“A sybaritic oceanside retreat with a state-of-the-art spa and one of the country's finest restaurants”
Vila Joya's 21 rooms and suites fan out east and west from the main sitting room, bar and dining room, parallel to the sweep of emerald green lawn and the ocean. Each one is a preened and pampering sleeping space whose outstanding feature is a heart-stopping view out to the Atlantic (apart from the Coachmen's Room which is the only one without a sea view).
Most of the rooms are in the main house, and all benefit from either a balcony or terrace with loungers. Deluxe Terrace Room 16 has the benefit of a larger terrace with twin sun beds and French windows facing both south and west. But we have no problem in recommending any of the rooms or suites, all unique and welcoming, from the smaller Double Rooms to the Deluxe Terrace Rooms and Deluxe Royal Suites.
In the annexe, next to the Joy Jung Spa, are a further 3 cavernous suites; Junior Suite Maresia, Royal Suite Joia - with its private Jacuzzi - and Master Deluxe Royal Suite Alegria, the largest room in the hotel, which measures in at an extraordinary 200sq.m and not only has a private garden, but a private pool as well.
The decorative style has a big hint of plush boudoir coupled with a dash of spice from India or Japan, the latter being most in evidence in the annexe rooms. All rooms are carpeted in a soft, creamy tone and their enormous beds are banked up with brightly coloured cushions and bolsters for you to lay back with the windows thrown open, listening to the sound of the ocean. There are big fitted wardrobes, oriental dressers and bedside tables topped with huge vases.
Bathrooms are just as swish with richly coloured tiles covering every last inch of floors, walls and ceilings, and enormous vanity mirrors upping the sense of space: colour schemes vary from room to room. Expect a pile of fluffy white towels and flannels, extra pool towels, a spa robe and slippers.
The brightest jewel in Vila Joya’s crown is its restaurant. The force majeure guiding it to the top of the pantheon of Portuguese restaurants has been Austrian super-chef Dieter Koschina, who has been in residence since the early '90s. Originally an adept of the French school of cookery, since arriving on the Algarve he has perfected his highly imaginative, exquisitely good-looking cuisine, which looks to all that is local, especially the Sagres fish market, for its touchstone.
You dine in the glass-fronted, vaulted restaurant or, when the weather permits, on the ocean-facing terrace: there can be few settings more romantic than this. At lunch you choose between a 3-course tasting menu or dining à la carte whilst dinners take the form of a 5-course menu. On Wednesday night a less elaborate 'rustic' menu is on offer, this perhaps bearing in mind that Thursday's dinner is an 8-course dégustation. Food is accompanied by a sommelier, who is there to help in your choice of wine and talk you through each of Koschina's creations.
We lucked out and coincided with the Thursday tasting extravaganza and had one of our best-ever meals. After amazing amuse-bouches, our dinner included a frog's legs served on potato 'snow', turbot in a herb sauce with goose barnacles, saddle of hare served with a hazelnut crêpe filled with blueberry and cêpes, lychee soup served with a rose petal sorbet. Our sommelier recommended a Douro reserva followed by a 2002 Gewürztraminer, next a 2001 Alentejo reserva and finally vintage Pommery champagne - all, of course, a perfect match.
The breakfast buffet was a match for any that we've come across. Help yourself from a vast buffet that includes smoked salmon, cheeses and cold cuts, a dozen different fruit platters, cereals and Bircher muesli, half a dozen different types of bread and the same number of juices.
Every meal at Vila Joya has the feel of a special event and the combination of Koschina's cuisine and that unforgettable oceanside terrace make for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience.
Children are welcome at Vila Joya, but there is a grown up vibe and the focus on sophisticated dining and spa treatments means this doesn't feel like the best place in the world for kids.
Babies (0-1 years)
All rooms can fit a baby cot and most can fit an extra bed too. The Coachmen's Room can connect with the Deluxe Royal Suite 1001; the Junior Suite Maresia can connect with the Royal Suite Joia.
Babysitting available by arrangement.
Baby cots and highchairs are available on request.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Menus can be adapted to suit children with advanced notice.
Parents with kids of toddling age should be aware that there are lots of steps leading up and down through the gardens.