The dinner reservation at Vila Vita Atlantico was set for 7.30 pm, and from the moment we arrived at the front gates, the charm of the place enveloped us. Upon arrival we enjoyed a gentle stroll through the hotel grounds, along the calcada pathway, winding through the well-maintained gardens, and passing by a beautiful water fountain, until we reached the last building before the lawn and the steps leading down to the beach. We were warmly greeted and shown to our table, a fantastic setting overlooking the pool with the sea sparkling in the distance. The ambience at Atlantico restaurant struck the perfect balance between romance and family-friendliness, effortlessly creating a welcoming atmosphere for all.
We were invited to start with a glass of champagne, and we opted for the elegant rose champagne. As our glasses clinked, we indulged in the refreshing and crisp bubbles, setting the tone for a delightful dining experience.
Atlantico offers both indoor and outdoor seating options. Inside, the decor exudes a comforting warmth with its hues of turquoise, reminiscent of the ocean’s calming colours. Outside, the charm continued, with enclaved table pods creating cool and intimate spaces for larger dining parties.
Months before, we had the pleasure of meeting Joao during the opening introduction day at the Red Chalet in Armacao de Pera. Each Vila Vita chef had their own individual workstation, serving delectable morsels from their respective restaurant menus. Joao’s culinary delights left a lasting impression on us, and we were eager to savour his creations once again.
From the very start to the end of our meal, the dinner experience was incredibly relaxed, allowing us to leave the day’s stresses behind and immerse ourselves in the pleasure of each course. To our delight, the meal began with a delightful selection of snacks:
Portugal’s bread, when done right, is truly a delight worth boasting about. The trendy Sourdough bread pleased the palate, while the Carob and Cornbread offered a unique and contrasting flavour reminiscent of German bread. The accompaniments were equally remarkable—the tomato butter with tarragon oil was divine, and the chef’s playful presentation of crafted carrot, inspired by Portuguese couvert of carrots in garlic, was a thing of beauty.
Opting for the pescatarian tasting menu was a revelation. The freshness and clean flavours throughout were a pleasant departure from heavy sauces, and I didn’t miss meat or poultry at all. João and his team’s balanced flavours, artistic presentations, and panache were truly commendable, showcasing their culinary mastery.
Throughout the menu, there were numerous standout moments. The precise carving of octopus roe, inspired by Portuguese fisherman traditions, was a delightful surprise. The fish veloute with crab and homemade olives was decadence at its finest, with the addition of caviar elevating it to an incredible dish. Another unforgettable highlight was the marinated squid with black sepia bread (Chef’s Bao Bun interpretation) and Samphire—a revelation of flavours and textures. The combination of marinated squid and samphire was truly amazing. It’s difficult to pick just a few standouts, as every dish was crafted with meticulous attention to detail. The Cantaril fish with turnip and cataplana cream was a close runner-up to the top choices, showcasing the chef’s precision and creativity.
Lastly, the dessert left a lasting impression with its decadent flavours and sensational crunch, a testament to the chef’s prowess and innovation. In all, the dining experience at Vila Vita Atlantico was a culinary journey to cherish, with each dish reflecting the passion and creativity of the talented chef. A memorable evening of fine dining and artistry that will remain etched in our minds for a long time.