The Cliff Bay Hotel
Tel: +351 291 707 700
Madeira is a beautiful island that beguiles you from the very start. A three-hour flight and a short cab drive and you can be at a table in the Michelin Starred Il Gallo d’Oro. Run by executive chef Benoit Sinthon it offers a tremendous magical culinary experience.
I was visiting Madeira to attend The Stars Route a yearly event gathering many Michelin starred chefs for a week of the finest food and wines. It culminated in a gala evening at Il Gallo d’Oro. The service is the first part of the experience, it was exemplary we were greeted with Champagne and canapiés in the Navigators room looking out over the ocean. After a while we were taken to our tables in the restaurant where more fizz was waiting.
This really was a celebration of Mediterranean food. I lost count of the Michelin starred chefs names on the menu. This collaboration was free of egos and was a great expression of camaraderie and teamwork.
Pickled mackerel in lemongrass jelly, ginger, watermelon, sangria and savora mustard ice cream set the bar very high. It was perfect to look at and a completely balanced plate of food. This was accompanied by a glass of Pommery Royal Brut Champagne.
A creamy, almost like baby food concoction of codfish a la ‘Olivier Barbarin’ (the chef) was also very good. Each chef’s personality was on show here, this was simple but full of comfort.
Miguel Laffen of L’AND restaurant near Lisbon who has just won his first Michelin Star made a big impression on me with his fabulous wild mushrooms in three textures. Decorated with colourful blue flowers and a hint of truffle it was perfect.
Fish from the coast, white asparagus morchella mushrooms and essence of black garlic had a simplicity that worked for me. The perfectly cooked fish was fresh and flavoursome. Served with Morgadio da Calcada reserve 2010 it slipped down very easily.
Chef Benoit Sinthon and his team came up trumps serving a tender steak adorned with truffles and a jus to die for augmented with a powerful Principle Grand reserve 2009. Serving the steak under a glass cloche added to the theatre of the evening. A tiny tray of perfectly formed vegetables sat on the side as the jus was passed over the meat. I really enjoyed this plate of food.
An egg in a chocolate shell was next up with a pretty basket handle. Created by Pascal Picasse the whole thing was edible and tasted wonderful, it sat on fresh fruit and coulis, cutting through the chocolate perfectly.
Barbequed bananas, mango jelly and a lime parfait concluded this gastronomic tour de force. This and a Blandy’s 10-year Madeira wine were the last on this tasting menu of tasting menus. Coffees and teas were enjoyed with some tasty little petit fours mading their way to each table as were clapped and cheered when each chef came out of the kitchen and took a bow, a splendid evening with outstanding food.
I’m not sure what the collective noun for a group of chefs is but may I suggest a ‘charisma’ of chefs. They beamed and sparkled in their limelight and rightly so. If you get a chance to go to Il Gallo d’Oro at the Bay Cliff Hotel in Funchal, Madeira don’t turn it down, it’s full of magicians.
To find out more about travelling to Madeira with TAP Portugal and Porto Bay Resort Hotels click below.
TAP Portugal flies from London Gatwick to Madeira daily from £153, return fare including taxes. For further information and to book visit
www.flytap.com or call 0845 601 0932.