Portugal is known all over Europe for its rich traditional cuisine. Full of rich Mediterranean flavours it also embraces discernable influences from lands across the globe, collected and incorporated into the national cuisine over the centuries following the Portuguese explorations to the New World.
Staying on the Algarve is a study in gastronomy. Here, traditional and modern Portuguese cookery sits side by side with modern international cuisine and traditional restaurants representing every corner of the globe.
Whether you are looking for a Michelin-starred meal, a light bite of sushi or a tasty wood-fired pizza, you will find it here. And with 200 kilometres of coastline comprising the Algarve alone and Portugal’s entire western border flanked by the Atlantic, it is no surprise (and certainly no disappointment) that fresh fish and seafood feature heavily on just about every menu.
If you are staying in Alvor you will be spoilt for choice between this lovely little harbour town and its surrounding centres of Portimão, Silves and Lagos when it comes to choosing where to eat. If you are visiting for a week or more, there is plenty of time to try a little of everything, but if your time in Alvor is limited, how can you be sure to get the best out of its gastronomic offerings?
Here we have devised a one-day gastronomy tour, designed to give you a little taste of as much as possible of the best that Alvor area has to offer.
If you are staying in a hotel or other form of bed and breakfast accommodation, your day is likely to begin with a vast buffet breakfast. Foods such as local cold meats and cheeses, home made jams and freshly baked breads are common features in the simplest of catered breakfasts and make a wonderful start to the day.
If you are self catering and have not yet had a chance to stock up on supplies, save yourself for your first stop on this gastronomic tour – Alvor Market.
Alvor Market is a feast for the senses, with stall after stall piled high with fragrant and colourful fruit and vegetables. Juicy figs and plump olives grown locally can be found in abundance here and make a great food snack at any time, while the baked pastries and breads, often still warm from the oven, cannot fail to please.
Take some time to do some leisurely sightseeing in town – look in at the gift and craft stores, admire the lovely Manueline architecture of the village church and surrounding buildings or wander down to the harbour to watch the fishing boats returning from their early morning sorties.
A stop at the fish market is a must, to admire the variety of offerings and to enjoy the hustle and bustle of the day’s trading. If you are self catering, the fish market is the perfect sport to return another day to buy a delicious freshly caught specimen to grill on your barbecue, washed down with a glass of two of the local Planalto wine.
The harbour area in Alvor is full of lovely restaurants and, with the nautical theme still running strong, this is the perfect spot for a leisurely fish or seafood lunch.
A Lota Restaurant is located just up the hill from the harbour and offers excellent views down over the boats and out to the Altantic beyond. It is close enough to provide a lovely marine backdrop without being right on the harbour front itself and charging the front-line premium that comes with it.
At A Lota Restaurant you can select your meal from the live tank or straight from the kitchen and the chef will prepare it for you on the open grill barbecue. The grilled sardines are a lunchtime speciality here, their sizzling, smoky flavours sure to create lasting memories of your holiday in Portugal. Lobster, clams and giant tiger prawns are also specialities.
Spend your afternoon relaxing on the beach or by the pool before freshening up ready for dinner at Ruccula, again right back in the heart of the marina. Ruccula is one of the newer additions to the Alvor restaurant scene and is hailed as one of the very best restaurants in town (book in advance to avoid disappointment).
From your vantage point on the wide-open terrace you will be able to watch the sun slip down behind the Atlantic horizon while you are tended to like an old friend by the wonderful front of house team. Opt for the sea bass, lobster or just about any other food on the menu and you will not be disappointed, before turning your attention to the dessert trolley and washing it all down with a delicious port wine and coffee.
When you have had your fill, take a walk through the harbour, return home to sleep off the excess, and awaken the next day ready to eat your way once more around Alvor’s gastronomic hot spots.