Hotel of the month: Octant Vila Monte, Moncarapacho, Portugal
Time stands still at this tranquil farmhouse paradise in the heart of the Algarve region – a place where true luxury is found in the simplicity of local produce, authentic experiences and wellbeing
Staying in a luxury hotel is a little like falling in love. At first, you’re seduced by breathtaking scenery and mouth-watering promises (in this case of delicious food and drink, a menu of experiences and unrivalled service). Then as you get to know the place, you fall deeper… What you can’t predict is the ride that ensues, often wonderful but not guaranteed. Octant Vila Monte – a tranquil farmhouse hotel in the heart of the Algarve is one love interest that promises delights that definitely deliver and offers an experience that will leave a lasting impression on your heart.
This is the sort of place where you instantly relax upon arrival, partly due to the calming, white-washed interiors offset with natural fibres – think log piles, wicker baskets, cork, natural cotton and linen in pared-back blues and greys, a perfect blend of the contemporary and the traditional – and partly because of the authentic welcoming staff who greet every guest like a long-awaited friend to their very own home.
Made up of a series of buildings, villas and suites dotted around the pristine gardens, this is a place where time stands still. The main hotel houses a selection of ocean or mountain-view rooms and suites, while across the grounds a collection of luxury “secret” suites bask in the Portuguese sun. It is here that we found the hotel’s pièce de résistance – our very own secluded suite – a spacious one-bedroom idyll complete with plunge pool (which enjoys full sun for a few hours early afternoon), cabana terrace, roof-terrace, living room, bathroom and separate shower room.
Inside and out, the trademark white stone of the Algarve permeates, complemented by wooden furniture, wicker and cork wall decorations, soft lighting and ocean-hued textiles. The huge bed is one of the comfiest we’ve slept in, and the generous amenities mean guests have everything they could ever need, from beauty products and the finest Portuguese snacks to blankets, a wicker beach bag and straw hats. Here, we enjoyed the services of Sofia and Pedro, our 24/7 personal assistants – friendly and amenable, nothing was too much of an ask for them, their service genuine and unparalleled.
The suite enjoys views of the hotel’s serene adults-only pool (one of two communal pools, the other is flanked by the laidback pool bar on one side and tall palms and cypress trees on the other) and is so comfortable, you could easily while away your entire stay here on the terrace lounger, ordering room service with just a simple WhatsApp to Pedro. But, as we discovered, Vila Monte really has so much more to offer.
The reception area is relaxing and rustic, with views into the open kitchen of the hotel’s main restaurant A Terra – a gloriously bright and calm space that spills out into two outdoor areas: a heated terrace dappled with soft lighting, comfortable seating with giant marshmallow-soft cushions, and tables spread among the carob trees and palms of the immaculate gardens, enclosed by warming hanging bulbs and a welcome breeze.
The food here is traditional with a twist and showcases Octant’s ethos to champion local producers by sourcing produce from within a 10km radius of the hotel; many of the fresh fruit and vegetables grow in the hotel’s garden. We enjoyed fresh guacamole with homemade sweet potato crisps, and a delicious beetroot hummus with raw vegetables from the garden, but it’s the seafood offering that really shines here – best enjoyed, as we so gratefully discovered, in a magical chef’s table experience in a private and idyllic corner of the abundant grounds. Local clams, razor clams, yellow fin tuna, and shrimp all cooked to perfection and teamed with local wines, lovingly selected by one of the hotel’s friendliest staff members and expert mixologist, Inês.
Dessert on the menu also comes courtesy of the region’s abundant produce – notably a delicious carob tart and a cluster of carob churros dipped in lemon butter. Breakfast is served at the Laranjal restaurant in the main building – a generous selection of breads, meats, cheeses, juices, spreads, nuts, and fruits from the buffet complement the egg menu – freshly made on the terrace counter, with fabulous mountain and ocean views.
As well as the strong food-focus here at Vila Monte, experiences are key. From the welcoming staff – who make you feel instantly comfortable, whether they are serving your dinner, leading an intimate body scrub-making workshop, coaching your backhand on the tennis court or answering your 3am WhatsApp message for fresh papaya – to the off-site experiences, there is a chance to make lasting memories here.
We were lucky enough to be whisked away to a unique oyster experience on a private beach off the coast of nearby Olhão before speed-boating to a secluded sandy stretch of Ilha da Armona for a delicious seafood picnic complete with wine, freshly squeezed orange juice and the sort of surrounding beauty usually only witnessed during a visualisation meditation. To make the most of the hotel’s proximity to the mountains and the ocean, the hotel’s experience manager can also arrange an afternoon of horseback riding, deep-sea fishing or an afternoon with a shepherd and goats, as well as a myriad of on-site activities from yoga, to spa treatments and tennis coaching.
So yes, not only is Vila Monte more beautiful that you first expected, but the beauty goes deep, and I challenge you not to fall in love with the warm and friendly staff, the calming aura that reminds you to just breathe, the incredible food and the memory-making experiences.
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