Mark Sansom, when he visited Four Seasons Fairways earlier in the year, was the Editor of the leading publication Food & Travel Magazine in the UK, and he now sits as the content editor for the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Having sampled most of the world’s best restaurants, as part of his job, he knows a good one when he finds it and so it is
with great pleasure he has written such a glowing review of Amara.
There’s a famous quote uttered around locker rooms the world over that suggests a player’s “worst day on the golf course beats the best day at work”. I would beg to differ. After five hours’ toil in the blazing summer sun grinding round the superlative Quinta
do Lago course with a series of duffs, divots and disgusting drives, for me, the evening’s work looked preferable. Running a bit-part career reviewing restaurants the world over, the thought of après-golf nearly always shines brighter than the 18 holes for a player of my calibre. Although in Amara, the new restaurant at Four Seasons Fairways, its understated opening last October gave me expectations below par. After all, resorts aren’t renowned for doing this well.
There are few things better in life than having expectations bettered. The Algarve isn’t without its share of first-rate restaurants. With a coastline ripe with some of the world’s finest fish and fertile, sun-baked pastures giving rise to grape and grain, produce needs little embellishment; the kiss of a searing hot grill or squeeze of lemon juice, perhaps, but when ingredients are this good, it’s the chef who exercises restraint that wins the plaudits. In Amara, Four Seasons Fairways and its chef Nelson Candeias have created a genuine destination restaurant.
Entering at dusk, there’s no more perfect setting to begin a meal. Who needs reams of art when one simple, ever-evolving view through the wraparound windows gives diners the only backdrop they could want to appreciate the food? Well-chosen accoutrements come in the form of a low-slung white Morwad marble pendant light by Tom Dixon, which complements the use of warm wood tones, crimson chairs, scalloped banquette seating and the circular tables that make group dining a spacious joy.
As the food arrives, the full picture is confirmed: this is undoubtedly one of the best restaurants in the Algarve. A goat’s cheese panna cotta with beetroot textures proved a perfect pairing for an icy Vicentino, one of the Alentejo region’s soft Sauvignon Blanc white wines. Oysters three ways were equally saline, fresh and delicious, while scallops offered tenderness, with just enough bite and the faintest hint of smoke from the grill.
”ENTERING AT DUSK, THERE’S NO MORE PERFECT SETTING TO BEGIN A MEAL”
At mains, Candeias’ skill really began to show. Slightly more advanced technique came in a sous vide pressed pork belly, with slow cooked shoulder and a beautifully tart apple sauce. Grilled black Angus sirloin steak with a parsnip puree showed equally skilled cookery, all paired with a superb recommendation of a rich local red, Quinta dos Vales, from the Algarve’s Grace Vineyard. Dessert was a similar success. Apple parfait encased in a gossamer-thin chocolate shell was sharp, pure and with just enough sweetness to make the ideal finish to any supper. Amara is the jewel in the Four Seasons Fairways crown. Serving some of the best-value modern Portuguese food I’ve eaten, this will no doubt go straight to the top of the list of the best restaurants in the Algarve. I’d make a trip back to eat here alone.