Eating out, for me, is a pleasure, a privilege to be shared. Read my selection of restaurants and cafes in the western Algarve where you can enjoy local delicacies in lesser known locations
I love to eat out, and while staying on the Algarve we ate out every night. The region takes advantage of its coastal location and fish features heavily on all menus. Dishes to try include cataplana - shellfish and spicy sausage served in a copper pot, caldeirada - fish stewed with potato, and arroz de mariscos - a type of spicy shellfish risotto.
Meat is also popular; Bife a Portuguesa is steak topped with ham or egg on a bed of chips and, of course, Frango Piri-Piri a mild chilli chicken is available almost everywhere. I am not usually a pudding person but was pleasantly surprised that the desserts were lighter than they sounded; Pudim flan is a type of creme caramel, almond tart is called Tarte de Amendoa, and Tarte de Natas is more like mousse than its name suggests.
We found a good mix of cuisines and prices in the area and the selection below includes some of the more interesting restaurants.
If views of the sun setting over the crashing seas do it for you, head for Sitio do Forno (tel:963 558 404)at Amado beach on the west coast. The restaurant is plain, with plastic tables and chairs but the views are to die for and the food comprises freshly caught fish landed at the harbour beneath it. My husband had a gigantic plate of grilled sardines and I braved something called Delicious Fish, which actually was delicious, despite being served with banana.
In the nearby town of Sagres is a great view over the harbour from a little coffee bar called Pasteleria Batedor (tel: 282 624 810). It’s worth a visit if you are in the area and fancy a pastry and coffee, you'll find it on Rua das Naus.
Where to eat in Burgau
Closer to the villa where we stayed, Burgau is reminiscent of a small Cornish fishing village, with tiny cobbled streets and cliff views, but it's blessed with better weather and more than its fair share of restaurants. We found three that we would visit again:
On the corner of Rua da Praia, in the centre of the village is Esquina, pronounced eshkeena (tel: 00351 282 695545; www.esquina-burgau.com). It's run by a Portuguese husband and his English wife who make every effort to make their clients feel like old friends whilst providing informal yet perfect service. They buy their products daily and when an item is sold, well it’s sold out but with an extensive selection that’s no problem. Their set menu is €15.90. We chose a delicate fish soup followed by turkey escallops Peru cooked with garlic (my husband went for the chicken piri-piri), followed by traditional light deserts; we enjoyed every morsel. Esquina closes on Sunday but other than that open all year - do visit.
Ancora (tel: 282 697 102) is the easiest to find, near the beach side car park. The warm and friendly interior is decorated with wooden cased pendulum clocks on blue glazed tiled walls. The set menu at €19.50 was well presented. It is a family run restaurant, whose owners speak perfect English; it closes Monday and Tuesday and during the month of December.
Restaurante Matias (tel: 914 727 366) is in Rua da Fortaleza, to the right of Ancora as you look at it. This unpretentious venue specialises in traditional Portuguese seafood dishes that are great value for money. We wished we had discovered it earlier in our stay.
During an exploration of Luz, we came by another family run establishment the Dolphin Restaurant. The family are from South Africa and brought with them a craft shop and children’s clothing shop as well as their cuisine. This is where I sampled Portuguese Steak, it did not disappoint it fact it was so large my husband helped me out with it. We were both impressed that the chef left the kitchen at the end of the evening to introduce himself and verify satisfaction levels with the diners, he earned a cheer! In the high season it is wise to book by phone on 282 789 992 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
We found Adega do Papagaio (tel: 282 789 423; www.adegadopapagaio.com) on the little inland village of Espiche (pronounced S Peach). This restaurant was established sixty years ago by the present owner's father and used to make its own wine, hence the name. The menu consists of one choice – salad, chips, rice, bread, sauces and a plate of raw steak, pork, chicken, turkey, lamb and sausages. The magic ingredient is the hot stone brought to your table on which to cook the meat. It’s a fun way to dine and at €13.50 for as much as you can eat who can complain. On Saturday evenings they have entertainment in the form of national singing called Fado. Espiche is on the north side of the N125 as you head out of Lagos towards Vila Bispo, once in the village, don’t risk driving further than the church, you may never find your way out again!
The town of Lagos (pronounced La Gosh) is bustling by day and night with hundreds of restaurants, many of which are listed in the free maps that are given away everywhere. Retiro da Trindade, was recommended to us by some locals. Tucked under a road bridge at the side of a campsite in Estrada Ponta Piedade it doesn't look inviting at all. The dining area, furnished with a kind of 1960s ‘G’ Plan, is in a small lean-to at the side of the bar, but the food was amazing. We had bread with olives and sardine paste, stone grilled steak with chips and salad, dessert and wine - the total bill was €20 Euros! We were the only tourists there and had a great evening.
What to drink
With our meals we mostly drank the local beer, Sagres, or house wine, that we found perfectly palatable. At our villa , sitting by the pool under the stars we explored the local wines: Branco, Tinto and the slightly sparkling Verde, a Portuguese green wine. By far the best was a red, Onde Nova Syrah 2007; from the vineyard of Adego do Cantor (http://www.winesvidanova.com).
Where to stay
Luz and Burgau are both peaceful coastal villages with plenty of hotels. For cliff top sea views try Hotel Praia do Burgau.
We stayed in Villa Red Admiral booked through Affinity Villas, a beautifully furnished villa in a secluded spot in the hills between Burgau and Luz. It situated in its own land with an outdoor pool and shaded gardens. It is large enough to cater for a group of 12 yet homely enough for 2!