For many years Esporão near Reguengos, in deepest Alentejo country, has been one of the most interesting wineries to visit in southern Portugal. Amongst the attractions of this 700-hectare estate, other than the wine of course, are the 15th century fortress and historic complex as well as the art on display that has adorned the labels of Esporão wines over the years.
On my last visit, around 10 years ago, I recall enjoying a traditional Alentejo lunch at the on-site restaurant, but I had heard talk of late of some exciting developments in the kitchen.
What caught my attention was that the young chef, Pedro Pena Bastos, was hotly tipped in the Portuguese press to be one of the probable recipients of a Michelin star in the 2017 guide. When the results were announced on November 23 (see my article in last week’s edition), Esporão was not included amongst the new stars. But if the chef carries on the way he is, I will be very surprised not to see a Michelin star awarded for the 2018 guide.
It was time for me to return to Esporão and last week I found myself sitting in the “new” restaurant (opened two years ago) with winemaker David Baverstock, enjoying an impressive lunch.
The food is creative without being fussy, magnificently presented and, most importantly, rooted in premium quality produce from the estate itself and local suppliers.
A good start to any meal and always an indication, as far as I am concerned, of what to expect from a chef is the quality of the bread service in a restaurant. And here expectations were set high with a freshly-baked loaf of truly outstanding crusty bread, served with a selection of three olive oils from the estate and the chef’s own mature butter.
A flurry of amuse bouche followed, amongst them a delicious snack of black trumpet mushrooms with monk’s cress leaf, ahead of a four-course lunch including the turbot and lamb dishes shown here (all photos snapped at the table with my iPhone).
It is a long way to drive from the Algarve just for lunch, but making a day of it, ideally with a designated non-drinking driver, is well worthwhile as an excursion and there are plenty of places to stay nearby if making a weekend of it.
The restaurant is open for lunch only, closed Mondays, and over the festive season will be closed additionally on the 25th and the 1st. Reservations are recommended.
266 509 280 | www.esporao.com
By PATRICK STUART [email protected]