The Conrad Algarve in Quinta do Lago, Portugal is a golf haven that caters to non-golfers alike, writes Sue Ryan.
Hotel Insider: Conrad Algarve, Quinta do Lago, Portugal
Twenty minutes into the journey from Faro Airport, on which we were hopelessly lost, I wished we had taken up the hotel's offer of a car instead of being seduced by how cheap a car hire was. When we did arrive, the porter suggested that he park the car and we were enveloped by the grandeur of the lobby. Modelled on an 18th-century Portuguese palace with Moorish themes, the atrium, double staircase and infinity pool are unquestionably 21st century. We sipped on fresh orange juice while the hotel staff swiftly removed a cot and teddy bears from our room, having noticed that we were minus the grandchild I had once thought of bringing.
Quinta do Lago exists almost entirely for tourists, particularly those who play golf. Apartments and villa complexes dominate the area, nearly all of which are second homes. The roads are smart, beaches clean and there are more restaurants and shops than you could possibly want. The Conrad has a pretty shopping mall at one end and watercress fields at the other, so no sea view.
There are 154 rooms over six floors. I was in a suite with a glorious amount of space: a hall, a guest bathroom, a sitting room, a walk-in wardrobe, a large bedroom and bathroom and a 15-metre-long balcony. It's big enough to live here.
The hotel opened last October, so this is its first summer. Golf is the big thing here and I was surprised at the number of single women until I realised they were golf widows. I found myself lying on a sunbed next to the former captain of the English football team John Terry and his wife, who apparently are regulars along with footballers from other nationalities.
Really impressive. The waiters are generally Portuguese, friendly and efficient. Room service was good and the reception desk eager to help. Although minus the grandchild, I checked out Little C Palace and thought the activities - all geared round a magic postbox - were more inspirational and inventive than any other child's club I have seen.
The hotel is surrounded by good eateries but there seemed no need to go out. Louro, the Portuguese restaurant, serves fresh buffet breakfasts and changing menus for lunch and dinner. The prices are reasonable, with soup of the day €8, (Dh39) fried sardine fillets with anchovy mayo €8, (Dh39), risotto with Algarvian seafood €20 (Dh97). We tried and can recommend the fish cataplana (€30; Dh146) and caramelised fruit (€7; Dh34). The gourmet attraction is Heinz Beck's Gusto. The last time I had such a sensational meal was at his restaurant at the Rome Cavalieri. The tasting menu of seven courses that includes his fagotelli carbonara (Michelle Obama asked for the recipe) was a visual and edible treat and, at €63 (Dh354), or €56 (Dh314) for five courses, is exceptional value.
I arrived with aching shoulders and two sessions in the wellness centre sorted me out.
I find the Algarve itself rather bland, perhaps only because I don't play golf.
If you want good service, good food and luxury surroundings at a reasonable price, this is a perfect getaway as part of a European visit.
The bottom line
Deluxe double rooms from €188 (Dh917) per night including breakfast and taxes (www.conrad algarve.com; 0035 128 935 0700).
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