Food & Restaurants

THE 7 BEST PORTUGUESE DISHES

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The gastronomy of Carvoeiro is typical of much of the coastal resorts along the Algarve. The mainstay of the local cuisine is fish and sea food as it is fresh and readily available.
A mix of fish and / or sea food cooked in the traditional cataplana with fresh herbs, garlic, chouriço, maybe tomatoes, peppers and a splash of wine served with fresh bread – delicious! Sardines, freshly grilled on the barbecue, served with boiled potatoes; a tasty ox tail (rabo de boi) stew and various bean stews (feijoada) are all likely to be on the menu.

As Carvoeiro is also a very popular tourist resort there will be plenty of dishes that are more familiar as well.

The Lagoa area is well known across the Algarve for the wines it produces, so you can have a local wine to accompany your meal.

Desserts (sobremesas) are more often than not based around almonds, figs and eggs – in a variety of guises – egg custards, light and moist sponge cakes, fancy shaped marzipan sweets or fig ‘cheeses’ (fig cakes shaped like small, round cheeses).

Carvoeiro has a huge number of restaurants, bars, cafés and take-aways offering all types of cuisine. Whether you want a snack at lunchtime or a nice relaxing dinner after a hard day on the beach, you won’t have to look far to find somewhere! With the centre of Carvoeiro being quite compact you don’t have to walk far to see what’s on offer before choosing but do remember to look along some of the smaller side streets, there really are restaurants around every corner! Carvoeiro is a very family orientated resort so there will be plenty for youngsters to choose from and they are always made very welcome at Algarve restaurants.

Pasties de nata Portuguese custard tarts

Pastel de Nata

Portuguese vanilla cake. The pastel de nata is one of the most famous Portuguese confectionery.

The original recipe for the little tartlets with vanilla cream is probably the best kept secrets in Portugal. Currently only three people know the ingredients of the Pastel de Belém.

Because only then may a Pastel de Nata call, if it contains the ingredients of the original recipe. Were invented Pastéis Belém probably two nuns in the monastery of St. Jerome, which is located in the suburb of Belém in Lisbon and now a UNESCO heritage site.

The Pastéis de Belém were baked for a long time behind the monastery walls and sold to the population and were soon famous and popular. A revolution in the early 19th Century were forbidden to the monastery, the continued manufacture and sale.

O Barradas
(282 443 308)
In very pleasant surroundings, sophisticated, yet informal, the cooking and in particular, the wines are predominantly from Northern Portugal.Choose any of the Lamb dishes, Veal steaks or, the jewel in the crown, an enormous Veal chop that is to die for. Forget about chips, but have their special sauté potatoes with onions. Skip starters and enjoy lots of beautiful little bits in the “couvert” which are sufficient to set you up and allow room for a mouth-watering dessert menu offering a number of flambéed choices.A couple of Vegetarian pasta dishes as well as some fish options are available.We’d suggest you get help from Luis, the owner with your wine choice. He has a fanatic love of his Douro collection and won’t necessarily force you to select the incredibly expensive wines that he does have on offer and will “allow” you to drink if you really have a fat wallet.Definitely a special evening out, its one of the more expensive restaurants in the Algarve, but worth every Euro.

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Happys
(282 357 692)
Go here for a “different” evening. Libbre, your Dutch host creates a party atmosphere in this very small restaurant which is always fully booked throughout the season. Specialities are their hanging kebabs, and “fish and chips” like no other. Vegetarian option available, but that’s not why we go there.

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La Bella Vita
(282 358 556)
A beautifully redecorated Italian/International style restaurant adjacent to the reception area at Club Atlantico. High on our list for special occasions, but not too expensive for a good evening out either.

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Rei Das Praias
(282 461 006)
Set right on Caneiros Beach, Rei Das Praias looks more like a cafe, but has an absolutely splendid setting, and grills some fresh fish that is truly excellent. It’s expensive for what you get, but an experience worth booking days in advance for. There is one Vegetarian option that was frankly not very inspiring.

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Maximes
(282 357 852)
Half way up “Restaurant Hill” on the left, serves large plates of highly decorative food that’s also very tasty. Special care is given to the small selection of Vegetarian options.

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Villa Medici
(282 358 017)
Another popular and good quality Italian restaurant on the right hand side near the top of “Restaurant Hill”

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Casa Velha do Pescador
(913 672 887)
This Portuguese restaurant breaks the mould of tourist restaurants described below. Found up the hill just past Benagil beach on the right hand side near the top of the hill, where there are two adjacent restaurants. Casa Velha do Pescador is the lower of the pair, it’s very nicely decorated, the menu is a bit more expensive than Restaurant Hill, but we noticed many Portuguese families eating here, and above all, we enjoyed the presentation of the food and the creative vegetarian options so absent in many other Portuguese establishments.

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Elliotts
(282 356 096)
Newly established in 2007 in the delightful Monte Carvoeiro square, this restaurant has a bit of a hit and miss history. However, when it’s a hit, the food is rather splendid. Your hosts make that extra effort to welcome you and walk you through the menu, the cooking, the food and match the delivery to your tastes and desires. Some spectacular reviews by friends and visitors, but we’ve also experienced the occasional average meal.

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The Village Inn
(282 412 036)
This is not easy to find in the little town of Mexilhoeira da Carragação, but they advertise in Free Map with good instructions to a small cosy restaurant that’s worth the effort. From the beginning of the meal with some of the more unusual Couvert in the area, through imaginative meat and vegetarian dishes, the food is always faultless. This was the first and only veggie friendly restaurant for miles when we first started going to Carvoeiro in 1999, and they are still popular and full, so book before you make the journey.

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Portuguese eating I Some of the tourist places

 

Good old Portuguese meal

There are quite a large number of simple traditional Portuguese restaurants in the main town, particularly up “Restaurant Hill”. We find them all very similar in terms of the menu with grilled fresh fish of the day as top choice. Or you can try grilled lamb chops by the plateful, steaks with various sauces or the specialities of Chicken piri-piri or Cataplana (fish stew in a cauldron – usually for 2 persons).The other thing they all have in common is the typically informal, friendly service from the waiting staff, but we cannot help feeling that they have adapted readily over the past few years to the burgeoning North European tourist influx. This becomes apparent in the prices, which have risen noticeably, the inclusion of special children’s menu (fish fingers, burgers, pizza), and sadly, the feeling of conveyor belt cooking.Here are just a few:
A Galé
(282 357 330)
Probably the best cooking amongst its ilk on “Restaurant Hill”. This tiny establishment about half way up on the right, is always packed to the gills, and booking is a very good idea. Usual fare of grilled fish, pork and lamb, but their chips are truly special! There are a couple of vegetarian options – enjoyable, but not quite up to the standard of the rest of the menu.

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Casa Algarvia
(282 357 604)
Towards the top of Restaurant Hill on the left going up, this double fronted restaurant is always busy. Favoured by regular visitors and residents alike, they offer some Vegetarian option, but you do need to like fish to accompany your garlic here.

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O Chef Antonio
(282 358 937)
Almost opposite Casa Algarvia, this very large imposing looking building reached up a ramp with a large covered verandah, serves h u g e portions, so missing a starter could be a wise move. Although we’ve heard some stories of below average food, the waiters are very friendly, and if you have the Leg of Lamb, be sure to ask for a right leg, as the left legs tend to be a bit less juicy J

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A Rede
(282 358 513)
Standard fare served with style, and occasionally some interesting desserts.

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Vimar
(282 358 322)
More standard fare, but the grilled fish is optionally served headless. They also have a play area at the back for the kiddies.

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Portuguese eating II Not for your average tourist
Running east to west along the whole of the Algarve is the infamous N125 road. Southof the N125 are all the good, the great and not so great tourist towns, areas and complexes, where English is widely spoken, and most of the restaurants cater to the visitor. These are described in the preceding section.If you want authentic Portuguese hospitality, you need to go North of the N125 into any town or village and be prepared to find menus without any English, or even the total lack of menus.But prices will be substantially lower, and Vegetarians will starve.If you want a taster of what is available in the genuine Portugal, we have found a few local establishments that still maintain the old ways, and for the time being at least offer exceptional value for money – we hope it lasts.
Escondidinho The Escondidinho is on the far side of Quinta do Paraiso from Carvoeiro. Past the reception area and up a slight incline, keep left. There is a large unpaved car park on the left, filled with cars and trucks.It’s occupied most lunchtimes with local builders and workmen. For no more than €8 or so, you get a 3 course lunch with wine and coffee, but do not expect any menu in English. In fact, no menu at all. Granny will tell you what you want, she won’t wait for you to um and ahh about it, but she will deliver platefuls of wholesome food very quickly.

O Branco Another cheap restaurant for the locals, this actually looks much smarter than it is. On the road behind Quinta do Paraiso, heading towards Sesmerais, in an imposing white block building you’ll get a choice of main courses (probably all meat), dessert, drinks and coffee all for the princely sum of €7.00 precisely. We had a turkey breast and a fish dish both of which were covered in a hard crispy batter and served with chips, rice and salad. Its obviously not haute cuisine, but surprisingly nourishing and well presented – definitely not a cafe !

Fatacil Cafeteria Inside the gates of the Fatacil (the “fairgrounds” by the roundabout at Lagoa, opposite the Blue elephant car wash) is the Fatacil Restaurant, but we hesitate to call it a restaurant. It’s huge inside, extremely bright, noisy and filled with local workmen eating their way through a 3 course lunch with wine, coffee and maybe even a liqueur for less than €8.00. Some English help may be available, but don’t count on it!

Something different Fed up with formal dinners ?
All these are quite a way out of town (car or taxi essential). None are really culinary extravaganzas but they certainly are different, and make a very welcome change if you’re eating out most nights.
Chicken George As the name implies, the priority is Chicken and Chips. You do have a choice of with or without piri-piri sauce and an optional salad (worth having!). It’s way out east toward Benagil. From Rocha Brava complex go out of the front and straight over. After 1/4 mile this will bring you to a “T” junction which is the m 1273. If you turn right you go to Benagil if you turn left you go to Lagoa. Go straight over at this junction down a narrow road. Chicken George suddenly appears 100 meters on the right.

Piano Bar         (282 493 278) This one is west of town on the road from Sesmarais to Ferragudo, on the right opposite the turnoff to Casabela Hotel. The sign on the right of this turning tells us that it’s a Pizza and Indian Restaurant, and when you arrive you find its all true. Two large brick Pizza ovens in the front, seemingly authentic Indian kitchen and live music make it all a bit different.

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Teodosio
O Rei dos Frangos
(289 561 316)
Translates as “King of Chicken”, this is the place to gofor Chicken Piri Piri. Its where the locals go for a family dinner, resembling a major motorway rest stop, the place is enormous and always buzzing. Its a 20 minute drive along the 125 towards Faro. At the roundabout at Guia, turn left, and a couple of hundred meters up on the right is the restaurant sign with a turning 20 meters further to a huge car park behind.Don’t look for menus or choices. Its Chicken, chicken or chicken with chips. Do take the optional added salad, and you only have to decide what to drink and that’s it. The piri piri is spicier than many average restaurants in Carvoeiro, but will not burn. Hard to spend much more than €10 per head. Highly recommended, no bookings required.

Some Ethnic Restaurants Included for completeness
ITALIAN Quite frankly, apart from the two already mentioned above (Villa Medici and La Bella Vita), we’ve found most of the others to be too variable to warrant a mention here.  
Forno de Fraser Take away Pizza. Definitely the best Pizza in town – if Pizza is what you want. You’ll find this small establishment just up the one way road that comes down to the Post Office (Correiro).

 

 

 Portuguese Codfish meal

 
CHINESE There are about 3 in Carvoeiro itself, but one worth a mention, and another one, which is outside town anyway.  
China Town (282 359 121) This one may be found almost at the top of Restaurant Hill, on the left hand side going up. It’s nicely decorated and serves a good standard Chinese meal, but won’t really set the world on fire.

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Jardim do Sul (282 352 273) If you really want Chinese, then head to Lagoa where you will find this unpretentious restaurant, in the pedestrian precinct in the middle of town with easy parking nearby.

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INDIAN A new Indian restaurant opens each year, and most of them keep their clientele and stay open, which is no bad thing, but we can only find one to recommend.  
O Castello
(282 357 218)
What a setting ! This is on the hill leaving the main square past the ice cream parlour, and on past Rascals. They have a small number of outside tables which are well worth booking in advance, but even if you’re sitting indoors, the food is awesome, and never too hot.

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THAI    
Koh Samui
(919 326 682)
Found up a steep hill in a side street to the right a short way up Restaurant Hill (kind of opposite the turning for the Municipal Market). Although it may sound a surprising suggestion for eating out in Portugal, the flavours are subtle, spicy items not too strong, and a high quality alternative to the standard fare of fish, meat or Pizza ! Definitely worth a try.Update: June 2008. Avoid this place. Seems to have changed ownership and its terrible. Service atrocious, you may get what you ordered, but its pot luck, and you may even pay for your neighbour’s meal as well as yours. Some of the food is still very tasty, so we’re watching carefully.  
     
ENGLISH We just could not resist adding this listing in the Ethnic section. Well we are in Portugal – right ?  
Ma Ja’s
(282 083 920)
Hidden away in a back street. From the square, walk a short way back along the “in-road” then first left up past the post office, then hard left back on yourself up the one way (down) street on the West Side, you’ll find Ma Ja’s Bistro, where Mark and Jan (get the name now ?) have set out to offer home English cooking specifically for those who miss it. Prices are very reasonable for freshly prepared fare on an ever changing menu, with vegetarian option to boot. Sunday Lunch speciality as well.
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