Cape town, served with a great Leche de Tigre and lemon. A great start!
Accompanying was a good quality bread, homebaked, with butter and homemade ricotta with good seasonings. First impressions could hardly be better.

Sambal Oelek Tuna
With this first dish, finished on the table with hot coconut oil, we see the Asian influence in the creating process. The tuna, in a tataki style, was seasoned with sambal oelek (a typical Sri Lanka chilli spice), combined with coriander, basil and red onion. The contrast of the hot oil with the fresh texture of the tuna and the herbs created a nice flavor and texture symbioses in the mouth. Very elegant!

Springbok tartar, parmesan, walnut, and ponzu sauce
Springbok is the famous small gazelle, the symbol of the South African Rugby team. A very well presented and accomplished dish. With several elements and textures, with the meat as the highlight.

Tandoori cauliflower 
This vegetarian dish is a dive into India, where sambal, masala, jasmine rice, coconut, and chutney joined the party. Once again an excellent contrast of flavors and textures resulting in a vegetarian dish I wouldn’t mind tasting again and again.

Crispy pork cheek, endive, gorgonzola and honey
A signature dish that easily conquers us, the game of textures and the presentation follows the same line of the previous dishes, here with the contrast of the cheese, the honey vinaigrette and the pecan nuts working very well with the pork fat and the bitter side of the endive.

Roasted potatoes in duck fat 
As a side dish, we ordered these roasted potatoes, but in reality, this “simple” dish was probably the most surprising. Flavor and texture, lots of flavors, made of these potatoes the best ones I tasted in a long, long time!

Simple and well executed cocktails, here with the version of a Clover club

Peach, ricotta, pine nut ice cream, sponge cake and honey infused with mint, thyme, and lemon
A light and delicate dessert, very well executed in the combination of flavors, with highlight to the excellent ricotta and the cooking of the fruit. A beautiful ending!

The service could not have been better, seating on the counter, we had plenty of talking themes to go around with the bar staff, always ready to help and to answer any questions about the dishes.

Final Remarks
Despite the warranty of its owners I confess I didn’t arrive with the highest expectations at The Shortmarket Club, however, the surprises kept coming since entering the door (we arrived before opening hours and without reservation and they assured us two seats at the counter right away), to the decor, to the staff and obviously the gastronomic offer. The last one with a bistro concept, simple, comforting, and flavorful, Asian influenced, and fresh, full of herbs, spices and lots of textures.

A pleasant surprise in the center of Cape Town, the right space for a relaxed fine dining meal, in a unique, cosmopolitan environment!

The Shortmarket Club
Average price: 50€/pax without wines
88 Shortmarket Street – Cape Town
+27 021 447 28 74
info@theshortmarketclub.co.za

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Bouchard Finlayson’s Magic and South African nectars

Established in 1989, in the famous wine region of Walker Bay, Western Cape, Bouchard Finlayson always assumed as a boutique producer focused in quality and differentiated wines. Internationally, it won prestige with its production of Pinot NoirChardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc, much due to Peter Finlayson, who before establishing and founding the company alongside the Bouchard family, created the mythical Hamilton Russel wines for several years, exploring his passion for Pinot Noir, and finding the way to explore it in that area of Capetown.

Peter Finlayson

Today, the company shares are in the hands of the Tollmans family (in charge of the Red Carnation hotel group), but the wines and vineyards are still on the hands of Peter.

Talking about vineyards, not only of PinotChardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc live the company lands, expanded through a wide territory that respects and pays homage to all the flora of the region; the region of Cabo is considered a Floral Kingdom, known as Fynbos.

And it was right where we started our visit through the domains of Bouchard Finlayson, a visit to the property, getting to know a wideness of plants, flowers and some animals that live on those lands, alongside the vineyards. And we were very lucky to have Frank Woodvine with us, the botanist in charge of keeping the entire property well maintained in terms of plants and the biodiversity of the region.

Frank Woodvine and the famous South African Protea 

Our visit starts with a car trip to an open field where Frank starts by explaining some questions about the atmosphere and the fynbos. So far, so good, the only difficulty was really to catch up with Frank as he moved towards another plant. It would be easy to understand our trouble, except that Frank is almost 90 years old! But that just goes to say that we have to spend more time in the fields and less at the gym.

The walk is beautiful, the plants of unpaired beauty, and despite already knowing about some of them, it is always different to see them in their natural habitat. But the most special thing about this trip really is Frank, his posture, the brilliance with which he explains each detail, and above all, his way of being and the way he handed his life to protecting the essence of this region.

Thank you, Frank!

A Hedgehog den 

After a long and inspiring walk, we returned to the cellar, to sit and enjoy the famous wines, served by Peter himself.

We started with the Blanc de Mer 2018, a blend, with a riesling dominance, with very floral aromas, apricot, and quince notes, well balanced by an interesting freshness, nicely paired with the ocean just by our side. Followed the Sauvignon Blanc 2018, a caste I tend to not love as much, most of the times, except for some rare exceptions of terroir, and here it was very fresh, very, very tropical, crunchy and balanced. A nice surprise!

While tasting the wines… 

Still, on whites, we tasted a Chardonnay Sans Barrique 2017, that as the name indicates, doesn’t stage in wood. Fresh, elegant, diverse nose and complexity above average, revealing that similarly to the wood structured wines, it will age very well. The Mission Valley 2016 is a classic Chardonnay, to the good Burgundy style, with an eight-month stage in wood. A beautiful wine, complex, structured, the wood is very nicely incorporated, the fruit is noticeable with highlight to the peach and pear, and a long ending that stays in the mouth.

On the reds, we went for a Galvin Peak 2016, a 100% pinot noir that shows us why Peter Finlayson is known for creating the best South African pinot noirs. Floral nose, red fruits, the fruit nicely paired with the wood, bringing to the mouth an excellent complexity and balance. A beautiful wine!

We also tasted the Hannibal 2016, a blend marked by the Sangiovese, with pinot noir, and nebbiolo, among other castes. A classic oenologist that results in a wine that transports us to Italy, although here resulting in a complex blend, light and easy, but at the same time tannic and complex on the fruit. Very good!

 Last, but not least, we had to write about the Tête de Cuvée 2017, a rare and exclusive wine, of which only four barrels were made. It’s a 100% pinot noir, only launched in exceptional years, here presented under “construction”, still in need of more time in the wood, but also presenting a very promising combination of dark fruits and spices. In 5 to 6 years it will be a great, great wine!

It seems we ended well! 

We could hardly ask for a better first wine tasting in African soil, excellent wines, and a heavyweight cicerone! Bouchard Finlayson is one of those companies, that although not in the most famous regions of Stellenbosch or Constantia, has conquered its spot in the South African wine route, much because of Peter Finlayson, for having believed one day that the Hemel-en-Aarde vale would be perfect for the most famous Burgundy grapes.

A region you can’t miss, irresistible wines!

Bouchard Finlayson 
Monday to Friday visits – 9h/17h | Saturday – 10h/13H
R320 Road, Hermanus 7200 – South Africa
South Africa+27 28 312 3515
info@bouchardfinlayson.co.za

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The Twelve Apostles

In one of Cape Town’s best locations is one of the most idyllic hotels ever!

With the Twelve Apostles and the Table Mountain (if you don’t know what I’m talking about you’ll have to read the article about what to do in the city) as confidants, the hotel stole its name from the first one.

It’s part of the Red Carnation Group, of the Todman family since 2002, and it belongs to the Leading Hotels of the World.

First Impression
The Twelve Apostles causes an excellent first impression even before we arrive at the hotel when it decides to prepare our stay to detail even without knowing us.

We answered a q&a by email that assured the hotel complete knowledge about our preferences and about us.

The path to the hotel passes along the Atlantic and the views are breathtaking and the beautiful atmosphere of Cape Town intensifies when entering The Twelve Apostles.

We are welcomed by an entire team full of joy and smiles in their faces.

The hotel is overall white and is inserted between the mountain and the ocean! Perfect combo ain’t it?!

We easily notice the colonial style, and the most used colors are white and blue, from the staff uniforms to the entire decoration.

 

At the reception, we’re invited to sit down and relax a bit from the long trip. I notice immediately the staff’s sympathy, always caring for our needs. The lobby is small and agitated in an elegant way, without the bustle of a business hotel.

Decorated with flowers and art pieces inviting comfort but also a curiosity for those wishing to see more and more.

We are accompanied to our room and enjoying everything around us, the entire floor is carpeted, which gives immense comfort, but also must bring a lot of work to the staff! Each wall has a painting, some of them we really wish we could bring home, and what captivated my attention the most was the number of staff everywhere, always polite, but always ready to make ours the best stay ever.

Sleepy face??

Bedrooms
Of the same colonial line. A deluxe room where white and blue are kings. Comfortable and elegant.

The bathroom was small but perfectly functional and had a soap menu – that’s something I never saw in any other hotel!

The bed,  King Size, was extremely comfortable and had the most amazing pillow menu ever.

One of the ex-libris of the bedroom? The view over the mountain and the Ocean.

We had tea and coffee at our disposal and there was also wine and candy waiting for us.

The gowns were some of the most beautiful I’ve had, a white and blue kimono, so elegant I even went to the hotel shop and bought one to bring home with me.

The best of the bedrooms, moreover, of the Hotel, was the service. Every night we arrived at the bedroom and it was prepared to detail, with candles, chromotherapy and the gowns graciously left on top of our bed. A complete dream!

Restaurants
The hotel has three different restaurants.

The main one – Azure, is where breakfast is served, and let me tell you, The Twelve Apostles has one of the best and most varied breakfasts I ever had.

With oysters and sparkling, and a menu that assures options for every palate.

 And speaking about breakfasts with views…

This restaurant has a super cozy and elegant vibe, following the decor of the hotel. It has also a balcony with a privileged view over the ocean, assuring a very romantic atmosphere.

At dinner, there’s a Fine Dining ambiance, and we had a very interesting experience in one of our nights there.

 Bread and butter selection at Azure 

Known as one of the most famous restaurants of classic inspiration in cape town, our dinner started well with a good selection of bread, with highlight to the focaccia, and then had a degustation, going from abalone, pea pannacotta, mussels, an amazing springbok loin, a type of gazelle, and a nice steak with pumpkin and shiitake mushrooms.

 A delicious springbok loin served with beetroot, pickles and venison jus 

After several wines and dishes, we then proceeded to the sweet chapter with different textures of chocolate, cocoa, and cherries. Very good!!

 Chocolate, cocoa, and cherry 

Another restaurant available is The Café Grill – and here are served all the meals throughout the day, when, for example, we’re relaxing at the pool. And it seems like a real beach restaurant, you’ll see that looking at the pictures.

The Café Grill

It’s almost like inserted in the mountain and the surrounding nature, and one of the most beautiful places in the hotel, because it also has a pool of natural water that comes from the mountain (freezing, of course!), that transports us to other worlds with its sounds of nature!

And last, but not least, we have my favorite place in the hotel! Leopard Bar!

The Leopard Bar

What an amazing place! On the day of our arrival it was already late so we opted not to leave the hotel, also we were not in the mood for a complete meal, so we went to the bar to have a snack or two, but we didn’t know this bar is one of the meeting spots for locals in Cape Town. Super cosmopolitan, agitated and joyful, almost with a Londoner vibe!

The night was young and promising!

First with a breathtaking sunset, then live music (as usual every evening) and then a completely surprising Gin menu.

 

We snacked a bit because in between Gins, sparkling and cocktails things were not easy! But once again here, the human side was the most important, the barman accompanying our night was super nice and caring.

Amazing that’s always this human side that captivates me the most in every type of service.

Tasting of some surprising South African Gins 

Services
The Twelve Apostles, like any other luxury hotel, has all the usual services of its kind. Maybe the highlight is this human side I talk about so much, but I’ll talk about that later.

The hotel has an event room with a balcony, perfect for any type of celebration, with the ocean as a company. Here you can celebrate small dates, conferences, parties and even weddings, catered by the main restaurant.

Concerning leisure, it has two pools, one with natural water from the mountain, and the other with hot water in a very well located terrace in front of the ocean.

To the most active there’s a 24h/day gym.

And one of the spotlights of the hotel is its SPA.

It has 7 treatment rooms, a wellness area with aromatized waters and small snacks and water circuit every spa should have – three small pools, one with a therapeutic effect similar to the dead sea, another with hot water and the other freezing! The idea is to do the three in a total of 15min and then rest for 2h! It’s like a total relaxation therapy and the feeling we get is that after two hours we’re young and invigorated!

A perfect feeling of wellbeing!

Another different activity in the hotel is the cinema! With popcorn and coca cola as tradition dictates!

The hotel also assures some outdoor activities to its guests, all around town. Trips to V&A Waterfront, to a more distant beach, or even to the Table Mountain. These trips can be organized by the hotel or the staff can also just assure transportation to near places once it has a series of shuttles always available to transport all the guests.

 Highscore to this topic because once again the staff goes to all efforts to fulfill all our needs, assuring above all our safety.

In our case, we dined out in a few different restaurants and the hotel always assured we didn’t come back by taxi, but with one of their drivers.

The Concierge was tireless  – thank you for everything, Dane! 

Another activity the hotel provides is the organization of picnics in the most paradisiacal places in the city and trips to other regions or vineyards!

We chose to go to Bouchard Finlayson, that belong to the family that owns the hotel. Here we had the pleasure to know the charismatic Frank Woodvine, almost 90 years old, who showed us the entire property and gave us a biology lesson like we never got in our school years, he was one of the most energetic hosts ever, running through all the vegetation making me sweat just to keep up!

Acompanying Frank was one of the best and hardest moments of the entire trip 

The classic Cape Town Protea 

Bouchard Finlayson

After this nice surprise, it was time to relax for lunch with Peter Finlayson and taste his wines, probably the most famous Pinot Noir from South Africa, but João will talk about that.

Besides this farm and this region, the hotel also organizes trips to many other regions like Kostantia and Stellenbosch.

Service
Without wanting to repeat myself, I already told you the best of this hotel was the staff!!!

I think it must have been one of the best services we ever had in a hotel. The team was genuinely nice, constantly caring for us, from the shuttle drivers to the reception to the barman of Leopard Bar, to Dane, one of the concierges, who was wonderful with us and with whom we created such great empathy.

Even the employee at the hotel store, where I bought my robe, was sweet!

A flawless team!

I’m just left with talking about the Hotel Queen!! Ingwe, and who is she you ask? A very beautiful cat that walks around freely and basically runs the place! So much that her little plates of food and water are behind the reception! So don’t be surprised if you get to the hotel and Ingwe is resting at the reception desk or on the sofa!

See you soon The Twelve Apostles!

The Twelve Apostles
Bedrooms from 300€
Victoria Road, Camps Bay – Cape Town 
+27 21 4379 000
reservations1@12apostles.co.za

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Flying to South Africa with Iberia

I’ve always enjoyed flying, more for the significance and the wish to arrive at a new place, and not for the flight hours, or being on a plane or the amount of wasted time at airports and security (always the worst part).

If for me, that traveling always means pleasure and nice things, is this way, imagine for those traveling constantly for work! And it’s for those and to those that the companies work constantly to improve their services, creating Lounges at airports and areas in planes, namely the Business and First class. where comfort and the amenities transform those “wasted” hours in much more appealing moments, both if you need to work or simply want to rest before arriving at a new destination.

For our last travel to South Africa, namely to Cape Town, the best flight we found was with Iberia, doing Porto-Madrid, Madrid-Johannesburg, and Johannesburg-Cape Town. Shorter flights, with a reliable company and fewer hours of connections, for sure the best option to go from Porto to the “end” of Africa.

Premium Lounge Velásquez

In this trip we had the pleasure to enjoy two of the Iberia Lounges at Madrid Airport, first, the Premium Lounge Velásquez and after, before returning to Porto, the Premium Lounge Dali, clearly named in a tribute to great Spanish artists.

Premium Lounge Velásquez
We were nicely welcomed and quickly led inside the Lounge, after confirming our accesses. A recently decorated space, with different areas of rest and work zones, with appropriate lighting, nice materials and all kind of connections so you don’t run out of battery, as usual in a good Lounge.

The food and drinks available are one of the most evaluated points by those using these spaces, surely we’re not in the middle of the craziness of the Middle Eastern companies, but there are plenty of Gins and other digestives, good Spanish wines and a wide selection of beer.

Food-wise the offer flows among salads, sandwiches, a cheese selection and of course some hot meals, and to finish, the always nice Häagen-Dazs ice creams that kept me company during the quick trip to our gate.

Boarding
We arrived almost at the end of the boarding (the comfort of the Lounge led to that) and were quickly accompanied to the access gate to Business class, a very quick process and in few minutes we were comfortably seated with a nice cup of Cava in our hands.

 The plane
Well, the Airbus A330 is one of the most used commercial planes in the world, keeping the same lines of many other companies, the comfort, space, and entertainment are assured in the individual booths at Business class.

There’s the usual space to keep your personal goods, chargers, a specially thought table to place drinks and objects without restraining the passenger’s movements. Comfortable pillows, a blanket, socks, and of course a totally reclinable seat.

Meals
As usual, at the arrival we are welcomed with a glass of Cava or natural juice, to toast to another flight. Once ours was a nocturnal flight we started with a late dinner, with several menu options, resulting in some surprising moments. A fish salad with smoked fish and orange, dark bread, blue cheese and jam; and another salad with crunchy veggies and vinaigrette, were a surprising beginning of this on board meal.

Smoked fish and orange

Still drinking white wine, I then went for an Iberian pork cheek with mashed potatoes and vegetables (I’ve seen worst served in theoretically “good” restaurants).

Iberian Pork Cheek

To end our dinner, one of the good surprises was a carrot and spices cake, nicely paired with a Sherry glass (that made a great job helping me fall asleep).

 Carrot and spices cake

After some Gin & Tonic, some movies and some good hours of sleep, it was breakfast time, also with a great selection, omelet, smoked meats, toasts, laminated fruit, and the yogurts I usually keep in my fridge.  We were in good hands!

Breakfast

Service
The Service we experienced was flawless at every level. Without a larger staff, they were always present, with special attention to our comfort and our needs during the flight.

Entertainment
A flight is not only about a comfortable bed (although sleeping well throughout a flight doesn’t sound so bad), or only about food and drinks, and about that, Iberia has a wide range of movies and tv shows, many of them in several languages (including Portuguese), tv channels, games and even some MB of Wi-Fi so no email gets unanswered during the flight.

I was able to see a series of movies, rest, sleep and enjoy the flight time to the max.

On our return to Madrid, after another comfortable night flight, we went to town for lunch and then returned to the Airport, to Lounge Dali, before heading home.

Premium Lounge Dali
Once again nicely welcomed and we arrived at another recently decorated space, very similar to the Lounge Velásquez, here with the advantage of enjoying a very pretty architectural area of the Airport.

A Lounge full of visitors, but still comfortable to rest while waiting for our return flight to Porto, enjoying some snacks and of course, the mandatory Gin & Tonic.

Flying like this is easy! Iberia was able to surprise me from the first to the last moment of this connection between Portugal and South Africa.

See you soon!

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A Hotel, the Douro, a Kitchen and 4 luxury hands

A few months have passed since our last visit to Douro, however, it’s always good to notice that any excuse is good to return! Even more when returning to a riverside paradise – Six Senses Douro Valley – this time to the occasion of a very special dinner.

A dinner by the enfant terrible of Portuguese cuisine, Ljubomir Stanisic, no need for introductions, and the quieter Alexandre Silva, the creative and starred chef behind Loco.

Water and olive oil, who molded together and became friends and for the first time cooked together, an accomplishment for the most Yugoslavian “alentejano” in the country (that’s right cause Ljubomir considers himself an Alentejo pureblood) who says he doesn’t like people.

With the best scenery, a wide table for around 14 guests, an open kitchen and a big team focused on giving us a unique experience of haute cuisine in Douro.

And the 14 courses show started very well, with a “mata-bicho”, aka beef tartar between two crispy slices of bacon. Refreshing the combo’s greasiness was some great lime caviar.

“Mata-bicho”

After the meat, the sea flavors, in a disruptive but right order. A crunchy vine leaf with caviar for the first kick of ocean. Followed by a uni hosomaki: sea urchin rolled in nori.

An umami and sea bomb that worked very well.

Followed an oyster with green curry, balanced and mild, in which the oyster was able to keep the spotlight.

On the glass was a great level Vértice Cuvée, which bubble and acidity made of it a good partner for these first snacks.

Then came an egg, meaning, cockle, grape gelatin, and wild garlic.

On a high level was the prawn tartar with mustard seeds and garlic pickle.

Mussel, Apple, and Thyme 

Still on sea flavors comes the Mussel, in its sauce, refreshed by the apple and flavored by the thyme, in a good game of flavors and textures.

For a toast was, and nicely, the young Encruzado 2016 O Oenólogo from Casa da Passarela.

In a pause from the sea flavors, that dominated this dinner, comes a kind of “ravioli”, breaded and fried, filled with queijo da serra (Portuguese cheese from Serra da Estrela), served like a carbonara along with some generous black summer truffle slices. Tasty and delicate with earthy notes, already needed in this phase of dinner.

Red mullet sashimi

And then we dove into the ocean again, with a fresh and delicate red mullet, masterfully prepared by Alexandre Silva, before coming down to earth again with poultry livers and Resende cherries, like a grown-up lollipop. Delicious!

 Meanwhile, on the glass, it was time to taste the Encosta do Bocho with a Grande Reserva 2014. A classic Douro blend well paired with the wood.

We continue with a great pink prawn, accompanied by the heads sauce, a rich razor clam tartar, and coconut curry. Good textures and cooking of the prawn, contrasting nicely with the intensity of the sauces.

Followed a sardine soup with leek. A comforting warmth in this stage of dinner, elevated by the intensity and richness of flavors, hard not to notice.

The Turbot was so big it was enough to create two different dishes. First the flap, my favorite part, that the Portuguese insist on living on the side of the dish. Here accompanied by a small but intense fermented meat paste. The dish had everything to go wrong but in the end, positively surprised us.

Turbot, seaweed sauce, and goose barnacles 

Perfectly cooked turbot (would it be so hard for our restaurants to stop killing the fish on the grill?), accompanied by a dive on its habitat, a seaweed sauce, goose barnacles and a bit more seaweed, bringing an ocean explosion to our palate.

Elevating the history of the dishes, we also leveled up on wines, with these past dishes being accompanied by the brilliant white of Cristiano Van Zeller, the Quinta Vale D. Maria Vinha do Martim 2016. A white of rare beauty, full of citrus, minerality and great integration of the wood. A presence in the mouth that leaves no one indifferent!

John Dory, Resende cherries and spinach 

If by now you’re thinking there were no crazy moments by Ljubomir during this dinner, this moment might be the biggest of them, and the worst – or best, depending on the point of view – it was backed up by Cristiano Van Zeller. Well, the john dory dish, perfectly cooked, accompanied by raw spinach and cherries was harmonized by a “modest” 1870 Port, a sample of cask from the Van Zeller estate.

If it worked? Strangely, yes! But I must confess it didn’t last long in my memory after the Port, a simply sublime wine!

A summer truffle of considerable size 

Bísaro pork cheek, mushrooms, vegetables, and black truffle 

There were many dishes, many highlights, and surprises before arriving at this capable pork cheek dish, with forest flavors, not heavy, nor exaggerate, just what was asked for that moment.

As imposed and asked of both chefs, the ending of this long dinner was light and refreshing. Firstly with herbs and leaves in a sorbet style to cleanse the palate, and after with strawberries and red fruits, full of flavor, well paired with a granita and a sorbet. Perfect ending!

A unique and unrepeatable dinner, marked by dishes that merged, as rarely happens in these 4 hands dinners, where it isn’t always easy to recognize the dishes of one or the other chef, both by the style or the cuisine.
Here Ljubomir and Alexandre Silva merged like no one else, for the pleasure of the guests who were able to enjoy top quality products worked masterfully and surprisingly.

This series of dinners continued with Hugo Nascimento and Henrique Sá Pessoa and promised to return in 2019 to brighten up, even more, the evenings at Six Senses Douro Valley, and always with the motto of quality and sustainability that characterize the hotel.

Now we just need to return to Six Senses and get to know the Terroir, the vegetarian restaurant Ljubomir fell in love with and where they try a cuisine based in a reduced ecological footprint, working with small producers and taking maximum advantage of the kitchen gardens at the hotel and its surroundings.

See you soon!

Hotel Six Senses Douro Valley
Bedrooms from 290€
Quinta de Vale Abraão– Samodães, Lamego
+351 254 660 600 
reservations-dourovalley@sixsenses.com

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Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Six Senses Douro Valley – Back to Paradise

When you love the experience at one of the most beautiful places in the world, what do you do?

Well, obviously, you go back!

We first discovered Six Senses Douro Valley in the Autumn of 2016 (see) and we were blown away with that we consider one of the best hotels in Europe. So, last summer we decided to return!

The colors of Douro are completely different at this time of the year, and so are the hotel’s activities.

The reason we came back to Six Senses (not that there needs to be one) was the four-hands dinner by Ljubomir Stanisic and Alexandre Silva.

Approaching the hotel we could observe the Douro and its perfect combination with the surrounding environment. The green from the vineyards and their format descending in terraces to the river make of it one of the world’s prettiest postcards.

The hotel keeps the grandiosity of the manor-house from the XIX century, but this time my perspective of it was even more perfect, the Sun was part of the picture!

 

We were welcomed with the elegance and courtesy so characteristic of  Six Senses Douro Valley.

 A room with a view

We went to our room, the Quinta Panorama Suite with an astonishing view over Douro that seizes the entire atmosphere through the floor to ceiling windows, in the bedroom and the living room.

The combo of hi-tech, comfort and decor really make justice to the awards the hotel gets every year.

The afternoon was already long in one of my favorite places of the hotel, the Wine Library & Terrace,  where life is really all about books and wine when we decided to extend it a bit more to enjoy a great relaxing moment at Quinta Bar & Lounge. 

The night ended with a beautiful dinner, in the perfect company at the Restaurant Vale do Abraão, where Ljubomir and Alexandre Silva presented all the guests with a fabulous gastronomic experience. But João will talk about that in detail in another article.

I must confess it was not an easy task to get to my bedroom that night!!!

The morning after, the light was entering the room in an almost magical way through our huge window, Douro was calling me, but what really took me out of bed, after that long night, was the Six Senses breakfast!

This is guaranteed one of the best hotel breakfasts I ever tasted, and you know I’ve had the privilege of trying a few!

Perfect place and perfect company for an outdoors breakfast 

I know pictures don’t talk, but looking at these you’ll be salivating for sure!

And with a full tummy, it’s time to relax!
The first time we stayed at Six Senses the cold and rain wouldn’t let us even get to know the outside of the hotel so we stayed at the Spa, and very well.

This time, the sun invited us to the gardens, the terraces, and the pool. We went for a walk, saw Ljubomir’s vegetable garden and relaxed by the pool all morning! Every morning should be this way!

The hotel staff was as nice as the first time, caring for each guest needs, always smiling.

It was a pleasure to return and a privilege to again be welcomed by the sweetest Joana Van Zeller and the entire staff.

Once again…

See you soon Six Senses Douro Valley!

Hotel Six Senses Douro Valley
Bedrooms from 290€
Quinta de Vale Abraão– Samodães, Lamego
+351 254 660 600 
reservations-dourovalley@sixsenses.com

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Photos: Flavors & Senses

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Il Falconiere *

There’s not much more I can say about Il Falconiere, after two memorable stays that Cíntia talked about here and here. So I’ll talk again about the starred restaurant, the reason we heard about this wonderful refuge in the first place.

Silvia was born in the kitchen, in a family of restauranteurs. Her husband, Ricardo, was born oenologist in a farming property, in particular, wine and olive oil. The motto was set for them together to rebuild the former family house and create a restaurant, which future they couldn’t begin to imagine.

We were living the blazing years of Frances in her “Under the Tuscan Sun” – actually it’s easy to find the author around there –  and everybody had the dream to travel to Tuscany, and Silvia’s restaurant was a mandatory stop in the distant area of Cortona.

By Silvia’s side is Richard Titi, executive chef, who’s been heading the stoves and kitchen of Il Falconiere since the winning of the Michelin star in 2002.

The Baracchi’s idea is to bet in Tuscan tradition, mostly from the Abruzzo region, and create a cuisine that lives all the atmosphere we feel when entering their property. Classic, with the comfort and knowledge of traditional cuisine, with contemporary aesthetics and technique.

Arriving at the restaurant we quickly realize where we are and what we’re here for while appreciating the historic arcades and paintings assuring us we’re in Tuscany.

Comfortably seated we are quickly welcomed with the Baracchi’s classic sparkling wine, and a large selection of bread, even gluten-free options (that villain!).

Among the several menu and tasting options, we chose a menu dedicated to game dishes, that caught our eye on our previous visit, us being in a region with a strong hunting tradition.

Amuse Bouche

To start, an interesting amuse bouche, that combined a ricotta souffle with eggplant, courgette, and pepper, contrasting with the quinoa and a cuttlefish ink tile, elevating the textures and contrasts.

Game terrine, juniper crumble, cocoa and visciolino sauce
A much more complex dish than I remembered from our last visit. Nice combination of flavors around the forest with the complexity of the terrine. Highscore to the visciolino sauce – a sweet wine with a slightly bitter ending – homemade there, that elevated all the harmonization.

Fried boar meatball with quince puree and hazelnut cream 
It would never be my first thought when thinking of eating boar (one of my favorite meats). However, the good frying, the moist and juicy meat, turned into a tasting above the expectations.

Pheasant Tortellini, its broth and marsala wine
At a much superior level, this perfect tortellini – perfectly cooked pasta, good pheasant filling and a broth that warmed our souls. A great way of improving traditional cuisine!

Venison filled pasta, chestnut, and chickpea soup 
Another excellent dish, full of flavor cream, great venison ragu and an aromatic fennel seed olive oil refreshing the aroma of the combo. Another authentic dish, purely Italian, presented at a very high standard.

Quail with dried figs and finocchiona, chicory leaves and potato 
Much more interesting in flavor than in looks, with a surprising filling of dry fruits with finocchiona (a typical Tuscan salami). Classic and tasty!

petit fours 

Followed the petit fours, the Italian way, arriving as a pre-dessert. A combination of classic flavors, with the presence of the great cantucci.

 Dark chocolate biscuit, nutmeg caramel, chestnuts, and coffee ice cream
You can’t fail with chocolate! Here presented as biscuit crumble, nicely combined with the flavors of the season and the nutmeg notes, the chestnuts and a good coffee ice cream. A simple and nicely accomplished ending!

Harmonizing was a Baracchi family wine, as expected, this time the Ardito 2012, produced with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Top notch, as the previous harvest, complex and concentrated, full of dark and ripe fruit, balanced by the black pepper notes. A wine of strong personality, a good company for the meats of our menu.

Heading the service is still Luigi Pipparelli, and just by that, you can expect an efficient service, without any rush or complications, but also with no detail left to chance.

Final Remarks
As Cíntia so nicely wrote in her last article about Il Falconiere (see), it is always nice to return to where you were happy. But even more so when you realize things are not still, nor stuck in the past. The cuisine of Silvia Baracchi and Richard Titi shows precisely that, a technical evolution, bigger aesthetic care, and attention to small details, but also the same tradition of rich and comforting flavors that always transport us to a soul and authentic cuisine.

A space you can always trust to come back and enjoy the purity of Tuscany!

Il Falconiere – Relais & Châteaux
Average price: 70€ pax/without wines
San Martino a Bocena, 370 – Cortona
+39 0575 612 679 
info@ilfalconiere.it

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Montepulciano

2018 was a great year, full of changes and also lots of success, but success comes with a lot of work, so it was also a very exhausting year! And sometimes that exhaustion doesn’t allow us to do what we like the most, in my case, traveling.

We were already planning a big trip to South Africa (that completely changed our lives!) but we also wanted to do some smaller travels before that, so we decided to return to one of our safe places, one that never lets us down! We came back to Italy!

We chose the Il Falconiere in Cortona (see article) as our refuge because we believe in coming back to where we were happy! And revisited some cities like Cortona (see article), Pienza (see article) and Florence (see article)!

Once we were staying in Cortona, and it is right next to Montepulciano, we decided to go on an adventure to see another typical Tuscan village, where wine has also an important role!

Montepulciano comes under the Siena province (see article) and can be visited in a day (like the majority of the towns in Tuscany).

The city is located on top of a hill, between two beautiful valleys, Vale di Chiana and Vale d’Orcia (one of the most amazing places in the world).

So right here we have already one of the highlights of the city – the views!

Its origins are Etruscan and date back to the IV century BC.

Besides being a mandatory stop it is also a strategic point to those visiting Tuscany, for its proximity to places of excellence like Pienza and Siena.
It has become more touristy these days because of both the Médici series and the Twilight movies that were shot there.
Montepulciano is one of those medieval cities we really want to discover and explore. With its Renaissance palaces, the elegant squares, the little corners, and views, it is easily one of the most beautiful towns in Tuscany.

What you can’t miss:

• Enter the city by one of its doors – Porta al Prato or Porta delle Farine – and from there on cars are not allowed, and that really makes the city unique, and a bit like time traveling!

• Before entering the city walls you can visit Chiesa and Convento di Sant’Agnese, the patron of Montepulciano.

Chiesa and Convento di Sant’Agnese

• Walking around the streets and looking at the noble and elegant houses that take us back to the rich and important families that lived here during the XIV and XV centuries. Despite the fact that true richness arrived after that in the XVI century when the Médici took the city.

• Caffè Poliziano – Montepulciano’s historic cafe dating back to 1868. Elegant, refined and full of history! Its name is due to a famous poet, humanist, and dramaturge from the XV century, Poliziano, one of the right hands of Lorenzo de Médici, the Magnificent.

• FInd the Heraldic Lion of Florence (symbol of strength, power, and prestige) – at Colonna del Marzocco or at Palazzo Avignonesi –  one of the most beautiful palaces in Montepulciano.

• Discover the facade close to the floor of the Palazzo Bucelli – where you’ll find tombs and Etruscan and Latin inscriptions.

• The elegant church of Sant’Agostino and even without entering observe the Madonna con Bambino on top of the door and Saint Agostino and Saint John the Baptist.

• Listen and observe, at each hour, the bell of the Tower dell’ Orologio o della Pulcinella.

• Visiting the Museo Civico Pinacoteca Crociani – in a palace from the XIV century where we can find archeologic findings, paintings from the medieval and renaissance period, and works from Andrea della Robbia.

• Spend time in the true heart of the city – Piazza Grande, stage of the main events of the city.

At the Piazza:
– Palazzo dei Capitano del Popolo and the myhtical Pozzo dei Griffi e dei Leoni – a renaisance work representing the power and prestige of the Médici family and Florence.

Pozzo dei Griffi e dei Leoni

– Palazzo Comunale – similar to the one at Piazza della Signoria, and not by chance because it was ordered by Cosimo I di Médici!
– Duomo – Catedral di Santa Maria Assunta with fine works from Siena school.

• Walk around the fortress and stop and enjoy each corner, look at the valleys that go for miles and miles of splendor.

Still at Montepulciano but outside the fortress:

• Templo do San Biagio – Where a fresco from the XIII century of Madonna con Bambino e San Francesco, was once erected in a millenarian to which some miracles were attributed in 1518. Miracles so important that Poliziano decided to build a temple. The project was in the hands of Antonio da Sangallo, the Elder (one of the most important architects of Renaissance), that projected the temple in the form of a Greek cross and right in the center put the miraculous fresco!

San Biagio Temple

Montepulciano is one of those places with the gift of transporting us back in time, a village capable of carrying the beauty and history of a sacred and imposing place with a touch of mystery and magic!

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Il Falconiere – To return to where you were happy once

“For sure a place I’ll miss and to where we’ll return in the future!”
Two years ago I finished my article about Il Falconiere with this phrase, and it’s how I’ll start it today!
In a short trip around Tuscany, last Autumn, we decided to return to Il Falconiere in Cortona, and if the first time we fell in love, this time we were conquered for life!

It is for sure one of the most magical places to stay in Tuscany! Because it represents all Tuscany is in its essence.

Tradition, family environment, Dolce far niente atmosphere, food and wine, lots of wine!
When we arrived, the Autumn colors were glowing in the sun. A very windy day, that seemed to play with all the surrounding nature!

We were welcomed like family, with that kind of care of a relative that we haven’t seen for a long time. The other guests in the reception had the same genuine care, and we could see some of them were repeating their experience just like us!

While being accompanied to our bedroom we laid our eyes on the area around us, and what happiness it was to be back, such nostalgia! The vineyards, the olive trees, the cypresses were once again my confidants.

Tuscany is my favorite refuge for six years now, nowhere in the world makes me feel so serene and complete.

When we arrived at our room, I mean home… I realized that we should’ve brought all our friends and family!

A bedroom that could easily be a house 

We stayed in one of the family houses of Il Falconiere! Right by the side of the Cellar, and in time of harvest the aroma felt in the air was rejuvenating!

Two huge bedrooms, one with a living room, and another floor also with bedrooms. The decoration follows the theme of rest of the hotel, extremely cozy and comfortable, where you can find historic pieces and furniture from the Baracchi family.

The terracotta ceiling with the wood beams, along with the antique furniture, give the space timeless charm.
The hygiene products in the bathrooms are organic and produced with a base of olive oil, giving a texture and aroma to the skin you want to touch.

In bedroom we had fruit, coffee, sweets and tea waiting for us. Everything you need when arriving at a space that is our home away from home.

That afternoon we opted for enjoying a leisure moment drinking some of the wines produced at the farm. We thought about the terrace that I love with a view over the vineyards, but it was very windy, so we opted for the bar that welcomes us with a bucolic environment. Here we enjoyed good wine and had some interesting snacks from the restaurant.

In Rome do as Romans do, in a cellar drink wine!! 

Later, we had a great time in a pizza workshop in one of the Baracchi family’s restaurants, Locanda del Molino, where we literally put our hands to work!

Yes, I made my own pizza!!! 

This restaurant serves Italian food, good, with a great quality/price ratio. It has a traditional and familiar environment that welcomes us and makes us feel relaxed during the entire experience. But João talks about it here.

Besides this restaurant, we also went back to the starred restaurant of Sílvia Baracchi where we had an even greater experience than last time.

The success of the restaurant, that became one of the greatest attractions of Cortona, was one of the main reasons why Silvia and Ricardo Baracchi transformed Il Falconiere in a refuge of all and for all.

The mirror room is always prepped for a nice and homemade breakfast 

And since more and more people are discovering this paradise on earth it was necessary to increase the number of bedrooms, and for that reason Il Falconiere is suffering some work to assure 8 additional bedrooms, to join the present 22, right in the area above the pool.

At Il Falconiere,  despite the constant peace, there are activities for every taste, for mine in particular, the vineyards, the cellar, the wines and the spa are all that I need to be happy.
And speaking of Spa, there it was, the Thesan Etruscan Spa, waiting for me, almost like untouched for these last two years.

I entered the chromotherapy jacuzzi and forgot the rest of the world existed. Nature was my only company at the time (well, and João as well, I admit!).

Here he is!

But for those more active, you can always walk around the immense property, or ride a bike, do different equestrian trails or visit the village of Cortona (see), all taken care of by the staff.
Or even dedicate yourselves to Falconry, the activity that names the property.

Il Falconiere is a paradise you can find right here on Earth. One of the places that make you forget about the world and just be in communion with Nature.

People say perfection doesn’t exist, but yes, there are perfect places and perfect moments, and that’s the feeling you get at Il Falconiere.

Thank you Sílvia, thank you Anna Maria, thank you to the entire team of Il Falconiere for simply being who you are!

Once again I say…

I’ll keep coming back to where I was happy! And hoping this said return may happen in a near future!

Il Falconiere – Relais & Chateaux
Bedrooms from 200€
Loc. San Martino a Bocena, 370 – Cortona
+39 0575 612 679
info@ilfalconiere.it

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Photos: Flavors & Senses

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