Andy Mossack reviews Gusto by Heinz Beck at the Conrad Algarve Hotel
Conrad Algarve Hotel is, as far as I am concerned, a template for doing 5 star luxury properly, so it comes as no surprise to me that Conrad Algarve’s flagship restaurant, Gusto by Heinz Beck, would be anything else but stellar. I mean, the very name is a play on the Portuguese word for taste, gosto, even though it was named after Conrad Hilton’s father Augustus.
That said of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating and it was with a sense of serious anticipation we approached Gusto by Heinz Beck, after all, Beck, with 3 Michelin stars to his name at his Roman emporium La Pergola, carries a serious culinary reputation. Gusto by Heinz Beck however, has no such aspirations, more an authentic high end Mediterranean experience, using locally and internationally sourced ingredients but delivered using Beck’s accent on flavour combinations.
My first impression was a little flat, the modern decor replete with dark wood, red velvety banquettes and low lighting coming over as a little too shadowy for my taste, but that said, the warmth and hospitality emanating from the serving team won me over and we settled in for our culinary journey.
At the heart of Gusto lies the tasting menus, a five or a six course menu with optional Portuguese wine pairings is the ideal choice; a chance to sample the pick of Beck’s creations in a way to them proper justice, although there is the option of an a’ la carte if that’s your preference.
Following a refreshing amuse bouche made from a clutch of exotic mushrooms, we devoured our next courses, mine an Amberjack tartar with creamy almond tofu paired with a delightful 2013 Quinta de Saes Encruzado and for my dining partner a lobster salad with mango and pistaccio pesto paired with a 2014 Quinta de Regueiro.
Next up for me was the now legendary Fagotelli Carbonara an epic pasta dish which nearly caused a riot in Rome when Beck took it off the menu. This is quite simply small pasta parcels which burst flavour into your mouth from the bacon, courgette, veal and pecorino filling. Paired with a 2012 Quinta do Monte d’Oiro Madrigal from Lisbon, it was a marriage made in heaven. My partner’s spaghetti with tomato water, rocket cream and fresh clams paired with a 2013 Vinho verde Conde D’Ervideira may not have had the legendary backstory of my Fagottelli, but was nonetheless a stellar dish.
My main was yet another inspired creation, a softer than butter Segreto of Iberian Pork with liquorice, rosti potato and pear sorbet paired with an equally soft 2010 Casa de Passarella Abanico Reserva. However, full marks must go the Sole with algae on yellow courgette puree, teriyaki sauce and pak choy on the opposite side of my table paired with a knockout 2010 Esporado Provate Selection from the Alentejo.. Who knew these would make ideal plate companions?
Our desserts were equally triumphant; a rhubarb with white asparagus ice cream, water chips and red coulis for me and a powerful mousse with condensed milk, mango and ginger sorbet and caramelized puffed rice my companion. Two dishes which for me brought this impressive culinary journey to a fitting close.
It is quite refreshing to enjoy Algarvian fine dining in the company of highly trained individuals from the sommelier to the table servers who are knowledgeable and have clearly bought into both Beck and Conrad Algarve’s high service expectations.
It was a little early in the season for us to enjoy the outdoor patio at Gusto by Heinz Beck,overlooking the rolling fairways and forest of Quinta do Lago, but there was enough of it on display through the glass for me to enviously think, out there on a warm summer evening, how Beck’s magic might have tasted even better. For now though, it was quite enough to simply bask in our own display of gastronomy. That was quite memorable enough thank you.
All food images (c) Andy Mossack
I want to eat at Gusto by Heinz Beck. What does it cost?
Gusto by Heinz Beck at the Conrad Algarve.
Seven Courses € 79 – with wine pairing € 134
Five courses € 69 – with wine pairing € 114
Five courses exclude: White asparagus on topinambur cream and strawberry as well as Sea bass with liquorice crust, spring vegetables and herbs snow.
Supplement for two Prestige Wines is € 38