A fabulous luxury staycation resort, right here on our doorstep.
Travel has become more complicated this year, but fear not, Vila Vita Parc in Porches has everything you need, spread through their lush 22 hectares of sub-tropical landscaped resort.
Entering the main gates, you instantly get a sense of what lays within; the Algarvian architecture with touches of Moorish design leaves you in no doubt where you are.
Check-in is, of course, very smooth and the porters swoop your luggage away and present you with a very Vila Vita touch, a branded hygiene gift bag complete with some masks, hand sanitiser and a mask-carrying case.
It was clear from the offset that they take their guests’ safety and comfort very seriously indeed.
The resort has 203 rooms, suites, apartments and villas, all with fresh, contemporary furnishes and splashes of Portuguese art, pottery and toiletries throughout.
The accommodation is spread between the Main Building, Oasis Parc adjoining the Spa by Sisley Paris and the adults-only manor house-style The Residence. Two of the villas, Praia and Trevo, are located on the cliffs with fabulous seaviews, Vila Al-Mar is near the golf area and Atlântico I and II are just in front of the resort.
I stayed in the Main Building, which was beautifully furnished and had a great view out over the gardens, the fountain and to the sea.
Families are very welcome here too, of course. There is a kids club, mini-golf and a play area for the little ones.
The gardens are gorgeous and taking a brief stroll through them instantly relaxes you and gets you into the Vila Vita mindset.
One of the areas that Vila Vita is best known for is its restaurants. With 11 restaurants and six bars, each with a very distinctive atmosphere, décor and culinary offering, guests are spoilt for choice.
The jewel in the crown is Ocean, the two Michelin-starred restaurant run by Austrian-born Chef Hans Neuner. His dishes take you on a gastronomic journey through the very best that Portugal has to offer. The décor and views are spectacular and should be seen in person to appreciate them. The wine room holds over 900 vintages, carefully selected by Sommelier Ricardo Rodrigues.
Definitely not falling into the shadows of Ocean, the other restaurants are excellent in their own right and would easily work as stand-alone outlets in any major city.
I ate in the newly-refurbished Bela Vita Bar & Brasserie, which is located in the Main Building. I adored this new addition to their top-class eateries. The mixture of Parisian flair and art deco touches instantly transported me. It was almost as if the trip from my room to the restaurant had been via a time machine. The contrast was phenomenal.
Moody lighting, well-spaced seating, big booths, mixed textures and fabric, and a casual, luxurious ambience set the mood.
The menu was exciting, with cheese and truffle souffle, fresh fish, gorgeous and generous cuts of prime beef like a Fiorentina or the huge Beef Wellington that came on a trolley and was served tableside.
So, these would be items that you might expect on a Brasserie menu, but then there were some surprises like the Asian Bites entrée, a 26-piece sushi and sashimi platter.
Sitting, deliberating over the menu, I was surprised by the presence of a drinks trolley by my side. The resident mixologist presented his daily choice of cocktails that he prepared right in front of the table, making a fun start to the experience.
The food and service were excellent, as is true of all of the restaurants here. The other restaurants are:
Mizu Teppanyaki – a Tokyo-inspired contemporary, fine-dining Japanese restaurant.
Aladin Grill – oriental blues and gold cover this Moorish-inspired dining room; with an open kitchen that serves delicious grilled meat and fish.
Adega – the resort’s traditional Portuguese restaurant that overlooks the swan lake.
Cave de Vinhos – this is a wine lovers’ paradise. Once inside the entrance, the stairs take you down into the cellar where you’ll find more than 11,000 bottles of fine vintages. Guests can dine here and usually have a fixed menu that showcases Portuguese, wine-friendly dishes.
Whale – the casual, poolside restaurant serving international cuisine including wood-fired pizzas.
Arte Náutica, Praia Dourada and Só Verão – these three restaurants form Armação Beach Club which is located on the beach of Armação de Pêra.
Vila Vita Biergarten – in the nearby village of Porches, it serves superb Bavarian specialities and, of course, great beers.
With so many top-class dining options, it’s fortunate that their gardens and walkways are available to enjoy a leisurely stroll.
At the bottom of the property, there’s something extraordinary – private access to the secluded beach where guests can enjoy sunbathing, canoeing, stand up paddle, scuba diving and boat trips.
Heading back from the beach, guests can enjoy one of the seven swimming pools with options for families, children and adults only. The indoor pool is heated and has a sauna onsite along with a full gym.
The resort has a 22-metre yacht available for half- or full-day excursions, complete with catering and a rib allowing guests to access the caves.
The fleet of chauffeur-driven cars, people carriers and buses are available, enabling guests to enjoy excursions in the utmost comfort and style.
Onsite, the V-Life Shops are a boutique shopping plaza featuring exclusive, sophisticated brands such as Tamara Comolli fine jewellery, Heidi Klein beachwear, Façonnable menswear and By Rory, elegant resort wear and accessories.
The V-Life Store has all the gourmet Vila Vita products and the entire wine range from their Portuguese estates in Alentejo and Douro. Here, you can also find local artisan products such as Porches Craft Beer, home design, regional pottery and handicraft items.
As you can image, it is effortless to fall into the Vila Vita lifestyle where nothing is too much trouble; everyone is friendly, attentive and helpful. Every inch of the place has been carefully considered and is insanely comfortable.
Vila Vita can also accommodate guests who wish to stay long-term and have excellent onsite business facilities for those who work remotely.
Contact the resort directly to find out about staycation deals, and all of the restaurants are available to non-residents. Do yourself a favour. If you haven’t been, go.
By Sarah Young