Quinta da Cebola Vermelha

Boliqueime, Algarve, Portugal Book from

Reviewed by Tom Bell
A restored farmhouse of Provençal inspiration with a shimmering pool and a sun-trap terrace, a short drive from a 5-mile beach
First and foremost this is a steal, but it’s not only the price that’s attractive; 'Red Onion Farm' is a delight from top to toe. Dutch run, warmly welcoming and quietly stylish - a country house in the sun. Orange, lemon and olive trees are scattered among beds of lavender in the well-kept garden. Step into a cool sitting room and find French windows that draw you out onto a bamboo-shaded terrace. Stop here for meals or follow a path down to a saltwater pool. You'll find a big terrace, cushioned benches and candle lanterns.

Back inside, a fire burns in winter, family portraits hang in an alcove and generously priced local wine waits at the honesty bar. Rooms are nicely simple, cooled by thick walls, with terracotta floors and shuttered windows. Some are big, some are smaller (but not small). You get crisp linen, rattan armchairs, underfloor heating and rafters painted white. Vibrant art by owners Ard and Noor adds colour; arched windows overlook the garden. The beach is close, as is golf at Vilamoura. You're in the middle of the Algarve, so whizz along the motorway and explore it all.

Highs

  • This is a very pretty house with a terrifically seductive price; a winning combination
  • The garden is beautiful, and the pool terrace has sun loungers and rush parasols
  • This is a family affair: Ard cooks delicious dinners, and his wife Noor makes you feel very much at home
  • You’re in the middle of the Algarve and can zip about with extreme ease
  • Praia Felica (3 miles away) has 5 miles of sand, plus sunbeds and superb swimming or sailing

Lows

  • Only one of the bedrooms has its own terrace, but there's plenty of space for lounging in the garden and by the pool
  • The bathrooms are fine, but don’t expect cutting-edge design
  • Double beds tend to be 2 singles pushed together

Best time to go

July and August can get extremely hot. Spring flowers bloom in April and May, and the sea is warm till September or October. Winter is a possibility as there's heating at the quinta, but don't expect to swim.

Our top tips

This would be a perfect retreat for a small group - book 5 rooms or more and you get the run of the house to yourselves.

Great for...

Beach
Cheap & Chic
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 7
  • Breakfast (+ other meals by arrangement)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Heated Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Bicycles Available
  • Table football
Room: Double Room

Rooms

The house was rebuilt from farmhouse ruins in the late 90s and retains the feel of a traditional quinta, with uncluttered décor, colour-washed walls, terracotta-tiled floors and shuttered windows.

We found the rooms to be simple, spotless and stylish - and irresistibly priced. All are similar, but all are different. Beds are dressed in pale blankets, Ard’s colourful art hangs on the walls, intricate Moroccan lanterns are dotted around, and there are rattan armchairs and good storage. The scent of lavender lingers in the air, and ceilings are open to the rafters and painted white; fling open the shutters and the rooms flood with light. Air-conditioning and under-floor heating keep the interiors cool in summer and cosy in winter.

Most of the rooms are in the main house, and the 2 at either end are the largest (one of these has a sofa, the other has steps up to a loft sitting room). There are also 2 Suites with space for 2 rollaway beds - one of these, where we stayed, is located in a separate building and has an airy bedroom, a sitting area with blue-and-white-striped sofas, a basic kitchenette with a microwave, stove and pans, and a shaded terrace. This is also the only room with a TV and DVD player (a few films are provided).

Tiled bathrooms - one of them with saloon-bar swing doors - are prettily tiled. Most have showers, 2 have baths, and all suffice. Sea shells are artfully arranged on folded towels, providing a nice decorative touch.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Phone
  • Terrace
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

A man could get fat at the quinta. Breakfast is served on the shaded terrace from 8.30am-11am - whatever you want is brought to your table, and Ard and Noor have a knack of anticipating your needs without being intrusive. Cheese is cut to order, and you get baskets of white and brown bread, croissants, Portuguese pastries, and jams made with fruit from the garden. There’s coffee and tea, yoghurts and fruit, an egg if you want one, and freshly-squeezed juice from a neighbour's oranges. In winter, if the weather’s cold, you eat inside, warmed by a smouldering fire.

Light lunches can be prepared: sandwiches and salads, that sort of thing, whatever’s fresh and in the fridge; there’s always something, and you won’t go hungry.

A fixed 3-course dinner is available 3 nights a week (Tue, Thu, Sat - book before noon). Ard whisks it all up - both he and Noor are passionate foodies and use local ingredients wherever possible. We feasted on juicy prawns with just-baked bread, followed by a gourmet twist on Caesar salad (one of the tastiest salads we’ve ever tried) and delicately grilled sea bass. Dessert was a delicious tiramisu. There’s a good wine list to choose from too.

If you want to eat out head to O Retiro in Boliqueime for seafood, try Paixanito in Loulé for tapas, or pop down to A Sardinha on Praia Dos Arrifes beach to dig into excellent fish by the sea. If you want something really special, visit the 2 Michelin-starred Vila Joya or gourmet winery Veneza. If you're stuck, Ard and Noor give excellent and honest restaurant recommendations.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Dinner by arrangement
  • Lunch by arrangement
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • You can head east or west in search of beaches. Praia Felica is the closest (about 5km away) - you’ll find 8km of sand, with sun beds and parasols for hire, restaurants and bars. You can charter catamarans at Marina Vilamoura and sail along the coast. The bars stay open at night and DJs play, so if you want some nightlife, you’ll find it

  • Golf freaks will be heaven. Vilamoura and Quinta de Lago are both close; Vilamoura is a 10-minute drive and you can also play tennis there

  • You’re bang in the middle of the Algarve and nowhere is more than an hour’s drive. Head west to Lagos, a pretty town worth exploring, and to Sagres - an important seafaring town in the days of the Portuguese empire (the town’s eponymous beer is the best in the land). Head east to Tavira, the prettiest town on the Algarve (with a Roman bridge, waterfront cafés and bars, and a Saturday market), and to the castle at historic Loulé

  • Venture up into the mountains to the old spa town of Monchique

  • Spain is 60km east and fabulous Seville is 2 hours away by car

  • Head into the hills and try your hand at horse riding, mountain biking and Jeep safaris; all can be arranged

  • Alternatively, just potter round the small villages. They’re pretty much untouched and you can often find surprisingly good restaurants. Portuguese food is incredibly good, much better than many think, and so is the local wine

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Nightlife
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Traditional cultures

Kids

Children are welcome, although this isn't a hotel full of kids and the prevailing ambiance is peaceful.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The 2 Suites can each accommodate 2 additional beds and a baby cot. One of these rooms also has a TV, a DVD player and a basic kitchenette, which families will find useful.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly: Family Room

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
10/
Food
10/
Service
10/
Value
10/
Overall

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