Restaurant Reviews

Espiche Golf Club & Restaurant – Serendipity!

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Bumpety, bumpety, bump – avoid pot hole! Bumpety, bumpety, bump – veer around more pot holes – avoid oncoming traffic – bumpety, bumpety, bump!!!  Turn right – aahhh, carpet road!! We are nearly there! And, believe me – you are entering nirvana – it’s worth the jerky journey.

Take the road inland from the village of Espiche, west of Lagos – Portugal that is, not Nigeria. However, such is the state of the road that takes you to the golf club, that one might be forgiven for thinking they had been captured by bandits, drugged and deposited on a bush road between shanty towns. This is not the case, the camara (town council) have it’s repair high on their priority list (ha,ha) so, for the time being, follow signs for Barao de Sao Joao and Espiche Golf. Turning right, you enter a private estate (yet to be built out) – follow the directional signs – and the magnificent structure of the club-house will appear, sitting proudly on a hillock, surrounded by gently undulating bush and woodland.

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A magical modern day castle, perching on a hillock!

It really is extraordinarily magical, a modern day castle, that rises imposingly from the surrounding scrubland, burnt russet-red soil and contrasting manicured grasses of the fairways and greens. Appearing like an oasis on the horizon, it is a most welcome watering hole to the golfers who have challenged and conquered or been conquered by the course. Designed, created and nurtured with love, the course improves, mellows and matures with each passing month. Now, I must add at this stage, I am no authority on such things – I am a novice golfer having ‘hacked’ around the course on a handful of occasions, but I listen to others and to my son Jonathan, all of whom are infinitely more qualified to judge. And the current verdict is very good given the course is still in its infancy.

Working in tandem, the restaurant, conjures magical menus on a daily basis, satiating the appetites of hungry golfers and visitors, with no particular interest in the game of golf, but who have made an excursion (along the lumpy, bumpety road) to enjoy the awesome views and sample for themselves the burgeoning reputation of the chef’s food. The Espiche golf and restaurant teams are a joy to encounter – helpful, courteous and welcoming. We are regular patrons of the clubhouse, visiting early evening, to enjoy a ‘sundowner’ or two while relaxing on one of the elevated terraces that wrap the building. The vista is glorious with unbroken panoramic views stretching to the horizon in all directions. The atmosphere is genial and I can think of no better way to relax after a challenging game of golf, a stressful day in the office or at home with the children; or simply – just because you can! The facility is open to all of us, so why not enjoy it?

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The menu is tastefully simple but sufficient. The quality and presentation of the dishes are ‘tip-top’, in accordance with all things at this club. I am not normally a ‘burger’ person, but I can’t resist the super size succulent homemade beef burger that is served between wedges of juicy tomatoes, crunchy lettuce and a soft seeded bun – accompanied by the best potato chips that I have ever, ever had!! How bold is that statement? Now, you will need to go and try them yourself. I could also recommend several of the other dishes, but worthy of special note are the Argentinean steaks and the generously portioned chicken Caesar salad. In addition, there is a ‘dish of the day’ – carefully chosen and created to make the most of seasonal produce. In accord with the food, the choice of wines are meritorious, distinctive and very well priced. Great care has been given to the selection process by sourcing wines of originality and refinement. Ribafreixo, a boutique winery located in the heart of the Alentejo region supply their award winning wines to the restaurant. The house wine is Gaudio (red and white) and it is exceptional – the quality greatly surpasses the price. My tipple, produced by the same winery is the Connections Chenin Blanc – made from a grape variety not normally found in Portugal. If wine is your passion (as, you might have guessed, is mine) or you just appreciate a good glass of wine at a sensible price, then you have another incentive to place this venue at the top of your ‘must visit’ destinations.

Everything about Espiche Golf Club – the course (which will just go on improving as it matures – like good wine!), the clubhouse and the restaurant ooze class, refinement and sophistication. The attention to detail has been meticulous and it shows – from the fancy soap dishes in the ladies changing rooms (I can’t speak for the men’s facilities) to the plush leather sofas on the upper floor sitting rooms; from the quality glass and tableware in the restaurant to the state-of-the-art equipment on the course – nothing has been spared or left to chance. I feel enormously fortunate to have this wonderful facility on my doorstep and am pleased to share this serendipitous find with everyone. May those who inspired its creation, the designers, architects, investors and staff all reap their just rewards.


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La Casa Grande – “Let the stars watch over your dreams!”

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“Like the evening birds

Grow smaller, lull yourself asleep.

Let stars watch over your dreams.”

On being shown to our room – these are the words printed on a card, resting on a pillow, that greeted us. A calming welcome!

You simply must go to experience for yourselves the stunning views, walls oozing with 300 years of history, old fashioned hospitality, a comfortable bed, incredibly inexpensive and the best breakfast I have ever had on the continent!! That’s a bold statement, but true! It was a serendipitous find and we can’t wait to return.

Now, you’ll want to know what I am on about!  La Casa Grande – a small hotel run by two very gracious ladies, who, like the building have great style! This imposing property dates back to 1729 and is located in the heart of the old town of Arcos de la Frontera. Perched at the top of a steep hill, there are glorious views across the surrounding countryside. Arcos de la Frontera is inland, just a half hour drive from the coastal city of Cadiz.

The main entrance to the hotel is located in this small alleyway which is indicative of the network of cobbled lanes that weave through the old town. Parking is located at a distance of 250 metres.

 

The roof top terrace, open to all.

 

The most delicious and inspired breakfast. We were served coffee and hot chocolate, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, local hams and cheese, yogurts, preserves, warm crusty bread and Tortas de Aciete (thin crispy wafers glistening with olive oil and sugar).

 
Both our hosts were friendly and, on arrival, welcomed us warmly with a glass of local wine. Eager not to waste our very short visit and wanting to be sure to find an excellent restaurant for dinner, the senhoras took time to talk us through the choices. We were not disappointed and made the most of the warm (hot) evening sunshine to amble around the the maze of narrow streets, stopping here and there for a chilled glass of wine accompanied by a tapa or two.
 
Tired and replete, we sauntered back to the hotel and climbed the stairs to bed. Our room was located at the top of the building, so we detoured to the roof terrace to watch the swirling birds against the night sky and enjoy the perfect peace.
www.lacasagrande.net
 
 
 


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