It was back in 2018, not long after the restaurant at the Quinta dos Santos estate near Carvoeiro first opened, that I went along for dinner. We ate well on that first visit, but I was very disappointed with the wines and, as a result of this, we had not returned since.
The estate has earned itself a reputation for the high quality craft beers that are brewed onsite but, as someone who is not a beer drinker, I found the quality of their wines at the time left a lot to be desired.
The wines served here are all under the estate’s own label, currently “Escolhido” (chosen), referring to wines made for them at the Adega Cooperativa in Lagoa from grapes they select from local growers and no wines from other producers are available.
Their own vineyards are now finally mature and soon they will also be selling their own wine made onsite under a new label “Tesouro” (treasure).
Quinta dos Santos really is already a great addition to the food, wine and tourism scene in the Lagoa/Carvoeiro area and soon they will have a 10-room boutique hotel on the estate, making it a true destination in its own right.
We returned recently for dinner, having been told by friends that the quality of the “Escolhido” wines had come on leaps and bounds since they first opened, and we enjoyed another good meal, this time with decent wines.
But it is the ambience and the service, as much as the food, beer and wine, that make this place special. Although built from scratch, it has the feeling of a grand traditional farmhouse.
Dinners are served tapas-style either in the beautiful courtyard under an olive tree, on the terrace overlooking the vineyards or inside. Staff, of course, are all wearing masks at the moment and there are hand sanitisers for guests to use, but were it not for this, there would have been nothing to remind us that we are currently in the middle of a pandemic.
On the weeknight we visited, it was busy, almost full in fact, and apparently this is the case most evenings.
Most of our fellow diners were young couples or small groups of well-dressed millennials, no doubt attracted mostly by the craft beer.
For starters, we enjoyed an unusual and delicious octopus salad dressed with crunchy fried onions and “pataniscas” (Portuguese codfish-cakes), followed by the fresh fish of the day, served filleted, and a very tasty dry aged steak. For dessert, we shared the chef’s take on an almond tart served with home-made vanilla ice cream.
The food is simple, honest, well-presented and cooked using good fresh ingredients. As for the wines, we tried their white, which is in fact a blanc de noir, and the rosé by the glass with our starters and then a bottle of a medium-bodied varietal red made from the local Negra Mole grape.
Our bill for two came to just over €100, representing very fair value for money when compared to other quality restaurants in the area. We will be back!