Culinary discoveries: With every bite of his menu, chef Louis Anjos takes us on a gastronomic journey across the Algarve’s flavours
Renowned for having earned the fine-dining restaurant Al Sud, at Palmares Ocean Living & Golf, its first Michelin Star just six months after its inauguration, Louis Anjos hasn’t stopped surprising diners with his passionate creativity and culinary mastery.
Located in the ochre-coloured Clubhouse, at the heart of the resort, the restaurant reopened in March with the chef ’s new menu: “A Discovery of Gastronomic Moments”. Featuring a variety of meat, fish, seafood and vegetables, divided into either six or nine moments, which can be paired with the sommelier’s selection of wines, it is an ode to the Algarve’s freshest flavours.
“The new menu reflects our location, with the sea on one side and the mountains on the other. The sea is, in fact, a predominant part of the new menu. For example, in the nine-moment menu, five of the seven main courses feature fish or seafood, and two contain meat, representing the mountains that surround us,” revealed chef Louis Anjos. It is an absolute revelation for those who are not familiar with the bounty of produce available on the coast.
The wine pairing is also full of stories. To create a unique experience, sommelier Bruno Cunha carefully studied Portuguese grape varieties to find the best pairing for each of the chef’s dishes and to take guests on a journey of discovery through Portugal’s better and lesser-known varieties. Each wine he serves is a single varietal, enabling guests to appreciate each grape variety for its unique characteristics.
The setting for this gastronomic voyage is an elegant and welcoming room with panoramic views of the sea from the Ponta da Piedade to the Ria de Alvor and beyond. Intimate tables spread along a large bench with comfy pillows are dressed with a white tablecloth, small lamp and a whisp of greenery. Fine Portuguese tableware, such as delicate golden cutlery, paired with impeccable service, set the tone for an unforgettable experience.
The couvert is a sign of things to come. Fresh silky bread made with natural yeast dough is served with octopus butter in the shape of a tentacle and moreish eel crackling. Three amuse-bouches follow: tuna tartar with tomato gel on crispy squid ink tapioca, a savoury crab tartelette, and a mussel with saffron and dill sauce.
The sequence of tales from the sea starts with mackerel presented in several textures, with oysters from the Ria de Alvor, Oscietra caviar and cucumber. This beautifully presented dish, resembling a Japanese garden, is accompanied by a special drink created by the barman and the sommelier. Clients are challenged to guess its ingredients, only revealing that it includes local ingredients.
The taste of summer days on the beach is recreated in a broth made with bivalves known locally as condelipas (as these were a favourite of the Count of Lippe during his time in Lagos), coriander and cured tuna. A regal scarlet prawn makes an entrance on a white dish, and the Red Mullet is crowned with roasted tomatoes and carrots in caldeirada sauce and pennyroyal gnocchi. Buttery flakes of John Dory are the main ingredient for chef Louis Anjos’ modern take on the popular and fragrant açorda. Served with bread, John Dory roe, garlic, coriander and an egg yolk, guests are invited to make their own açorda by mixing the ingredients on their plate.
The wines paired with the fish dishes have just the right acidity and freshness and include a Vale da Capucha Arinto from the Lisbon area, and a Quinta da Alorna Fernão Pires from the Tejo region. As we move from the coast to the mountains, a game dish comes to the table: Royal Pigeon with wild mushrooms and Monchique corn — a local type of corn that already existed before the cereal was brought from South America — served in a little casserole.
Of course, a Portuguese tasting menu just would not be complete without Iberian pork. Here, chef Louis Anjos serves a tender pluma with textures of aubergine, walnut and a surprise stuffed baby onion, paired with an Alfrocheiro amphora wine from the Alentejo.
The pre-dessert is a refreshing raspberry and yoghurt popsicle served with extra-mini macaroons and a deliciously sharp basil ice cream. A fun way to clean the palate. To finish on a romantic note, the last dessert is inspired by one of the Algarve’s most famous legends.
The tale of the Nordic princess who married a young Arab prince when the Moors ruled the Algarve but dearly missed the snow of her wintery homeland. Determined to make his bride smile again, the prince ordered his men to plant fields of almond trees as far as the eye could see so that when they blossomed, their white petals would replicate snow. Indeed, the presentation of the almond in this dish, in its various textures, looks as delicate as a snowflake. Made of both sweet and bitter almonds, it reveals the softness and subtlety of the nut with a touch of added sweetness from rosemary ice cream and Monchique honey. With coffee comes one last story, this time from the west coast of the Algarve. Famous for its sweet potatoes and hilltop castle, Aljezur is also renowned for its peanuts, which in the Algarve are called alcagoitas. These are the base of the mignardises, served in an amusing peanut-shaped box. The end.