Introducing the new Al Quimia restaurant at Epic Sana Algarve
When the Sana group opened their hotel on the privileged clifftop location in Falésia six years ago, they brought some big players along to start on the right foot. One of the original members of the team is executive chef Luis Mourão, from the Alentejo, who had been working at the five-star Convento do Espinheiro Hotel & Spa, in Évora, and has been instrumental in guiding his team towards excellence. Under his command from the beginning, Al Quimia closed for eight months for a massive refurbishment, which was unveiled by Epic Sana in July.
Reminiscent of a 1920s luxury dining carriage on the Orient Express with touches of Art Deco, the new dining room now sits 40 and is beautifully elegant with opulent accents all around. Hints of deep blues and brass tones feature throughout the seating area, with crisp-white tablecloths and some of the most attractive wine glasses around. The glassware is mouth-blown by Zwiesel 1872, and each piece is as light as a feather. The Air Sense range really caused a stir, with its internal decantation sphere at the base. The F&B team, the sommelier and chef all played a massive role in this transformation, selecting the glasses, crockery, fixtures and fittings.
The kitchen is now around three times larger than previously and open-plan, so the diners and kitchen team can share in the gastronomic experience together. “The new kitchen is somewhat a showroom where the guests can see what we are doing. It’s so much more interactive than the old one,” Mourão explained. Large panels of glass with ornate wooden frames encase the pass, where diners can watch the team opening clams on the yakitori charcoal grill or delicately placing edible flowers and micro herbs onto the chef’s beautiful creations.
The menus are creative and modern, inspired by regional products and the proximity to the sea, where the use of seasonal, local and mainly sustainable produce is ever-present. There are three menu choices at Al Quimia. The first and the chef’s favourite is Flood Tide, an all sea and shellfish, tencourse extravaganza with surprising flavours and textures on every plate, ranging from oyster with horseradish, clams with halophyte plants, goose barnacles and coast shrimp to scarlet prawn with crab and some fun creations like the cataplini, which is play on a traditional cataplana with cuttlefish linguini. The menu rounds up with some Algarve favourites, such as citrus with orange blossom and figs with raspberry. Flood Tide costs €115 plus wine harmonisation at €55 per person.
Guests may be surprised to know that sommelier Hugo Ribeiro does not standardise his pairings and will take each diner’s personal preference into consideration when selecting the wines to match each course. The wine cellar is displayed in a fabulous, brass carousel at the head of the dining room, with Portuguese wines from small producers playing a big part in the concept, delivering an incredibly diverse and complex range. Within the portfolio, guests will, of course, find some renowned international references from the Old and the New World alike.
Then there is the O Farroba menu, the carnivore’s choice, featuring seven courses celebrating the lands harvest for €90. Guests can choose to indulge in a meat-lovers trip into the Portuguese countryside and experience a culinary twist on the convivially named “She loves me… She loves me not”, “Four Leaf Clover” and “Pic Nic” courses with eggs, lamb, poultry parfait and duck being the stars of the show.
Dessert lovers will not be disappointed as the team always delivers stunning and carefully crafted confections that pack a punch both visually and on the palate. This menu can be complemented by sommelier Hugo’s excellent wine pairing for an extra €45.
The pairing menus are very popular with guests at the resort, but Al Quimia also offers an à la carte menu for visitors who prefer to have a more casual dining experience. There is a chef’s table next to the wine cellar that seats four, which can be booked with 48 hours notice. Guests wishing to choose this option will give the team an idea of what they would like to see in their unique menu and have a truly bespoke experience.
The cuisine is Portuguese, but not as you may know it. Chef Mourão and his team were also given a lab kitchen, where they can experiment with new ideas and perfect their repertoires, continually evolving and feeding their creativity. The lab affords the chefs the opportunity to express themselves and show their progress as they grow and advance their careers. “I have a young team in the kitchen, they are so enthusiastic and constantly surprising me,” said the chef. This is a vital part of the ongoing development and training that are part of the Sana Hotels ethos.
With a sophisticated and comfortable atmosphere, Al Quimia offers respectful and attentive service without the rigidity of the limitations imposed by a traditional fine dining environment. With a passionate creative team, newly designed menus and fabulous décor, the restaurant is well poised to achieve one of its main goals — receiving its first Michelin star.