The Handbook
The Handbook

A couple of weeks ago The Handbook told you all about Epic SANA, the new 5* hotel in the Algarve, and whilst we mentioned the food, it only seems fair that we delve a little further into the wonderful Portuguese cuisine.  

With three bars and two restaurants in the hotel there is plenty of choice, especially as each one offers something a little different.

Weary from our 4am start and journey over to Epic Sana, eating was first on our list of things to do, and so we headed over to the Abyad Restaurant, for lunch. With a mix of long and small tables outside, beneath a high pergola, it offers great views of the swimming pools below and beyond to the sea, relaxed and informal it is alfresco dining at its best.

We started with a fresh tropical salad, a mix of pineapple, raisins, pine nuts and cheese, it was light, colourful and refreshing, which is what we needed in the heat, anything other than salad would have been too heavy, it was the perfect starter.

Portugal is of course known for its great love of seafood, and we started as we meant to go on, with seared Sea Bass served with crispy shrimp, clams, citrus risotto and flavoured with a cilantro foam. The Sea Bass was delicious, and not often being a fan of the citrus risotto, it was flavourful without being overpowering, a hint of lemon rather than a real kick.

But it was pudding that stole the limelight, a delicious, creamy coconut mousse with a layer of what we thought was chocolate at the bottom, but was in fact carob, a product of the evergreen carob tree which is native to the Middle East. It has the same texture and taste as chocolate, but without about half the fat and without the caffeine, yippee!  

The Abyad restaurant is also where breakfast is served, probably (we can’t say officially…yet) the best breakfast buffet we have seen. Want cereal, have a choice of four? Bread, or toast? Choose from about 5 or 6 types, add to this several cheeses, fish, hams, and cured meats, fruit salads, cakes, muffins, porridge, juices, champagne, waffles, pancakes, a full English, ratatouille, yoghurt, granola and of course Portuguese tarts  and you start to realise why breakfast could easily become a long, lazy affair. But you are in the sun, you are on holiday in Europe, so a communal stretched out meal is only right.

In the evening we ate at Al Quimia, the gourmet restaurant, it was sophisticated and the dark black walls set against the white interior added a sense of occasion and the contemporary and creative menu is designed seasonally by Chef Luís Mourão from the freshest and best Portuguese ingredients. With a wine for each course, starting with Champane we started with scallops flavoured with dill foam, which was served with sweet potato puree and flavoured with ginger and orange, and followed this with lamb loin served with potato and goats cheese, over a sweet pea cream. The potato and goat cheese was gorgeous, and worked so well with the lamb, whether it was intentional or not the lamb could have been done with being slightly hotter, but this was only a minor point in an otherwise excellent dish.

Again pudding was wonderful, featuring both chocolate and carob, three mini puddings: a fondant lychee sorbet and macaroons. The chef got it right because whilst we were full, and had had our sugar cravings satisfied with chocolate, we didn’t feel sluggish, or as if the walk back to our rooms could be struggle as can often be the case after a three course meal with bread and wine. Not in Epic Sana, it is all about light, healthy but still satisfying meals.

The last restaurant is the poolside, Open Deck, which is brilliant for lunch especially if you don’t want to move from the pool, it offers a small menu of dishes such as Caesar salad, club sandwiches and steak baguettes, the food here is more relaxed, a typical bar menu, good if you want something simple, or if children don’t fancy eating scallops or sea bass.

Epic Sana get top marks for their breakfast and their sea food, the food is delicious, the detail to presentation was excellent and the ambiance of all three restaurants was relaxed which was helped by the lovely waiters, waitresses and staff. Epic Sana is close to Faro where you will of course find many restaurants, it is also near to smaller local traditional Portuguese restaurants and whilst we recommend trying those too, during your stay you should sample all the restaurants at least once, they’re hard to resist!

Read our full review of Epic Sana here