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.
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!
This week, guest poster dogoyaro reviews the Troppo Buono Italian restaurant at Ponte de Barca. Thanks dogoyaro – Troppo Buono sounds like a great place to eat
Running a restaurant is a dicey business at the best of times, even when you’ve got everything going for you. In the Minho, tradition is everything and food and wine are high on the list. Restaurants abound here and what is offered is ‘tipico’ and traditional.
The Minho remains ‘Undiscovered Portugal.’ There are no throngs of tourists here, hence the dearth of ‘ethnic’ restaurants. There are one or two in the few major conurbations but Ponte da Barca could not be thus described.
So it comes as a surprise to find a good Italian restaurant here. Troppo Buono will shortly be celebrating its seventh birthday so it’s already well established. It is run by a local family going back many generations. Jorge Nellavente learned to love Italian cuisine not among the rolling hills of Tuscany but in Montreal, Canada, where he, his brother and uncle worked in one of the city’s finest Italian restaurants. Fortunately for Portugal, they returned home to Ponte da Barca and Jorge opened Troppo Buono.
The restaurant has ample seating capacity with enough space between the tables to ensure diners’ comfort. There is also a private room with seating for 30. Tables are impeccably set and the service is swift and attentive.
The menu is comprehensive, including many of the best-known Italian dishes – meat, fish, pasta, rice and a good choice of pizzas. If there’s something you would like which isn’t on the menu, Jorge will do his best to meet your request. Prices are very reasonable, matching what one might pay in a good local restaurant serving Portuguese cuisine.
The ‘couvert’ changes from time to time and may include marinated salmon with capers, steamed mussels, octopus, ham and sausage cuts, small pizza wedges, cheese and cocktail tomatoes, bread and an olive oil and balsamico dunking mix.
The choice of main courses is excellent, with ten salads and hors d’oeuvres, 17 pasta and risotto options, nine fish dishes and ten meat dishes, as well as a mouth-watering selection of freshly baked pizzas. The minestrone soup and delicious Osso Bucco are particularly recommended. A choice of ten desserts ensures you finish your meal in style.
The well-chosen wine list is packed with Portuguese favourites, from heavy reds to superb vinho verdes, including a lovely Meio Seco Branco from Ponte da Barca and some ‘greats’ from the Alentejo. Jorge’s only concession to Italian wine is Lambrusco – red, white or rosé…the ladies love it! Sweet, fizzy and low in alcohol, it’s a winner when served ice cold.
A couple of doors up the street is “Sweet Moments” owned and run by Jorge’s wife, Manuela…café, snacks and homemade cakes, plus about ten different real Italian ice-creams. Unique in Ponte da Barca….ah! The good life!
Jorge has also opened a branch restaurant further north in Monção which I have not, as yet, visited…..more on that maybe later.
Currently Troppo Buono, which also does takeaways, is open six days a week (closed on Sundays).
Troppo Buono, Edificio Afonso III, Rua do Emigrante, 4980 Ponte da Barca
Tel: 258 453 207
Despite having a couple of favourite haunts in Cascais, we decided on our last visit to try somewhere new. We had a couple of options, but as dinner time approached it was Dom Manolo that we were closest to. I checked the reviews, which basically added up to tasty and cheap, and we took one of the outside tables.
The meal didn’t get off to the best start. We ordered our starters and selected a bottle of rosé from the wine list. A minute later our waiter returned and told us it was unavailable. We selected another. A minute later he returned once more, to tell us that he didn’t have that wine either. In fact, the only cold rosé available to us was a bottle of Mateus. Grumbling a little at the lack of choice, we ordered the Mateus, a wine that has certainly never topped our list of preferred vintages.
The usual bread, butter and olives couvert arrived, which we nibbled on until our starter was served – a large platter of prawns with some kind of reddish-brown sauce. Although they smelled good, there was a kind of musty taste to the prawns that was really quite unpleasant. We tasted the sauce and the prawns separately and established that it was definitely the prawns and not the sauce that tasted bad. The dish was unpleasant enough that the wife took action and sent it back – something she has never done before or since.
Although the waiter offered to bring us an alternative starter, we felt it safer to hold out for our main courses. We had ordered simple meat and chips options, which were very good – tasty and cooked as we had requested them.
Given the debacle with the wine and the musty prawn starter, we weren’t inclined to try the desserts. The bill was as much of a disappointment as the meal. Although it wasn’t huge, it certainly wasn’t cheap, and it seemed that a rather cynical tourist tax had been applied to the couvert – €4.50 for a few slices of bread and three miniature butters seemed a little excessive.
I don’t know if Dom Manolo was just having an off night (these things do happen), but it’s certainly not somewhere we will be returning to in a hurry. Not when Cascais has so many other great dining options to choose from.
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We don’t miss very much about living in London, but one of the things we do miss is easy access to good Thai food. In London there was a Thai restaurant within 100 paces of our front door. Here, we have to drive for an hour to get to the nearest one.
So it was with great excitement that we settled down at one of the outside tables of Bangkok Thai Moods in Cascais, Lisbon, earlier this year.
The meal got off to a good start, with a selection of breaded and filo pastry-wrapped prawns that were light, tasty and non-greasy. With the main course, though, Bangkok really came into its own. We ordered a chicken green curry, a prawn yellow curry and a stir fried noodle dish. Each meal was beautifully flavoured and clearly cooked and presented with care. Servings were generous – so much so that we had to forego dessert.
Our only minor complaint was the level of heat in my husband’s prawn yellow curry, which was not as hot as he had hoped. Interestingly the waiter informed us that when the restaurant originally opened the chef was serving much hotter dishes, but that the Portuguese clientele had complained at the level of spice. Thus the heat had been scaled back to suit the Portuguese palate.
The service was attentive and our waiter pleasant, taking the time to chat with us when we showed an interest in the availability of certain Thai food ingredients within Portugal.
Our bill was surprisingly reasonable, especially when we ha been warned by a guidebook that the restaurant is a favoured haunt of celebrities and politicians! We walked away from Bangkok Thai Moods very pleased that after waiting so long to eat Thai food it had more than lived up to our expectations.
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Located down a cobbled street just back from the seafront boardwalk in Cabanas, you find Casa Algarvia, a small and cosy bar and restaurant.
Before I proceed with my review, I should point out that I have been in the bar several times before. I unexpectedly availed myself of their restaurant when the local pizza place decided (for some unknown reason) that they were unable to provide us with our planned takeaway.
I’m really glad things turned out the way they did, as my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Casa Algarvia’s simple menu includes grills and burgers as well as a hot madras curry that I will have to try soon, with HOT curry being something often hard to find in Portugal.
On recommendation, I chose the black iberico pork, which was tender and seriously rich in flavour. It was served with a simple salad and some stand-out home made chips. Despite a very generous portion, I left a completely clean plate.
My wife’s serving of prawns was similarly generous in proportion and, having staked my claim to a few of them, I can vouch that they were tasty and imparted a good amount of flavour from their marinade. Side dishes were the same and my wife left no scraps either!
Desserts were skipped on this occasion after our enthusiasm for the main course (although a home made chocolate cake tempted us). We can vouch for the pleasent house wine and rich coffee, however.
As we sat and digested our food, we likened Casa Algarvia to a place called “A Portugesa” that we discovered in Praia da Rocha around ten years ago. Sadly, “A Portugesa” ended up with new management and we missed its simple and honest meals that were sourced with local knowledge and prepared with care. It’s great to have found somewhere similar, and amusing that it turned out to be in a place we had popped into before for a drink.
That leads me on to the only criticism I have, if it can truly be called a criticism, in that Casa Algarvia does little to draw people’s attention to its agreeable enclosed rear terrace. Still, plenty of tourists had found it on the night we visited, and the atmosphere was upbeat and convival. I have to admit, as summer draws to a close, that my wife and I felt a little smug about still having this place on our doorstep when the tourists all go home!
We took a calculated gamble when we visited Dom Sebastião in Lagos on the last night of our family’s visit to Portugal.
It had been a long time since we enjoyed a meal there – probably around ten years! For this reason we had no idea whether our fond memories may have been enhanced with time, or if the place may have changed or deteriorated in quality.
We needn’t have worried.
Dom Sebastião appears to be extremely popular, and as much so with locals as with tourists. Its reputation is deserved.
Service here is classy and accomplished. Although my wife and I tend to end up with favourite restaurants that feature rustic food, paper tablecloths and cutlery that lasts through starter and main course, it does make a pleasant change to be pampered.
The couvert in Dom Sebastião is generous and of quality. On our visit, it included dishes of chorizo served aflame in Portuguese aguardente, as well as the usual suspects such as marinated carrots.
We skipped starters, something I would urge all but the foolhardy or gluttonous to do. Portion sizes here are BIG and the couvert is more than enough.
My wife and I chose a signature dish of kid stew. It was what we had all those years ago, and we had fond memories of it. The stew came in a pot large enough to serve six and was rich and warming – perhaps a little too much so for a warm evening. Although we enjoyed the goat stew, the richness, along with the intimidating portion size, lead to us be rather jealous of our companion’s choices.
My mother’s fillet steak looked perfect and almost tender enough to cut with a spoon. Its salad garnish appeared distinctly “fine dining” and included some marinated beetroot that was the cause of some adoring noises.
Her partner’s arroz de marisco (shellfish rice) was the cause of abundant praise (in fact, I think I may have heard the word “beautiful” from someone not usually so vocal in such matters!) His mother’s chicken curry arrived in a large pot all of its own, and was again far too much to serve just one person – she did have a jolly good go, however, and pronounced it “delicious.”
Desserts were similarly generous in size. Three of us went for mango mousse which was home made, light and fresh – a good job, as it was served with a large scoop of mango ice cream and some intricate swishes of chocolate sauce that it seemed a shame to destroy.
Our dinner didn’t end there. After coffee that was particularly good (a serious achievement in a country where ALL coffee is good), we were given a choice of port or almond liqueur on the house. After this, we were brought a large basket of local almonds. Quite how we managed to eat any is beyond me, but we did nonetheless.
We left, several hours after arrival, with the kind of contented feeling that only comes from a perfect combination of food and service – and at a price that seemed excellent value.
If we lived up the Lagos end of the Algarve, Dom Sebastião would be our restaurant of choice for all the “last nights” with our various visitors. Sadly, we live “up the other end,” but we will do all we can to make sure it isn’t another ten years before we visit again. If it happens to be on a cool winter day, that kid stew will be just perfect.
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