The word Quinta in Portuguese means a piece of land to farm on or a rustic property, however these days, in Portugal and Madeira, a Quinta means luxury colonial manor house. The added bonus for me is, Quinta do Furao on Madeira’s north east coast, also happens to be a pretty productive vineyard, so pretty much a win win scenario all round.
Perched right on the cliff top just a stone’s throw from the town of Santana, Quinta do Furao is perfect for me on so many levels. The views along the coast are stunning of course; the Atlantic Ocean an ever present companion against the rugged coastal bluffs. Far from feeling isolated, I feel a sense of freedom here, wandering an estate full of colourful Birds of Paradise and many more tropical birds of the natural wildlife variety.
The main house oozes character and charm with an authentic rustic tone without losing its luxury trappings; a fabulously large lounge with couches and overstuffed armchairs and a fireplace for those colder winter nights. The outside terrace is a sun trap and a perfect spot to sit under a shady umbrella and sip a Portuguese galao coffee or possibly a glass or two of Madeira wine. Just next door is an excellent heated pool and spa area which can be classed indoor/outdoor as the roof slides back in summer. There’s a whirlpool, sauna and small gym here and a full menu of spa therapies available which need to be booked in advance.
Upstairs, the 43 bedrooms are generous eco friendly spaces that perfectly blend traditional hospitality with all the modern needs of today’s luxury traveller; wide comfy beds with crisp linen, high end toiletries, wifi, tea and coffee, and in many, a balcony offering that unforgettable view of the ocean and the mountains. There are also two additional cottages on the estate offering 2 bedrooms, wifi, living room and cable TV.
Back downstairs off the lounge is the breakfast room, a place full of wonderment. Locally sourced foods abound; fresh pastel de nata (Portugal’s famous custard tart) cheese, honey, jams and a delicious local crusty bread called bolo do caco into which the Madeiran’s pour copious amounts of garlic butter. Then there is the tea counter. A table top of filled tins of various fresh teas, tea strainers, filters and teapots; more than enough machinery to ensure you get a perfect brew of your favourite blend. It’s a breakfast fit for a king, quite enough to keep you fuelled for a day hiking Madeira’s famous levadas, or exploring the island’s mountainous centre.
After all this activity, there is the added incentive of dinner at Quinta do Furao’s restaurant to look forward to, yet another culinary adventure. It is in a different building adjacent to the Quinta’s rustic pub and wine cellar where wine tasting is an almost mandatory past time. The restaurant simply oozes homespun charm and the menu a celebration of Madeiran cuisine with most of the ingredients sourced locally. That said, the presentation is far from homespun and the glorious views along the coast from the outdoor dining area is worthy of a Michelin star for ambiance alone.
Jose the maitre’d steers me towards a front row window table and provides the perfect welcome gift; a pre dinner glass of Madeira.
“Are you happy to allow chef to serve you his suggestions?” asks Jose as he plonks down a basket of local Santana bread made with sweet potato and some garlic butter on the side.
” Thank you. For the wine, tomorrow night I’ll tempt you with one of our Madeiran reds which historically has been disappointing, but now I think is worth a taste. In the meantime, I’d like you try this from the Douro Valley.”
And try it I do. Quite a few times.
Chef’s suggestions turn out to be very tasty indeed. A starter of local cheese roasted in a pastry parcel was followed by one of Madeira’s specialities Espetada, tender cuts of steak rolled in garlic and salt, skewered on a bay leaf stick and roasted over hot coals and served on a hanging rack with fresh salad.
I could add that the dessert of hot apple pie and Madeira wine ice cream might seem a little ordinary but served with a small glass of 10 year old Madeira dessert wine proves to be a perfect combination.
Chefs suggestions aside, there is a surprisingly varied menu of very creative dishes which for example includes a mainland gravlax starter which has been home marinaded, almond breaded Scabbard fish (another island delicacy) on a bed of chutney and vegetable mousse, or chicken breast stuffed with pumpkin and cheese and wrapped in spinach.
I don’t have Jose entirely to myself. A large group of Austrian walkers have just finished their meal and their holiday and are presenting him with a gift from them all for looking after them so well.
It is that kind of place. A home from home almost.
Walking back to the main house, I can really sense the attraction here. You really are out of town although Santana is just 1k away, it feels a million miles. The ocean, the night creatures, the quiet.
It is really, a perfect setting.
This part of Madeira is a delightful contrast to the capital Funchal and it would be an ideal scenario to experience both to make a holiday here truly memorable.
Meanwhile, I spot Jose on his way back to my table with another glass of something. You really can’t have too much of a good thing.
Tell me more about Quinta do Furao
Quinta do Furao is 1k outside Santana on the north east coast of Madeira, some 40 minutes drive from Funchal.
Rooms are from €120 per night including breakfast.
Restaurant dinners are from €25 for three courses.
Monarch operates regular flights to Funchal from Gatwick as do many low cost carriers.
Gatwick Express, the non-stop rail-air service between Victoria station and Gatwick Airport, departs every 15 minutes with a journey time of 30 minutes. Gatwick Express is the fastest and best way to travel between central London and Gatwick Airport with return tickets starting from £27.40. With an ongoing 10% discount, it is always cheaper to buy your ticket online at www.gatwickexpress.com