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Benoît Sinthon
Article added on April 12, 2012

A vegetarian dinner at Il Gallo d'Oro
Tested on March 26, 2012
Since 2009, the one-Michelin-star gourmet restaurant at The Cliff Bay hotel in Funchal, Il Gallo d'Oro, features a special menu with vegetarian dishes. I was offered a French Pommery Champagne as an aperitif, but opted instead for a Portuguese sparkling wine, a Murganheira Brut Reserva 2005 from the Távora-Varosa region. The Portuguese still have to catch up with the French when it comes to wine.

From the six types of bread rolls offered, I just chose one with raisins and nuts, served together with butter and olive tapenade. Incidentally, the cook for my dinner was sous-chef Antonio Nascimento (*1983); I guess when chef Benoît Sinthon himself is in the kitchen, the Michelin-star shines a bit brighter.

The vegetarian amuse-bouche was a tomato gaspacho jelly, presented together with chick peas, black olives and herbs. A light introduction.

My first dish consisted of green asparagus spears, confit tomato and mushrooms. The presentation was elegant, the taste irreproachable, just the size of the dish, as throughout the entire dinner, was a bit small for my taste. The asparagus plate was served together with a glass of Vinho Verde 2011 with 100% Alvarinho grapes, made by João António Cerdeira. It had a strong minerality and an accentuated, exotic fruit taste of mango and passion fruit.

My next course, a Lasagne with roasted vegetables, made of Mozzarella di Bufala, served with a reduction of balsamic vinegar, was a good combination of flavors. It was served together with yellow, edible flowers, which gave the dish a special twist. I tasted it with a glass of white Azéo 2008, made of Viosinho and Rabigato grapes, by the winemaker João Brito e Cunha from the Douro region; a fruity (figs and melon) wine with a longer taste and a nice mineral side. It's alcohol level was 13.5%. Portugal is a sunny place.

Before my third course, I had a pleasant kiwi sorbet as an interlude. Than came my wild mushroom risotto with green asparagus, thinly sliced parmesan and edible flowers, accompanied by a Tiara 2009 by the winemaker Dirk Niepoort, a white wine which is composed of grapes from a very old vineyard in the Douro region. It had a strong acidity to cut the fatness of the risotto, a wet stone mineral character, a certain freshness and a taste of green apples and citrus notes.

As a pre-dessert, the chef offered me a lemon and mango parfait (I tasted vanilla, but was corrected by the waitress), served with a raspberry sauce and some chocolate.

In the end, I finally tasted a glass of the excellent Pommery Brut made of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. An brilliant passion fruit cake followed, served together with a light vanilla cream, small balls of fresh mango and papaya and some strong mint leaves. The pastry chef Yves Michoux from Paris is a man not to forget!

Valrhona Tainori chocolate, a couscous of Brazilian coconut tapioca, pineapple sorbet, banana and lime followed in the end. A fine dinner, just some courses were on the small side. Last but not least to mention is an Alexandria green tea, scented with mint and vanilla, by TWG Tea company.

The concept or kitchen philosophy at Il Gallo d'Oro at The Cliff Bay hotel in Funchal

Il Gallo d'Oro at The Cliff Bay hotel in Madeira initially started as an Italian restaurant, hence its name. Since the French chef Benoît Sinthon was appointed at its head in 2004, it combined a French approach with local and mainly Mediterranean ingredients. In 2008, ll Gallo d'Oro became Madeira's first and so far still only restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star. In 2011, it received the Award of Excellence by the Wine Spectator Magazine for its cellar with some 260 Portuguese wines, so far only one of four restaurants in the whole of Portugal to have received this distinction. Among the rare wines are some Madeiran bottles from the 1920s.

At Il Gallo d'Oro, seven chefs are at work any time, with the entire team consisting of thirteen chefs, not included the cooks who do additional preparatory work. Notable is the pastry chef Yves Michoux from Paris.

Among the local food that chef Benoît Sinthon appreciates are seafood and a version of couscous, long ago established on the island. From the nearby Jardim da Esmeralda, the hotel orders daily fresh and eatable flowers. Local fish includes coastline fish such as the Parot fish as well as the Black scabbard fish. Among the local fruit to mention are a passion fruit, which is darker and more intense on Madeira than elsewhere, bananas, mangos, tomarillos (a dark orange fruit, which is black inside). Vegetables come from the northern coast of Madeira. Some ingredients are imported from the Portuguese mainland, e.g. the Carabinero, a red scarlet shrimp from the Algarve, as well as the olive oil from the Alentejo region and lobster from the Portuguese coastline.

Ingredients from Madeira also include wild mushrooms such as Calheta, biological eggs, pumpkins and chestnuts, which are sweeter and bigger than elsewhere in Madeira thanks to the micro-climate in a valley called Curral das Freiras, which looks like a deep volcano crater, but was actually formed by massive erosion; the asparagus come from mainland Portugal. Santana, a bread with sweet potatoes, is also from Madeira. Truffles come from Italy and France, notably from L'Arbre à Truffe d'Antoine Khoury in Vence. Foie gras is imported from France.

Benoît Sinthon is always looking for the best ingredients available. Running a gourmet restaurant on an island means importing some goods by plane to be used the same evening.

Another dish at The Cliff Bay's gourmet restaurant is the black Iberian pig, more precisely its Portuguese sub-species, the Alentejo black pig, which has a softer and sweeter meat, because the animal eats mainly acorns.

The chef does not offer fusion cuisine, but his own creations with a hint of French classicism. He retouches traditional dishes his own way, for instance the codfish with egg, chickpeas and a crust of bread.

The à la carte menu changes twice a year, with subtle changes according to the season. In addition, daily menus are available. The chef himself goes once a week to the market to find out what will be the best ingredients available during the coming week in order to compose his daily dishes.

Since 2010, The Cliff Bay is part of La Rota das Estrelas / The Stars Route. Once a year, a series of famous Michelin-starred chefs are invited to the hotel to demonstrate their culinary skills. In 2012, La Rota das Estrelas includes culinary events in eight restaurants all around Portugal, where Portuguese and foreign chefs are invited. The event at Il Gallo d'Oro took place in mid-march.

On Saturdays, Il Gallo d'Oro offers a dinner dance with live music from the 1960s and 1970s.

Biography of chef Benoît Sinthon

The French chef Benôit Sinthon was born in 1972 in Gardanne, France. He was inspired by his Italian grandmother to became a chef. She used to take him to the Vieux Port of Marseille to teach him about fresh fish.

After his apprenticeship in the hotel school from 1988 until 1991 (GAP), he received further kitchen training at the Glion Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland. In 1991, his first job as a commis de cuisine was at the gastronomic restaurant Lani Cuisiniers in Aix-en-Provence, which was rated 15/20 by Gault & Millau. At the end of 1991, he moved as demi-chef de partie tournant to the gastronomic restaurant La Rotonde in Aix-en-Provence. After four months as sous-chef in the gastronomic restaurant Les Trois Forts at the Sofitel in Marseille, he moved as chef de partie to the Relais & Châteaux Rochegude restaurant, which had a Michelin star. He stayed there from march 1993 until January 1994. In September 1994, Benoît Sinthon was appointed deputy head chef at the restaurant Les Faunes at Reid's Palace on the island of Madeira, where he worked until October 1996.

In the French city of Joigny from November 1996 until March 1998, he was chef de partie tournant at the Relais & Châteaux La Côte Saint Jacques under its three-Michelin-star chef
Jean Michel Lorain.

From April 1998 until June 1999, Benoît Sinthon was deputy head chef at the gastronomic restaurant Fleur de Lys in Madeira's Hotel Savoy.

Benoît Sinthon's first job as executive chef came from August 1999 until July 2004 at the only Madeiran Relais & Châteaux,
Casa Velha, for which, since 2007 until today (2012), he has been working as consulting chef.

Since August 2004, Benôit Sinthon is the executive chef at Cliff Bay hotel in Funchal, Madeira. He is responsible for 4 restaurants and 30 cooks. On October 19, 2007 he became a proud member of the Disciples Auguste Escoffier. Since November 19, 2008 his gastronomic restaurant at the Cliff Bay, Il Gallo d'Oro, has been rated with a Michelin star.

He has first worked in Madeira at Reid's Palace in 1994 and returned to the island in 1998, first to work at the Savoy Hotel, then at Casa Velha do Palheiro. In 22004, he took over the position of Executive Chef at The Cliff Bay. In 2008, ll Gallo d'Oro became Madeira's first restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star.

Added on August 8, 2012: The restaurant Il Gallo d'Oro has been renovated in 2012 after my visit. This is a new photograph. Photos © The Cliff Bay / Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts.

The French chef Benôit Sinthon. Photos © The Cliff Bay / Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts.

A dinner on the terrace of Il Gallo d'Oro. Photos © The Cliff Bay / Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts.

Added on August 8, 2012: The restaurant Il Gallo d'Oro has been renovated in 2012 after my visit. This is a brand new photograph. Photos © The Cliff Bay / Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts.

Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
Français Politique Histoire Arts Film Musique Artdevivre Voyages

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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.