It’s all about the weather and wellness – sustainability and sunshine – in this corner of Portugal. Pauline Brettell checks in to The Magnolia Hotel to explore all that is on offer at the Quinta do Lago resort, where the natural beauty of the Ria Formosa Park combines seamlessly with contemporary design…
The Ria Formosa Natural Park in Portugal forms part of the protected coastal lagoon, which provides the context and backdrop to the Quinta do Lago, resort, and has been key to informing its commitment to sustainability and the environment, on all levels, throughout the resort – from critically assessing its landscaping and golf course management, to developing a culture of farm-to-table that has permeated all of the resort restaurants. The resort makes it clear that luxury can be sustained by sourcing locally, and integrating the local landscape rather than superimposing a resort onto it, and this is key to the ethos of luxury behind Quinta do Largo.
In the heart of the resort is The Magnolia Hotel – a stylish, family friendly boutique hotel designed by London-based Bryan O’Sullivan Studio, and modelled on the iconic motel designs reminiscent of Palm Springs. Driving through the entrance punctuated by the retro swimmer diving through the air, lit up in equally retro neon, the mood is set.
“The pool at its centre looks like it has been lifted straight out of one of David Hockney’s Pool series of paintings.”
There are bright sorbet colours as guests walk in nods to Hockney on the walls, and an abundance of palm trees that all contribute to the feeling of laid-back motel living with a note of luxury. The pool at its centre looks like it has been lifted straight out of one of David Hockney’s Pool series of paintings with its tiled reflections of the surrounding palm trees, and forms the focal point of the hotel, inviting you to dive straight into your holiday. Quality and comfort are the backbone to the vibrant and relaxed décor of this design, which is made up of a combination of 74 comfortable guestrooms, and a further seven vintage style cabins. The focus throughout is on laid back comfort, teamed with quality, along with a focus on wellness that runs throughout the resort. This wellness focus has been integrated on every level of design, from the bicycles at your disposal, to the Sleep Hub in your bedroom – I must confess to getting a little addicted to the sounds of waves crashing on my bedside table!
While The Magnolia Hotel is all about creating a relaxed family zone, the Reserva is a low-rise, cutting edge development made up of 26 luxury apartments. Designed by Portuguese architect João Cabrita, each unit has its own swimming pool, with panoramic sea views framed in a modernist composition of glass and natural stone. The Reserva complex remains true to the original plan of the resort with its low density design that is ecologically driven by its location on the edge of such striking natural scenery.
With wellness being the cornerstone to the entire resort, its state-of-the-art, multi-sports complex, The Campus, is an integral part of the experience, on both a design and a facilities level. The Campus is not simply about getting a bit of exercise in on your holiday, it is also about the lifestyle attached to that. The facilities are geared towards professionalism and performance, and are perfect for everyone, from high energy kids on holiday, right through to professional athletes needing to train in recovery, and pretty much everything in-between. For me, it was simply about a wonderful outdoor yoga session in the late summer sunshine, followed by a few laps in the comfortably heated pool.
You can’t, of course, escape the golf course culture as you head down to the Algarve, as it is key to the hotel industry there. Importantly, Quinta do Lago has spent time looking critically at how their state of the art courses are impacting on the local landscape, and where possible, making improvements to minimise their impact. I am no golfer, so it was all about admiring the landscaping and negotiating the buggy for me, but if I was tempted to pick up a club or two, this would be the place to do it! The credentials and awards speak for themselves, as the South course on Quinta features regularly in Top 100 golf courses of Europe lists, and has also been awarded best golf course in Portugal on more than one occasion!
One thing is certain (and this is a subject I feel a little more qualified to offer an opinion on than golf), guests won’t be going hungry during their stay here! The resort is home to a wealth – 13 in total if I am sticking to the facts – of restaurants. Each one a signature aesthetic and ambience, created by different design teams appropriate to the concept. Again, design is considered in every nook, from craft-led crockery to locally sourced finishes.
No where is the resort’s ethos of sustainability clearer than in the F&B experiences, as it is clear that all the chefs and their teams are passionate about sourcing and using local produce. On your way to your morning tee off you go right past the Quinta farm where chefs and gardeners collaborate to grow and develop fresh seasonal produce for all the restaurants.
We ended our stay at Quinta do Lago with an intricately crafted tasting menu at the Michelin-recommended Casa Velha. The attention to detail and the passion that head chef Alipio Branco puts into both the produce and the presentation, epitomises the ethos of the resort. The menu is inspired by the surrounding Ria Formosa as are the plates and bowls on which they are served, all sourced from local artisans and craft people, who, like all the designers and architects of this resort, take their inspiration from the dunes and the waterways of the estuary.
“Sometimes when you look at a property you have an instant view of what you are going to do,” explains Andre Jordan, the man behind the idea that was to become Quinta do Lago, “I had to drive along trails and through pine woods until I came to a high point overlooking it, with the ocean on the horizon. Within 10 minutes I had the concept for the whole project in my mind. I wanted to create a high quality resort that reflected local character and style.” It is this idea of remaining a part of, while safeguarding, the local landscape that does in fact set Quinta do Lago apart. With the Ria Formosa running through it, and the strong sense of community as its foundation, Quinta do Lago has established itself as a leader in the world of low impact, luxury real estate, incorporating considered design at every turn.
Main image credit: Quinta do Lago