If you read my Wine Tour in Alentejo, Portugal, you know by now how much I enjoyed the tour. When you do a wine tasting, it is always advisable to eat something, so we decided to go for the full experience and try their restaurant as well. Considered one of the best 20 wine restaurants in the world sounded good but titles are sometimes misleading and you never know if a restaurant is going to live up to its reputation.
The ambiance felt promising. Being winter, we chose to sit inside but were enchanted by the scenery outside. The terrace is beautiful and I could certainly picture myself in spring enjoying the cool fresh air, having a glass of wine while looking at the vineyards, day dreaming …
The restaurant’s menu is inspired by the 2 hectares vegetable garden of the Herdade do Esporao which provides seasonal and local fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs.
In my country, when you go to any restaurant, you are offered delicious nibbles to start. Instead of just bread and butter, you may be offered different types of cheese, ham, olives, octopus salad and many other options. You choose what you want to have and pay accordingly. At the Esporao restaurant it was even more special, since all was so fresh.
It was hard to choose but these big, juicy olives which are used to make olive oil, looked too good to be ignored, as well as the roasted eggplant and the fresh tomato paste.
With all this, accompanied by the wonderful Alentejo bread and although we were tempted by great starters, we decided to skip them and go straight for the main courses.
I love octopus and every time I go to Portugal, I try to eat it several times. So when I saw they had a special wood burning oven octopus in red wine accompanied by cilantro potatoes, I could not resist.
The flavours were amazing, the wood burning oven gave the octopus a great aroma and flavour. The octopus was so soft, almost melting in my mouth and the red wine sauce gave the octopus and cilantro potatoes a delicious complexity and richness. A great contrast was provided by the freshness and acidity of the citric salad served with it.
My husband chose their meat signature dish, the Assado do Esporao which was also a pleasant surprise. It was a beef roast accompanied by a vegetable rice with wine sauce. The meat was tender like the Italian osso bucco (without the bone), the flavours were bold and intense.
Now for the best part, this was dessert!
Looking back, I think I should have thought of taking the picture earlier but it looked too delicious. Life is made of little pleasures and sometimes you let go and follow your desires without thinking twice. Do I wish I had made a photo of the great dessert we had? Probably! But am I really sorry I followed my impulse and let the aroma and visual appeal take over? Not one bit. Not that my husband and daughter gave me the time either!
All I am left with are words. I can tell you it was called “Partindo do Convento” which means coming from the convent. We have a long tradition of recipes that originated in the old convents. This one is a reinterpretation of a classic sweet of Alentejo cuisine, the Sericaia. It was based on a recipe dating from the 16th century from a convent in Elvas. The base of the original is a sweet made of eggs, sugar, milk and cinnamon accompanied by plums in a sugar syrup. The consistency of the sweet is usually soft but here it was raised to a delicious soufflé, served with an ice cream of dried fruits and quince jam.
The Esporao restaurant lived up to its more than deserved reputation. The reinterpretation of classic and traditional dishes of the Alentejo cuisine by Chef Miguel Vaz is really special. It was one of the best meals I had in my country. We left feeling satisfied and happy…
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