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From the Garden to the Table: PortoBay’s new culinary concept



PortoBay is preparing to open HORTA in June, the new Group restaurant in Funchal. The concept is comfort food and healthy cuisine, with a perfect balance between the pleasure of good food and enjoying healthy, innovative dishes with surprising flavours.

This new eatery complements PortoBay’s culinary offer on the island of Madeira. It adds comfort food and healthy cuisine to the concepts of Italian, Haute Cuisine, Mediterranean and Asian, and the growing trend towards a more nutritious, seasonal and balanced diet.

We had a conversation with the three Chefs who are part of this new project: Benoît Sinthon (Executive Chef at The Cliff Bay and Il Gallo d'Oro, with two Michelin stars), responsible for developing the concept, Alcino Marques (Executive Chef at Vila Porto Mare), responsible for operations and Santiago Anolles, who will be in charge of the daily management of the Horta restaurant kitchen.


IN: How did the concept of the Horta restaurant come about and the desire to move to cooking "from the kitchen garden to the table"?

Benoît Sinthon: This is a current trend, which intensified during the pandemic. During that period, people had time to cook at home and look for good products. Some even created small gardens in their homes, in order to eat in a healthier and more balanced way. At the PortoBay group, we are fortunate to have had our vegetable garden since 2016, which has brought out the need and desire to address this aspect in PortoBay’s cuisine.


IN: What is the influence of the PortoBay kitchen garden in the creation of this restaurant?


BS: We’ve been successful with our experiments. We realised that our vegetable garden was producing a good quantity of crops and varieties, which enabled us to go further, increasing the number of products planted, to broaden the range of ingredients that we deliver to our restaurants.
The new Horta restaurant will be one of the great beneficiaries of this variety of fresh and sustainable vegetables. We also carefully select other organic suppliers and farmers who favour seasonal and local ingredients.


IN: How far did the Green Star awarded to Il Gallo d’Oro help this project?


BS: The Green Star is the Michelin Guide’s way of recognising sustainable cuisine. When the Il Gallo d’Oro restaurant was awarded the Green Star two years ago, we saw it as an incentive to reaffirm our commitment to this type of healthier cuisine, which is rich in flavours and treats vegetables in a distinctive way.
I was lucky enough to work with vegetables from an early age in the restaurants I worked at in Nice and Monaco. From this experience, I learned many culinary techniques applied to vegetables, and nowadays it's great to see that it's something that has been expanding around the world.


IN: How would you describe the type of cuisine at the Horta restaurant?


Santiago Anolles: The Horta is not a vegetarian or a vegan restaurant. The stars on our menu are in fact vegetables, but we also have meat, fish and seafood dishes.
We make a difference because, unlike what normally happens, we give priority to vegetables and put them at the centre of our creations, not just as an accompaniment.


BS: Taking the example of asparagus; we will apply different techniques to it, cook it in a Josper oven, serve it raw, laminated and marinated, grilled, in a sauce, etc. We showcase vegetables, an ingredient which was for a long time looked on as something that was tasteless and dull, which was only steamed or boiled in salted water.


IN: How does the Horta stand out from the crowd?


SA: The value we put on vegetables is what most differentiates us, something that’s not common in Madeira and that’s still rarely seen in the rest of the world. It's a sustainable cuisine, because we use every part of the vegetable, we don't throw anything away.
Finally, we have a young, creative team that makes a difference.


BS: It’s pure, modern, comfort and healthy cuisine. Healthy in the sense that it’s nutritious, balanced and comfort food. We give primacy to vegetables, but also serve meat, fish and seafood. We mustn’t confuse healthy food with dieting or slimming.


IN: What can customers expect?

SA: Good, healthy food, full of flavour. Even if you choose a dish without animal protein, you will certainly feel satisfied.


BS: I think our customers will be surprised by the flavours and combinations!


AM: A good experience, tasty and hearty dishes.


IN: How did Chef Santiago become involved in this project?


BS: I travel a lot in search of different cuisines, flavours, techniques... Last year, when I was in Madrid, I went for lunch at El Invernadero, a vegetarian restaurant with 1 Michelin Star and a Green Star. At the end of the meal, while chatting with the chef about the new project we were exploring, I was introduced to Chef Santiago Anolles and he quickly expressed an interest in working with PortoBay.
Santiago has good qualities - he’s intelligent, calm, professional and exacting - qualities that both Alcino and I appreciate, that are important for the role he will play.


IN: And the team that will be working with Chef Santiago, how was that chosen?


Alcino Marques: It was a very carefully handled process, as we had to find people with some prior knowledge and interest in this type of cooking. We want to provide a good experience for people who visit us, and for that, we need people who are on board with the concept.

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