The Alentejo region of southern Portugal, sprawling between the Atlantic coast and the Spanish border, lies within striking distance of Lisbon but offers a fresh-air antidote to the city. Thick with olive groves and medieval villages, the territory is the country’s breadbasket and an epicenter of authentic, rural traditions. So it was only a matter of time before a new generation snapped up the Alentejo’s old farmsteads, or in some cases erected faithful facsimiles, and refitted them as pastoral retreats stocked with spas, swimming pools, bars and a full roster of activities. These resorts also function as serious, working estates, and their eco-conscious owners are intent on sourcing from the region’s bounty of wheat fields, vineyards and coastal seafood, as well as their own orchards and kitchen gardens, to offer an updated taste of the bulging local larder. The result is proof of how far chefs can take farm-to-table cooking when the farm pitches right up on the doorstep.
Quinta da Comporta
Conceived by star Portuguese architect Miguel Câncio Martins as a sustainable wellness retreat, Quinta da Comporta (an SLH property) sits in the middle of Comporta’s sweeping nature reserve, its 73 guest rooms, suites and pool villas paying homage to traditional regional designs. Chef João Sousa, who has cooked throughout Europe, produces a Mediterranean-inflected global cuisine driven by the full Alentejo playbook, from lemons and pork to the coastal sea bass and prawns. The fish turn up in his creamy seafood soup and in his prawn risotto. And his Porco 3-D is an homage to the famous Alentejo black pig, served three ways and best paired with one of the bar’s cocktails spiked with herbs from the property’s bio-garden.
Sitting on 17 acres, the recently built Sublime Comporta offers 23 guest rooms and suites, as well as wood-beamed cabanas modeled on local farmers’ houses. The added bonus here is the neighboring white-sand beach of the Atlantic coast, and chef Tiago Santos—veteran of Michelin-starred kitchens—takes full advantage of the daily catch,
even adding a briny accent to the meaty Alentejo black pork served in a shell with clams in the resort’s Sem Porta restaurant. But real culinary pioneers will want to join the Food Circle in the organic garden, served by a team of chefs cooking the best of the seasonal crop to the beat of music, often over a live fire.
A group of whitewashed houses clustered around courtyards, converted into a range of guest rooms and lofts, the Craveiral Farmhouse sits on prime turf close to the coastal beaches, in the middle of a nature reserve scored by hiking and biking trails. Taking full advantage of the property’s orchards and sustainable vegetable garden, the farmhouse’s chefs upcycle the Alentejo harvest, dressing dishes like octopus with crispy kale and sweet-potato puree. Leaning toward a largely veg-centric menu, the Farmhouse is becoming best known for star turns like a creamy coriander rice, inspired by the classic regional dishes.
Situated in the middle of a 300-acre eco-reserve dense with olive and fig trees and close to the historic market town of Estremoz, Dá Licença offers a masterfully renovated clutch of 19th-century agricultural buildings refitted as three guest rooms and four suites, all punctuated by the owners’ world-class Scandinavian-style Arts & Crafts collection. Chef Hugo Bernardo finds his truest muse in the property’s olive grove, and his olive-centric version of farm-to-fork produces dishes like cod buoyed by garlic, cauliflower cream and olive dust and a lemon-thyme panna cotta dressed with vodka-infused olives. The best place to dig in? Alongside the original farm basin, fringed by jasmine and fig trees.
São Lourenço do Barrocal
The São Lourenço do Barrocal is a sprawling family-owned estate lying just below the medieval hilltop village of Monsaraz and renovated by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Eduardo Souto de Moura as a resort with its own vineyards and winery. Alentejo-born chef José Júlio Vintém lightens traditional regional recipes, infusing the classic migas bread stew with organic tomatoes from the resort’s vegetable garden, accenting his pumpkin soup with fennel and ginger and crowning his caldeta (a freshwater seafood soup) with fish eggs. Sometimes, though, he just plays on his own, turning out a partridge escabeche with egg yolk that is a favorite of diners returning from sunset horseback rides.