The cost of Portuguese food is a subject often debated by ex-pats, with some saying it is much cheaper than eating in England and others finding it more expensive. Based on our experience, the cost is largely dependent on what you eat, with eating like the locals working out far cheaper than buying imported products from ‘back home’ or further afield.
Eating cheaply in Portugal is simple enough. Sticking with a diet of fresh fish, seafood, pork and chicken, along with fruit and vegetables from the local market will certainly not break the bank. Pingo Doce supermarket offers good value and Lidl and Aldi are both good for bargains (and enjoy a far superior reputation in Portugal than they do in the UK).
Going to cafés and restaurants frequented by the locals in your area is a great way to dine out cheaply and many of the takeaways specialising in piri piri chicken, ribs and other such delights are also excellent value. Of course there are many more expensive restaurants as well, but if you stick with where the locals go most evenings you are sure to find some seriously bargain meals, without compromising on quality. Vela II in Santa Margarida near Tavira is the perfect example.
Food becomes somewhat more expensive if you eat lamb and steak regularly, although these still won’t break the bank: it is imported products that really start driving up your weekly shopping bills. There are times when something from ‘back home’ just has to be bought – whether it’s a jar of Marmite, a bottle of Robinson’s squash or a tin of Heinz spaghetti hoops. Prices can vary wildly between different shops, with Heinz baked beans in our local area ranging from €1.05 to €2.69, so shopping around is advised if there are certain home comforts that you simply cannot exist without.
For those considering a life in Portugal (which I highly recommend), here is a quick list of random items to give you an idea of some basic costs (based on prices from Jumbo supermarket at the time of writing):
Milk – €0.24
Eggs (six, medium) – €0.69
Sliced bread – from €0.64
Mineral water (1.5 litre) – €0.20
Chicken (whole) – €2.89
Pork chops – €2.99 per kilo
Potatoes – €0.69 per kilo
Peaches - €1.89 per kilo
Wine (bottle) – decent choice from around €1.19 upwards
Beer (can) – €0.45
Image credits: Wikimedia and Flickr
There is no doubt that Portuguese wine is establishing a growing international reputation. At the 2013 Challenge International du Vin in France, Portuguese wines swept the board, taking home a total of 145 medals: 50 golds, 32 silvers and 63 bronzes. Entrants were from 38 different countries, yet Portugal alone walked away with over 11% of the total medals awarded.
Those who live here have long known how much Portuguese wine has to offer. The huge variety of decent brands and the low prices make wine here an essential item, rather than a luxury. In additions to reds, whites and rosés, green wine (vinho verde) and rosé green wine (vinho verde rosé) provide fresh, slightly sparkling alternatives to accompany light meals and seafood dishes or just to enjoy while sitting in the sun.
Although port enjoys a well-known reputation around the world, non-fortified Portuguese wine used to be quite hard to track down for those outside of the country. While living in England some four years ago, we were limited to only one option when trying to buy Portuguese wine in the supermarket, or perhaps three or four alternatives if we went to our local Laithwaite’s shop.
These days, Laithwaite’s stocks an impressive 32 varieties of Portuguese wine (excluding port) and Waitrose’s offering has reached double figures. The enthusiasm of figures such as British TV presenter and wine expert of Olly Smith, who recently announced his 50 favourite Portuguese wines has certainly helped to spread the news of how good Portugal’s wine is beyond the country’s borders. It was also great to see that our personal favourite – Marquês de Borba – topped Olly’s list of the reds he most enjoyed.
So if you are in the UK and have yet to experience Portuguese wine, make a point of seeking it out next time you go to the supermarket. And if you are already enjoying Portuguese wine – either here or elsewhere – then you can be comfortable in the knowledge that you are part of a growing scene with a rising international reputation for excellence. Why not share your favourite Portuguese wine with us by leaving a comment below?
Image credits: Wikimedia
While staying at the Aldeia da Pedralva tourist resort near Vila da Bispo a couple of weeks ago, we decided to try out the on-site pizza restaurant, Pizza Pazza. We were advised to reserve a table due to the restaurant’s popularity, which turned out to be good advice as when we arrived our reserved table was the only one with space at it.
The restaurant itself was delightfully quirky, with an eclectic collection of knickknacks covering the walls and shelves. The staff were friendly, helpful and efficient, creating a lively and fun atmosphere which added to the overall ambience of the place.
We started with garlic bread, which was thin and crispy and made the perfect introduction to the meal. We also tried the house wine, which the waiter assured us was a special wine which would not cause a hangover the next day (and which surprisingly turned out to be true!).
The pizza menu was extensive, with a range of options wide enough to suit all tastes. The pasta menu was somewhat smaller, with just three dishes, but the one that I tried – oven-baked seafood pasta in a light, creamy sauce – was absolutely delicious. Cooked to perfection and with a lovely, delicate flavour, it was served with crusty bread to mop up the last of the sauce.
As well as the pasta we shared a salami, olive and onion pizza, which was really good and generously topped. We also indulged in a tiramisu for dessert and although already full, polished off the lot. I’ve eaten a fair amount of tiramisu over the years, but this was definitely one of the best that I’ve tried.
Overall this was a fantastic meal, made even better by the unusual setting. The owner informed us that the clientele ranges from passing hippies to Prince William, who apparently tried out the cuisine there whilst on a surfing holiday. It’s a great little place and well worth making a trip to it if you happen to be nearby – just make sure to book in advance to ensure you get a table!
We tried out the Sítio da Pedralva restaurant a couple of weeks ago, while staying at the Aldeia da Pedralva tourist village, as mentioned on our sister blog Moving to Portugal. I have to admit to being a little sceptical – as Sítio da Pedralva has a captive audience of tourists staying at the village, my expectations were not hugely high. It was particularly delightful, therefore, to have my assumptions destroyed by such a fabulous meal.
Sítio da Pedralva is a small venue, seating perhaps 25 or 30 people in total. It is at once simple and quirky in its décor, with artfully mismatched colours chosen for the place settings, upon gleaming white tablecloths.
The wine list was an interesting experience. We have spent some years familiarising ourselves with the staple Portuguese wines that one might expect to find on offer in a restaurant. On Sítio da Pedralva’s wine list, we recognised only one bottle. We referred to the waitress for a recommendation and were presented with a lovely bottle of white wine called Catarina from Setúbal. Light and fruity, it went perfectly with our couvert.
The couvert was a step above the ordinary. The olives were particularly good, while the delicate, herb-crusted cheese with a drizzle of red berry jus was delicious. A small helping of farinheira (a traditional Portuguese smoked sausage) made an excellent addition.
After such a good start we were eager for our main course. I chose lamb chops, which were excellent – perfectly cooked and with a lovely serving of olive-flecked crushed potatoes. In true Portuguese main course style, there was not a vegetable in sight. My husband ordered octopus rice. Although beautifully cooked and presented, it was perhaps lacking the depth of flavour of my own choice of meal, leading to a minor case of plate-envy.
We had skipped starters in order to have room for dessert, which turned out to be a very good decision. My husband went for the iced chocolate mousse, which was a nice twist on the standard chocolate mousse which is ubiquitous across Portugal. Rich in flavour, it had a melt-in-the-mouth texture, offset by a scattering of crunchy nuts across the top. I chose almond tart, which was light, flaky and packed with chewy, crunchy, almond-y deliciousness.
The service was excellent – the food arrived promptly and the waitress was on hand whenever we needed her, while managing to remain unobtrusive the rest of the time. A wonderful meal overall – this is definitely a restaurant that we will visit again next time we are in the area.
Pizzaria Atlantis was recommended to us by several friends as the next in our series of Portuguese restaurants to review. Situated on the riverfront in the pretty village of Cabanas, it has a large indoor area as well as a number of tables outside for lovely balmy Portuguese summer evenings.
We’ve tried a range of dishes and certainly haven’t been disappointed. The pizza is delicious and the thin crust makes a nice change from the deep-pan pizzas that seem to be ubiquitous in this area. There is a good range of choices on the menu and (purely in the spirit of undertaking a full review of course), we have worked our way through a fair number of them. Toppings are generous and I particularly liked the anchovy and capers combination.
The restaurant will also happily make up a pizza of your choice from their range of ingredients. When we asked for a chicken and pineapple pizza with chilli on, the result was a fabulously hot, spicy pizza, which was refreshing given the general aversion in Portugal to making really spicy dishes.
Good though the pizzas are, the real star of the show is Atlantis’ pastas. My personal favourite is the cheese ravioli, which is simple and delicious – very fresh and homemade tasting. The black spaghetti with seafood is also wonderful, full of flavour and packed with a generous helping of seafood.
The starters/sides that we have tried include a lovely, olive-topped bruschetta and a thin-crust garlic bread with rosemary. I’ve been racking my brains to find something to criticise about this place in order to give a balanced review, but the best I can come up with is that on occasion the garlic is unevenly distributed across the bread!
Despite it being relatively early in the summer for the tourist village of Cabanas, Pizzaria Atlantis is already packed most evenings, which is testament to the great food, friendly and efficient service and reasonable prices. Still, if you can’t get a seat the takeaway service is the perfect alternative.
The wine list offers a good selection. We tried a bottle of Mestro Franco red with our last pizza, which was the perfect accompaniment. There is also a varied selection of non-pizza and pasta dishes and, while we have yet to try everything on the menu, the salmon does deserve a mention.
Pizzaria Atlantis is an essential part of the local dining scene in Cabanas, offering fabulous food at affordable prices – very highly recommended.
This week we tried out one of the more expensive Portuguese restaurants in the area – the Orangerie at the luxurious Vila Monte golf and spa hotel in Moncarapacho. Nestled away in the countryside, it offers delightful views from its outdoor terrace, as well as a large indoor dining area. The vast, high-ceilinged venue encourages diners to speak in hushed tones, making this the perfect place for a quiet, romantic meal for two or for an upscale family occasion.
The Orangerie focuses on fresh, locally sourced ingredients, with dishes featuring a range of products grown organically on the estate, including herbs, citrus fruits, almonds and figs. The menu includes speciality dishes for two (which must be ordered in advance) and several set menus, as well as à la carte options. A children’s menu is also available, along with a range of vegetarian options.
The meal began with traditional Portuguese couvert of olives, bread and olive oil for dipping. The olive oil was rich and fruity and the waiter informed us that it was pressed in Moncarapacho from olives grown on the Vila Monte estate. It was followed by a complimentary amuse bouche – a sort of tuna paste nestled within a tomato, which served as a gentle introduction to the fabulous meal which was about to follow.
Our party tried numerous starters, including pea soup, mussel linguini and crab salad. The pea soup was the highlight – it was delicious and incredibly fresh-tasting. The mussel linguini was ok but a little under-seasoned and perhaps an overly large portion for a starter. The crab salad was also quite good, although the delicate taste of the crab was somewhat masked by the stronger flavours of the other ingredients on the plate.
Lime sorbet dusted with icing sugar was served before the main course, to cleanse our palettes. Our main courses included monkfish with potato yarn (a wonderful combination of textures as well as great flavours), black pork tenderloin (rich and delicious), a fish ‘symphony’ (light and cooked to perfection) and veal medallion (incredibly tender and the highlight of our mains).
The desserts, which curiously had to be ordered at the start of the meal, were served following a complimentary mini sweet of rich chocolate cake. The desserts were a triumph: the chocolate mousse served with olive oil was utterly delicious, the fig parfait was light and fruity and the citrus cheesecake with carob and almond base was intensely flavoured. The cheese board was large and came with homemade jam, walnuts, strawberries and grapes. It featured some lovely, creamy local cheeses, which combined with the fruit and jam to create a wonderfully sweet treat.
The meal was rounded off with coffee and complimentary petit fours – sticky carob morsels and dark, crunchy mini biscuits. The perfect end to an extremely good evening.
Overall this was a fabulous meal. The Orangerie is expensive (the cheapest main course is €20, while starters and desserts range from €8 to €15), so not somewhere where we will be dining often, but it makes a great venue for a birthday treat or other special occasion.
Vinho Verde is a popular wine in Portugal. It is ‘green’ wine – a light, often slightly sparkling wine made from young grapes. It is the perfect accompaniment to fish, shellfish and other light dishes. It’s also a very refreshing wine to drink on lazy, long, sunny evenings.
We have a couple of favourite vinhos verdes but I realised it was well past time to broaden our wine horizons and try a new one. As Vales de Ambrães was on offer in our local supermarket, it seemed the perfect time to try it.
Sadly this was not one of the best vinhos verdes that I have sampled. With quite a heavy, fruity flavour, it was more intense than I expected from a traditional green wine. The bottle recommended it as an accompaniment to white meat and, while it may have been nice with a meal, as a wine to sit and sip on its own it felt a little too robust. It also lacked the slight sparkle that is a feature of most vinhos verdes, coming across as more of a white wine than a traditional green one.
Overall this wine was ok, but not one that I will be buying again. It was telling that of the two of us drinking it, neither of us felt inclined to finish our first glass. Quite simply, there are better vinho verde wines in Portugal for this price or less.
Price: €3.79 in Continente
The newly opened Vert’in restaurant and bar makes an excellent addition to the foodie scene in Cabanas in the Eastern Algarve. Tucked away on the sun-drenched courtyard of the Pomar housing development, Vert’in offers fabulous French/Portuguese food in a relaxing setting. Diners can choose to eat in the coolness of the crisp white and green interior or enjoy the weather with an outside table.
It being the first properly sunny day of the year, we choose to sit outside. Although we arrived a little late for a lunch sitting, the service was swift and attentive and two tables were quickly pulled together to seat our party of six.
The menu at Vert’in is impressive. As well as a long list of staple Portuguese main courses (including steaks, pork and a range of seafood dishes), the French owners had thought to include savoury and sweet crepes (to my delight), as well as a wide range of vegetarian options – something quite unusual for an Algarve restaurant.
Between the six of us we ordered steak (rare), black pork, Portuguese prawn curry, a cheeseburger and two savoury crepes (we went for warm goat’s cheese, walnut and honey), plus a couple of side dishes. Without exception the food was excellent. The steak was fabulously rare, the curry creamy and full of flavour and the cheeseburger and chips kept my nephew very happy. The black pork was delicious and it was nice to see that our waiter checked when we ordered it that we knew what to expect (as it was a very fatty cut, cooked slightly pink).
For me, the stand-out item was the crepe. With the perfect balance of goat’s cheese, nuts and honey it was an absolute delight. It’s going to be difficult for me to try anything else on the menu next time we go there, now that I know how great the crepes are!
Portions were generous enough that we had no room for dessert, but we returned a couple of hours later to try out a couple of items from the extensive dessert menu. The tarte tatin and gooey chocolate pudding were very well received and the desserts were good enough that my nephew ended up having two.
The price for our main meal was reasonable (€100 including tip for six of us, although that didn’t include our desserts).
A good range of cocktails is also available from Vert’in and the drinks are clearly made with as much pride as the food. They can make for an expensive night out, but sipping one slowly after dinner won’t break the bank. The kiwi margarita is particularly recommended!
It’s unusual for me to write a restaurant review that is so complementary, but we really did struggle to fault Vert’in. The food, drinks and service were all very good. The only tiny error was that one member of our party received a milky coffee after her meal instead of the black coffee she had ordered. Even then, it was replaced without hesitation and with an apology from three different members of staff.
Despite being the newest restaurant in Cabanas, Vert’in has already made its mark. We will definitely be back – and soon!
One of my favourite Portuguese desserts is arroz doce (rice pudding), so when a friend discovered it on the wonderful Sami’s Colourful World blog, I had to make sure this was the next in my series of Portuguese recipes.
Arroz doce is a very typical Portuguese dessert, found in the majority of restaurants. It is flavoured with cinnamon and can be eaten hot or cold. My first experience of it was when our Portuguese neighbours brought a large bowlful upstairs for us as a gift, as part of a wonderful international food gift exchange that we had going with them until they moved away.
The recipe below is reproduced from Sami’s blog, for which she has kindly granted permission. It is quick and easy to make and results in a wonderful, creamy dessert that we ate following Sunday dinner. As with many of the best and most traditional Portuguese dishes, arroz doce is extremely cheap to make. It uses store cupboard ingredients – the only thing I had to buy to make this was a single lemon.
The left over egg whites from this recipe can be used to make meringue – on this occasion my mother used them to make a delightful lemon meringue pie.
This is definitely one Portuguese recipe that will become one of my staples for entertaining family and friends.
125 gr short grain rice (I used risotto rice)
Pinch of salt
1 stick cinnamon
Lemon rind strips
150 gr sugar
3 egg yolks
Grated lemon rind
1. Boil the rice in salted water for 10 minutes.
2. Warm the milk with the cinnamon stick and a few strips of lemon rind. Strain the rice and add the warm milk and simmer until rice is cooked.
3. Add the sugar and butter and continue cooking for another 10 minutes.
4. Beat the egg yolks in a cup and add a bit of the warm rice mixture, mix well and add to the pan.
5. Remove the lemon rind and cinnamon stick and add some grated lemon rind, then simmer for 2-3 minutes stirring continuously.
6. Pour into a shallow platter or into individual bowls. Decorate with ground cinnamon and enjoy!!
A family member was given two bottles of Tázem Reserva 2009 as a gift, so we opened one over Sunday dinner in order to test it out.
This is a red wine from the Adega Cooperativa de Vila Nova de Tázem. Adegas cooperativas can be found across Portugal – they are wineries where local growers take their grapes, which are then processed and turned into wine as a community effort.
The Tázem Reserva 2009 is a wonderfully rich, dark red colour and it tastes as good as it looks – full of deep, fruity flavour. Having opened the first bottle just to ‘try out’ this wine, we quickly succumbed to the temptation of the second. This is a great wine to drink with hearty red meats – we had it with roast beef, which was perfect.
This is a bit of a mystery wine – I can’t find it in my local supermarkets, which is a shame as I would definitely like to drink it again. It has certainly inspired me to investigate more wines from the Adega Cooperativa de Vila Nova de Tázem. The adega describes itself as open, knowledgeable and passionate about unique and spectacular wines. If the Tázem Reserva 2009 is anything to judge by, this approach is certainly paying dividends!