A welcome time warp

By Patrick Stuart patrick.stuart@open-media.net

I would not usually write my weekly food column for this newspaper about a restaurant here in the Algarve. My “pretentious twaddle” (as one reader referred to my columns in a recent letter to the editor) is usually on the subjects of food and wine as opposed to where to indulge oneself.

But having enjoyed dinner last Sunday evening at a restaurant I had not visited for quite a few years, I decided to make a rare exception. La Bella Vita at Algarve Clube Atlântico, near Carvoeiro, opened eight years ago and a few months after it opened I reviewed the restaurant for what is today a sister publication of this newspaper – Essential Algarve magazine. That particular review got me into a spot of trouble at the time, as I referred to La Bella Vita as “an oasis in the gastronomic desert that is Carvoeiro”.

Even so I feel it was quite a balanced review, stating that even then the food was old fashioned and the décor somewhat boring, but I also praised the quality of the food and the service, regretting only that the wine list at the time did not do justice to the food.

It turned out that on Sunday, without having realising it at the time, I ordered exactly the same main course I had reviewed back in 2007 – veal cutlet in a truffle and cream sauce with tagliatelle. It was every bit as good as I described it in my original review, moist tender meat, a beautifully flavoured sauce garnished with fresh black truffle and home made pasta that was nicely al dente – a simple yet luxurious dish that back then I had reported on being excellent value at €17.50 and today at €25 is even better value for money considering seven years of inflation and the substantial rise in restaurant IVA tax. And the wine list has been vastly improved.

But what struck me most about the meal was the consistency of quality of this restaurant. There has been no innovation whatsoever (apart from the wine list) and we could even say that the restaurant is stuck in something of a time warp – but so what? The restaurant scene in Carvoeiro has improved considerably over the years and I would certainly no longer refer to my hometown as a gastronomic desert, but La Bella Vita still sits proudly as one of the best places to eat in the area.