Julia’s Algarve

My family and I have been frequent visitors to the Algarve for the last 20 years. In that time there has been one beachside restaurant and bar we’ve frequently returned to. 

Julia's Algarve

Opened in 1966, Julia’s is extremely popular, particularly with families and celebrities.

Amazing panoramic views and a bustling atmosphere make it the perfect place to watch the world go by.

I’d recommend visiting in the evening where you’ll be treated to the most memorable sunsets as the sun falls below the horizon of the North Atlantic Ocean. Although be sure to take your sunglasses so you’re not blinded as the sun dips. 

If you visit in late-summer you’re likely to see dolphins jumping through the waves while migrating south to Africa.

Situated between Quinta do Lago and Vale do Lobo on the Garrão beach, you will often hear this location referred to as “Julia’s Beach”.

Mussels provençal

Mussels provençal

Grilled goats cheese with honey, walnuts and balsamic glaze (v)

Grilled goats cheese with honey, walnuts and balsamic glaze (v)

Fresh melon with serrano ham

Fresh melon with serrano ham

Grilled tiger prawns with garlic, olive oil and chilli

Grilled tiger prawns with garlic, olive oil and chilli

Tomato and chilli spaghetti with mozzarella (v)

Tomato and chilli spaghetti with mozzarella (v)

Grilled fillet steak with peppered sauce and sauté potatos

Grilled fillet steak with peppered sauce and sauté potatos

Panacotta with raspberry sauce

Panacotta with raspberry sauce

Hot apple crumble with vanilla ice cream

Hot apple crumble with vanilla ice cream

Food portions are generous and the menu quite varied. A couple more vegetarian options would be good though, happily, the staff were accommodating of me going off-menu.

The beach bar is open daily from 10am and the restaurant from 12pm.


Julia’s Algarve

Praia do Garrao Nascente, Almancil 8135

+(351) 289 396 512

Vila Monte Farm House, Portugal

During a recent trip to Portugal my friend and I stayed at Vila Monte Farm House, located in rural Moncarapacho, in Portugal’s Olhão municipality. 

Set off the beaten track in amongst nine hectares of orange groves and manicured gardens, overlooking the Algarve’s countryside and mountains, it’s the ideal location for those who want to “escape” while on holiday. 

After a busy few weeks, we were in much need of a relaxing holiday. Following a twenty minute taxi ride from Faro airport, we passed through the hotel gates, drove up the winding path through an olive grove and arrived at reception. A handsome young Portuguese man greeted us, offering herbal teas while we checked in.

The decor is inspired by traditional Portuguese architecture, with whitewashed walls, terracotta chimneys and natural woods. The concept behind the resort is boho-chic with a “timeless simplicity”.

The Lobby area is a huge multi-functional open space which is the heart of the hotel. Designed for socialising, there is a large fire-pit at the centre and a long cool white bar topped with a variety of different spirits.

Guests gather around here in the evenings to watch movies together or read in the Library while enjoying cocktails from the bar. Film sessions are organised every evening and during the summer months an open-air cinema is held in the gardens. 

After a guided tour of the hotel, we were taken to our room. We stayed in number 10, a Double Superior which had lovely views looking out at gorgeous bright pink bougainvillea. The room was a mix of crisp white bedding, furniture made from driftwood with pops of colour.

The interiors were designed by Vera Iachia, who has worked with Andy Warhol and Jacques Grange. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful hotels I have stayed in and was clearly designed with total relaxation and comfort in mind. We also had our own little private terrace area which was the perfect place to sit just before sunset.

Each of the 55 guest rooms has its own beach basket with towels, hats and umbrellas for use during your stay. The hotel will even prepare a picnic for guests to take on day trips. Guests can also take part in fishing trips to the Ria Formosa, horseback riding, seafood tasting and trips to the local Olhão market to buy produce with the chef from the hotel. 

Despite all of the activities on offer, we decided on something a bit more challenging…. choosing between which of the two pools we would plonk ourselves by.

Our days at Vila Monte were spent lying in the sun, ploughing our way through good books and drinking local wine. Total bliss!

On the rare occasion that we did want to try something a little more adventurous, we borrowed the hotel’s bicycles to cycle around the grounds, narrowly missing crashing into the citrus trees. 

A highlight of our stay was the delicious food. There are two restaurants, Laranjal and À Terra, both focus on farm-to-plate homely yet healthy food.

The hotel even has its own grocery store which sells a selection of local produce from the Algarve region ranging from olive oils, cheeses, spirits as well as crockery and kitchen goods. The idea being that this strengthens the relationship with the community and, most importantly, local farmers. 

Breakfast was made up of a wide selection of breads, warm pastries, homemade jams and yoghurts with fresh fruit as well as cooked eggs and meats. Made all the more enjoyable while enjoying the stunning views across the mountain range. 

The lunchtime and evening food is designed for sharing and is mostly cooked in a traditional wood oven or Josper grill (conceived by two Catalonian’s to bring out the foods best flavours over a charcoal grill).

The freshly baked breads, bruschetta and wood fired pizzas were incredible. The menu is based on homemade, rustic food using the freshest local ingredients, many of which are grown in Vila Monte's own grounds. 

The hotel has its own aromatic garden filled with herbs and vegetables as well as an orange grove and olive trees where ingredients are grown to be used in the restaurant. Guests are encouraged to wander through the gardens picking mint leaves to take back to their room to make refreshing peppermint teas. 

However, our favourite choice of drink was undoubtedly the wine, most of which comes from local vineyards. I’m not much of a white wine drinker but our lovely waiter recommended we tried a bottle of Beyra which was incredible, especially when sipped poolside!

Vila Monte was the perfect place to stay, the service we received throughout was fantastic, the staff were all genuinely helpful. I would highly recommend it to anyone looking for an escape to Portugal! It is a little oasis of calm away from the Algarve's touristy beach resorts. That being said, the beach is just 10 minutes away if you do fancy some sand, but the hotel has created a feeling of seclusion and total relaxation that you’ll never want to leave. 

Despite being fully booked while we were there, we never felt that we were in amongst a crowd and at times felt like we had the whole resort to ourselves. If you’re looking for a tranquil retreat in the sun with great food and wine, this is the place!

Vila Monte Farm House


*Cocktail Saturdays was a guest of Vila Monte Farm House. 

The Conrad Algarve

I've just returned from a lovely trip to the Algarve in Portugal. I was already familiar with the area having holidayed there since I was young but we have always stayed in large family villas rather than hotels. On this occasion it was just myself and a friend travelling so we wanted to stay in a secure hotel with everything we needed close-by. We decided on The Conrad in Quinta do Lago. 

The hotel is just a twenty minute journey by taxi from Faro airport. The car passed through fields of citrus trees - the Algarve produces the tastiest oranges - to the hotel’s large gates and long, fountain-lined drive up to the entrance. It’s an imposing hotel spread over six floors, with 154 rooms. The architectural theme is ice and fire. Brilliant white walls and flaming torches light up the entrance, like something out of a Bond film. It oozes grandeur and 5-star luxury.

Inside is just as glamorous. A large glass atrium floods the lobby with natural light. There are contemporary art works throughout with the hotel hosting exhibitions from international artists. The latest exhibition took the artist four days to install! 

The room was huge with a large private balcony. It had everything we could possibly need during our two day stay including a 42" HD flat screen television with in-room entertainment and media centre, mini-bar and Wi-Fi.

The bathroom was stunning, fitted with an inbuilt television over a large deep bath and a separate rain shower. Our only qualm was that there was no lock on the door which isn't ideal when you're sharing the room. 

Something that really impressed me was the Conrad Concierge mobile app which you can download to your phone. From selecting your preferred bath amenities or ordering your breakfast to be ready just as you arrive, you can customise your stay before and during your visit. If you’re looking for somewhere to be waited on hand and foot this is the place!

Source: The Conrad

There's a great range of restaurants and bars, from fine dining to more relaxed settings. Gusto, by Michelin-starred Chef Heinz Beck, is a contemporary Mediterranean restaurant with Scandinavian design. It features a Cuban Cigar menu, cocktail bar, extensive wine list as well as an alfresco terrace.

Louro offers Portuguese cuisine of local dishes. Dado is great for cocktails and a South American influenced menu. Lago Lounge is also worth a visit for drinks, offering everything from classic cocktails to Sri Lankan teas. We mostly opted for Sereno which offers light bites by the infinity pool, as well as the most delicious cocktails.

There are an array of pools some of which feature underwater music for guests. All have outstanding poolside service with fresh juices, water bottles in ice buckets and cold flannels arriving at your sun-lounger the moment you arrive.

If you fancy venturing beyond the hotel, the Quinta Shopping is opposite, a luxury, open-air shopping mall with more than 20 designer boutiques, cafes and restaurants as well as a supermarket for any home comforts you might have forgotten to pack. Also situated here are the world famous golf courses of Quinta do Lago.

If you want something further afield, the beautiful Algarve beaches are only a shuttle ride away (the Conrad puts on a complimentary shuttle service throughout the day). The Ria Formosa Natural Park is just a short journey as well as beautiful orange groves and quaint Portuguese fishing villages if you have a bit more time than we did to explore the local area. 

The most indulgent aspect of our stay was a trip to the spa. We both opted for the Reflexology treatment which was incredible. The therapists are brilliant and the treatment rooms are the perfect place to relax with the sound of waves surrounding you during treatments.

Each treatment room has an outdoor spa option with it's own private cabana. The outside relaxation terrace leads you to an infinity pool with beautiful views across the Algarvian countryside, it's the perfect place to catch some sun in-between treatments. The spa also has an ice fountain, cold plunge pool and sauna but we were happy basking ourselves in the Portuguese sun to want to deviate from the temperature. 

If you're looking for an indulgent few days of pampering and cocktails in the sunshine, this is the place!


Estrada da Quinta do Lago , 8135-106 Almancil, Portugal


Cocktail Saturdays was a guest of The Conrad although all food, drinks and spa treatments were paid for by ourselves.