What better way to spend a day in warm, sunny Algarve than have a tasting of the region’s sumptuous delicacies, from fresh grilled seafood, to fine Portuguese wine. Once you’ve settled in a nice, cosy hotel in the Vilamoura Marina, a short drive from the airport in Faro, it’s time to seek out the different flavours and food the south of Portugal has to offer.
For its service, atmosphere, and cooking, Akvavit is a good place to begin a gastronomy tour of Vilamoura and nearby towns. Across the street is a terrace decked with tables under huge umbrellas, overlooking a view of the sea—a great view while having an omelette and a cup of brewed coffee. Since the restaurant takes its name after the Swedish drink, many of the food are Swedish, but with plenty of the Algarve seafood dishes in between.
For hungry breakfasters, the “Royal Akvavit” is a good option: a serving of various Swedish specialties, including “Knäcke Toast”. While for those who want to have a lighter breakfast, Akvavit serves fresh salads, and soups, such as foie gras, with red port wine and pineapple chutney.
In case you return the next day for lunch, try Akvavit’s “Caldeirada,” a sailor’s dish of prawns, fish, and clams served with peppers, onion, potatoes, and tomatoes in a warm pot. Some of the best tasting desert in Vilamoura are found in Akvavit as well—for one, fried apple over brick rice paper, doused in vanilla—and it’s one of the reasons why this seaside bar and restaurant is a favourite stop.
Survey the Beaches around Vilamoura
The best way to tour the beaches along the Algarve is by renting a chartered boat. When lunchtime approaches, it is easy to find a place to anchor the vessel and readily take orders from a restaurant close to the sea. Such dining establishment is Evaristo, a place unique for not having a formal menu. The restaurant is stationed in a large roofed structure, but there are also tabled huts scattered toward the beach. Visitors can order in the restaurant and have their dishes served in the boat. The place can also be reached by car from the marina.
About eight miles from Vilamoura, Evaristo is known for its innovative cooking, and they had even won a distinction for serving the best traditional dish in Portugal. Patrons are asked to pick from the selection of freshly caught seafood, while the famous barbecue spare ribs and other meat dishes are also served. Try out the Evaristo Squid, grilled and served with parsley and garlic, seasoned with olive oil, vinegar, sea salt.
Quinta do Frances Winery
After touring the Algarve beaches, board a rented van or car to the hills of Odelouca where you’ll find the Quinta do Frances vineyard and winery, run by a French doctor with Italian roots and his Portuguese wife. It’s quite a trip from the marina, but upon arrival at the site, the well-tended landscape and crisp breeze are well worth the trouble.
A friendly guide takes visitors to the winery where they are offered three wine tastings. The tasting is done in a showroom where wines are sold for a visitor’s discount, by the bottle, or a whole case.
Covering 700 hectares, the winery is a modern structure painted in white and blue, accented with the local design. The rosé wine is a must, with its clear salmon colour, and superb, dry taste. The white is flavourful with a hint of pineapple, while the red is carefully balanced, a hit with experts and garnered an award for Quinta do Francês. The wine tasting is also a time to taste a local jam made from pumpkin and served on crackers.
Dinner in a Mountain Garden
The last stop in our gastronomy tour takes us to an olive grove in the highlands of Serra de Monchique. Nestled away from the noisy urban centres, the Jardim das Oliveiras is home to more traditional Portuguese cooking, such as the fabled Piri Piri chicken cooked in a wood stove. The dishes are prepared using local spices and methods. In the grove are hammocks where visitors can relax as they wait for their food.
Patrons should also try the lamb, pork, goat dishes, along with the must-try boar stew. The native liquor called the Medronho, extracted from a wild berry of the arbutus bush, is an ideal drink after a meal. The Medronho is 100 per cent proof, so a tiny shot is all it takes.
By the time visitors return to their respective hotels and villas, their appetites will have been fully sated, and their spirits full.