Casa Velha – for the love of foodBy Kerstin Buechner Dias • Dec 9th, 2008 • Category: Quinta Lifestyle, Restaurants
Variously described by a range of reviewers as “an excellent dining choice”, “gourmet food”, “fine dining” and “a newsophistication”, Casa Velha enjoys the skill and passion of Head Chef and owner, Yannick Guichaoua.
Top restaurant in Quinta do Lago
Originally from Brittany, Yannick’s CV reads like a Michelin guide to France’s top restaurants, not to mention some of the country’s most famous gastronomic and wine regions. From Champagne to Savoie and the Dordogne, Yannick honed his craft in regions that provide some of France’s greatest local specialities. And it is this skill, knowledge and love of locally sourced quality ingredients that Yannick brings to the Casa Velha kitchens.
Front of house and offering a genuinely warm welcome, making each visit feel like a treat, is the restaurant’s multilingual hostess, Céline Guichaoua. It is no surprise to learn that the restaurant has a strong hardcore of loyal regulars.
Casa Velha benefits from the unspoken understanding that can only come from a pairing such as a husband and wife team. The couple met 14 years ago while working together in a chateau in the South of France. Of course, it was love at first bite and today they share everything. They discuss menus – occasionally a heated subject! – and enjoy family life with their two sons and “fin gourmet”, Pierrick, 11 and Corentin, 9.
A 200 year-old Algarvian farmhouse
A 200 year-old Algarvian farmhouse, Casa Velha means Old House. Céline’s soft features break into a glittering smile as she describes it: “it has a soul”, she says. t is the oldest building in Quinta do Lago and one of the first restaurants in the region.
Located in the heart of the resort, the restaurant is just off roundabout number 6 and close to Hotel Quinta do Lago and the Ria Formosa. The restaurateurs obviously love the building and they use it to its full potential, cosily seating diners around a great open fireplace during the winter months, while enjoying the cool night air with al fresco dining during the summer.
“Never drink black coffee at lunch; it will keep you awake all afternoon.” Jilly Cooper
Located in the central part of the house, the patio is filled with the delicate fragrance of abundant blooming bougainvillea and the soothing sounds of a Moorish fountain. Nestling firmly on a rocky hillside overlooking both Quinta do Lago and the lake, its impassive exterior is calmly imposing. Inside the building has been lovingly restored, with design choices that respect and enhance the farmhouse’s history and culture.
“I don’t have a particular favourite food”, explains Yannick, “because there is always something interesting in each world cuisine. I prefer simplicity and my philosophy is to work with the finest ingredients”. His menus echo this.
Although perhaps inevitably French influenced, Yannick also explores the flavours and dishes of the region, changing the menu every season to take advantage of the freshest produce. One season may bring you foie gras from the Dordogne, followed by a breast of duck seasoned with 12 locally sourced spices. Another time, you may enjoy a marinated lobster salad with the catch of the day, which could be a filet of sole or a melt-in-your-mouth sea bass.
Extensive and exquisite wine list
The restaurant has a wine list that is as extensive as it is exquisite and enjoys wines from Portugal’s many excellent vineyards as well as a good number of French classics.
When pressed on what makes Casa Velha such a success, the ever-modest Yannick suggests it is a combination of “the scenery, the food and the staff”.
However, while this undoubtedly forms the basis of the restaurant’s quality, it is the passion through which they are combined, the essence of Yannick and Céline’s relationship and the outstanding panache of Yannick’s skill in the kitchen that makes an evening at Casa Velha such a memorable one.
Restaurante Casa Velha Reservations: +351 289 394 983 Homepage: Restaurante Casa Velha