There are many reasons why Quinta do Lago is one of Europe’s best-loved residential resorts. First getting there is easy: 15 minutes from Faro airport on Portugal’s Algarve coast. Secondly it is fabulously scenic, covering 2,000 acres that takes in the Ria Formosa natural reserve, the Atlantic Sea, lakes and cycle paths. And thirdly it has some of the best facilities of any resort worldwide, ideal whether you are a sporting superstar or just a super-eager amateur.
Over the past 50 years Quinta do Lago has established itself as a low-density, five-star home from home for golfers hosting over 100,000 rounds each year on its three courses. And golf is just the beginning. Add in water sports, racket clubs, exercise studios and gyms, cycling tracks and over 10 restaurants and bars and there’s enough to keep even the most hyperactive family busy for several weeks. Tempted? Here are the places to pre-book.
Where to Stay: The Magnolia Hotel
The Magnolia Hotel opened last year after a dramatic refurbishment of a previous hotel. Now owned by Quinta do Lago, the hotel is two minutes from the resort itself, under the pine trees and a stylish, good value option with 74 compact rooms, three suites and seven family-friendly two-bedroom pastel cottages.
The Miami motel style features a deliciously retro and youthful design (neon signs, jaunty red and white stripe pool towels and powder-pink fluted banquettes in the dining room). Interiors by London-based BOS Design with furniture from Inside Out are both informal and comfortable and along with the friendly staff add to the casual yet efficient vibe.
The Magnolia’s striking value comes from concentrating on getting the basics right and doing away with the extras. So beds are super comfortable and linen is all 300-thread count luxury, TVs tune in to all the main UK and Irish channels, Wi-Fi is top notch and toiletries are too but there are no minibars or bath robes and no bell-hop to usher you to your room. It means off-season B&B starts from £69, extraordinary value for the plushest corner of the Algarve.
There’s a swimming pool, a tennis court, a hardcore gym with sauna and steam room and a fabulous mini cinema. Guests receive up to 20 per cent off rates at The Campus in Quinta do Lago, discounted rates at the golf courses as well as complimentary shuttles to Quinta’s beaches and restaurants.
The Magnolia Hotel themagnoliahotelqdl.com ; (+351) 289 390 705 offers a standard room from €78/£69 on a B&B basis.
Where to Eat:
Casa do Lago
A beautiful lakeside location, outdoor pool and nearby beach mean that many guests prefer Casa do Lago for a lengthy lunch but whenever you come, it’s all about the fish. Staff will talk – and show – you through the day’s catch, advising on ways to serve each one although with fish this fresh it’s hard to go wrong.
Grilled sea bass and sea bream served with lemon and olive oil, paccheri pasta di mare, piri piri chicken and yellowfin tuna sashimi are among the favourites but if you only choose one dish, make it the fresh salt and pepper calamari: Casa do Lago’s signature dish for a reason.
Pure at Quinta do Lago is the healthy option, somewhere to grab a protein-packed breakfast or for a post work-out lunch. Breakfast is served from 8.a.m to 11.30.a.m with porridge, homemade granola and bowls of açai, avocado and spinach. Lunch includes extensive salad choices with wraps and quiches and Pure serves a kaleidoscopic range of juices and smoothies throughout the day.
It’s a steak house that does melt-in-the-mouth sea bass and a 320-cover restaurant that feels intimate. The winning design includes geometric floor tiles, a wide wine cellar on public display and studded velvet and leather chairs in jewel colours all under the eagle eye of a Brazilian chef and Venezuelan general manager who ensure the dry-aged steaks are tip top quality.
Bovino is next door to Quinta do Lago’s most exclusive and expensive restaurant, the Michelin-praised Casa Velha where bookings for tables in the summer months are filled almost a year in advance.
But fantastic Bovino’s is more than enough to satisfy your inner foodie and while it is expensive – prime Argentinian ribeye steaks are €29 and the chateaubriand steak for two is €73 – for design, food, service and warm atmosphere, it’s my out and out favourite.
The most recent addition to Quinta do Lago, Dano’s opened this autumn as part of The Campus with an American Sports Bar theme. This is the place to watch big-ticket sports events on the super-sized screens while tucking into a burger or steak and craft beer.
Dano’s is airy and informal with double height ceilings and huge black Crittal-style doors and windows providing views over the tennis courts. Walls are draped with sports memorabilia, there’s a large bar covered in blue and white tiles and friendly staff in Breton-striped tops serve up food from the open kitchen.
Mains of steak, burgers, sea bass and salads start from €12 – good value for Quinta do Lago and along with the fun vibe, a good explanation for its clear multi-generational appeal.
This long-standing favourite is just off resort in front of Dunas Dourados Beach Club and has built up a regular clientele over the past 30 years. The basics are all there: beach-side setting, spick and span blue and white nautical colours and a menu that covers fresh fish, burgers, salads and daily specials.
Sunday lunch is the hot ticket, especially in summer when a live band plays and the roof terrace comes into its own. This is the place for a long lunch or dinner with a jug of sangria or bottle of rosé and an endless view of the Atlantic rolling in.
What to Do:
Long, hot summers and mild, sunny winters give the Algarve year-round outdoor appeal. Golf is supreme – there are 40 courses along the 100-mile Atlantic coastline – but there are also golden opportunities for tennis, hiking, surfing and a rapidly growing focus on cycling. Hardcore riders head up to the testing gradients of the Sierra de Monchique while nature lovers cruise the flat saltpans and dunes of the Ria Formosa Natural Park.
At Quinta do Lago the second phase of The Campus, a multi-sports training complex, opens this season with six tennis courts, four padel courts (tennis meets squash and widely popular in Spain) and a ‘Desso’ hybrid grass pitch that cost €1,000,000 and has already attracted national rugby and football teams.
Most of all, the Algarve means water, either the sandy Atlantic beaches backed by red cliffs and umbrella pines or else pools and waterparks. The biggest waterpark is Aqua Show in Quarteira, open May to October and home to Europe’s longest water roller coaster.