Restaurant Review – Orangerie, Moncarapacho
This week we tried out one of the more expensive Portuguese restaurants in the area – the Orangerie at the luxurious Vila Monte golf and spa hotel in Moncarapacho. Nestled away in the countryside, it offers delightful views from its outdoor terrace, as well as a large indoor dining area. The vast, high-ceilinged venue encourages diners to speak in hushed tones, making this the perfect place for a quiet, romantic meal for two or for an upscale family occasion.
The Orangerie focuses on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, with dishes featuring a range of products grown organically on the estate, including herbs, citrus fruits, almonds and figs. The menu includes speciality dishes for two (which must be ordered in advance) and several set menus, as well as à la carte options. A children’s menu is also available, along with a range of vegetarian options.
The meal began with traditional Portuguese couvert of olives, bread and olive oil for dipping. The olive oil was rich and fruity and the waiter informed us that it was pressed in Moncarapacho from olives grown on the Vila Monte estate. It was followed by a complimentary amuse bouche – a sort of tuna paste nestled within a tomato, which served as a gentle introduction to the fabulous meal which was about to follow.
Our party tried numerous starters, including pea soup, mussel linguini and crab salad. The pea soup was the highlight – it was delicious and incredibly fresh-tasting. The mussel linguini was ok but a little under-seasoned and perhaps an overly large portion for a starter. The crab salad was also quite good, although the delicate taste of the crab was somewhat masked by the stronger flavours of the other ingredients on the plate.
Lime sorbet dusted with icing sugar was served before the main course, to cleanse our palettes. Our main courses included monkfish with potato yarn (a wonderful combination of textures as well as great flavours), black pork tenderloin (rich and delicious), a fish ‘symphony’ (light and cooked to perfection) and veal medallion (incredibly tender and the highlight of our mains).
The desserts, which curiously had to be ordered at the start of the meal, were served following a complimentary mini sweet of rich chocolate cake. The desserts were a triumph: the chocolate mousse served with olive oil was utterly delicious, the fig parfait was light and fruity and the citrus cheesecake with carob and almond base was intensely flavoured. The cheese board was large and came with homemade jam, walnuts, strawberries and grapes. It featured some lovely, creamy local cheeses, which combined with the fruit and jam to create a wonderfully sweet treat.
The meal was rounded off with coffee and complimentary petit fours – sticky carob morsels and dark, crunchy mini biscuits. The perfect end to an extremely good evening.
Overall this was a fabulous meal. The Orangerie is expensive (the cheapest main course is €20, while starters and desserts range from €8 to €15), so not somewhere where we will be dining often, but it makes a great venue for a birthday treat or other special occasion.