Our regular readers will know that we love Portugal. We consider the Algarve our second home & have been visiting the region for 20 years. We recently went to see our parents out there & spent a joyful week swimming, making up silly pool games, going to beaches and eating. Lots of eating. Sally particularly loves the seafood. Becky likes the quality local meats, especially the Portuguese steak. After the bland ingredients we eat from the supermarket the local, traditional ingredients of the Algarve are intensely tasty. We love Portuguese Carrots in particular and this is one of our most popular recipes on the blog!
In fact if you are looking for great ingredients in the area they are not hard to find. The majority of the accommodation is self-catering so you may find yourself planning the odd bar b q. Lagos has an excellent fish & grocery market right on the seafront. The daily catch includes a massive range of fish & shellfish, too much to list here. Sardines are a local speciality. They are served year round but June & July are the best months to try them.
Lagos also has a weekly market on Saturdays. It is just next to the bus station & is a cook’s dream. Local people selling things they made or cultivated in their garden or foraged from the countryside. We came home with, the best bread ever (smoky from the wood fired oven), courgette flowers, a massive radish, wild flowers, beautiful potatoes & herbs. If we had more cash on us we would have also bought honeycombs, homemade chilli jam, several kilos of vegetables & a rabbit (good job we didn’t have much money).
We managed one bar b q & ate out most nights enjoying some old favourites and trying some new, impressive eateries. Service might take a little longer than at home but that is because most things are cooked fresh, to order. This doesn’t bother us as a couvert is usually offered. This is a sort of Portuguese antipasti. It always includes bread & butter, the most delicious bread we know. Some restaurants also serve some or all of the following, olives, cheeses, chorizo (sometimes flaming), marinated carrots & sardine pate. We recommend you take the couvert & sit back with a glass of something lovely while your beautiful meal is prepared.
Restaurants we would recommend include:
Agua Na Boca – Salema
This is a beautiful contemporary restaurant which feels a little more upmarket than many of the lovely homely Portuguese places, without making you feel like you should stand on ceremony. Most of the food we ate here was totally delicious. Sally had Mussels Fisherman Style from the specials menu. This was a simple dish of mussels with a thin tomato & onion sauce. It was polished off with fresh baked bread in no time at all. Becky had another dish from the specials of rack of lamb with mint sauce. The waiter checked to make sure it was cooked to her liking and it certainly was. The quality of the meat and the way it had been prepared and cooked was undeniable. Super soft little lamb lollipops served with steamed vegetables with a crunch and soft roasted potatoes. Delicious. The translation of the restaurant name is Mouth Watering… and it certainly was!
Don Sebastiao – Lagos
An old-fashioned, typically Portuguese restaurant with heavy wooden seats, a gorgeous courtyard upstairs and a fabulous wine cellar. The menu is interesting & varied. They have lots of traditional seafood & meat dishes & then some with a little extra. Sally had sea bass fillets with ground coriander served with sauteed vegetables, it was delicious. Becky had slow-cooked pork cheeks which were “yummers”.
The couvert was incredible, always a good sign. The best marinated carrots ever, wonderful olives & flaming chorizo, bit of a fire hazard but incredibly soft & tasty. Even though we were pretty full, in true glutton style we decided to indulge in dessert. There is something about chocolate mousse in Portugal which makes it different from others so we often have to order it. The mousse at Don Sebastiao was a good one, served with some lovely ice cream.
To finish the meal we were offered some lovely vintage port. This is par for the course in the Algarve, but this port was a cut above the norm. They served it with some almonds & dried figs from the garden of the owner’s mother. Honestly we were full to bursting but they were so good we left a table littered with cracked almond shells.
Cafe a Fabrica – Praia de Luz
This was the first time eating here for Becky & the second for Sally. The restaurant has only been open a couple of years but is going from strength to strength. It is situated near the beach in Praia de Luz in an old converted sardine factory. The owners are English which, to be honest would usually mean we would avoid the place. We like to eat Portuguese food in Portugal as we can’t do it anywhere else. However, the Fabrica has it all. There is always a bunch of Portuguese classics on the menu & then they have a range of dishes which really make the most of the beautiful local ingredients. The service is fantastic, they have great cocktails, couvert had hummus on it (Becky was very happy) & the desserts are fabulous, we will be returning.
Sally had a swordfish steak with salsa verde, sauteed potatoes, peas & broad beans. The fish was incredibly juicy & perfect & the accompaniments were really tasty. Becky had Portuguese steak. This is a steak cooked in garlic & white wine served with ham and potatoes. It is a serious treat for anyone who likes red meat and probably something we will share a recipe for soon. This is one of her faves & this one lived up to her high expectations, she was licking the plate. We should also say that if you are travelling with any vegetarians they will have a great meal here. There are a number of yummy veggie options on the menu. Veggie food is not really a thing in Portugal & many places just offer a vegetable gratin or an omelette which can get very boring over a week. Here our veggie had a number of options and chose a burger which went down very well.
Desserts are made by one of the partners and are a joy. There are some gluten free cakes and a range of tarts, ice creams and puddings. Sally really enjoyed the apricot frangipane tart with Greek yoghurt ice cream. Becky had their sticky toffee pudding. Let’s just say when the desserts were brought out things went very quiet at our table. No talking just ooooos, aaaaaahs and scraping of spoons on plates. A great night out.
O Tiago – Budens
We have been enjoying eating at this restaurant for almost 20 years. It is run by a lovely Portuguese family who lived in England for a while. They therefore speak excellent English & know how to make a pie. However, we do not go there for pie. They have a range of traditional regional dishes all freshly prepared by Stella, Tiago’s mum.
Our favourite is the starter of prawns in garlic, cream & brandy. They are served with the best local crusty bread to mop up the sauce with & it is the sort of dish you wish were twice the size. Frankly I could eat a pile of them as a main course & go home very happy. The star main course is a steak on a hot stone. Bex had a great time with this one. It arrives with a large piece of prime fillet starting to sizzle on the baking hot stone. Around this on a wooden platter are vegetables, onions, mushrooms ad tomatoes for you to cook alongside your steak to your liking. Becky eats hers rare and so was able to cook the steak exactly as she likes it, with a lovely bit of theatre to it all too. Sally decided to be true to glutton form & have more prawns, this time on a hot stone. They were lovely big tiger prawns sizzling & tasty with a garlic aioli.
Restaurante Castelejo – Praia de Castelejo
We honestly can’t vouch for much of the food here but there is one thing we do know – Bifana. These are sandwiches of thin pork steaks, rubbed with garlic & fried. They are delicious & we always make sure to have one or two. This place might not have the best ones ever but they do have the best beach. It is wild & beautiful. The South West corner of Portugal is well worth a visit for gorgeous scenery & the most incredible beaches. We usually go for the day & we have the same lunch at the restaurant every time, Bifana & chips. They do have an extensive menu of seafood & snacks but we have never tried anything else as we always crave those pork sandwiches.
by Sally & Becky