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Dining out in the Algarve

by Sun’s Dragon         

There are literally thousands of places to eat in the Algarve from beach shacks specialising in local freshly caught seafood to Michelin starred restaurants. Prices range from 7 Euros for the dish of the day at a local cafe to 80 Euros for a main course at one of the Michelin starred venues, so it is impossible to pin point any one place to eat. However at most local restaurants you can expect to pay around €20 per person if you’re near the coast, and about €5 less if you’re off the tourist track. This includes the couvert, main course, dessert, wine or water and coffee.

Many areas issue free maps with lists of what is going on in their area, including places to eat, listed by price ranges. It’s recommended to obtain one of these for your area when you first move to the Algarve.

Algarve bread and olivesIt is customary for all restaurants in Portugal to bring 'couvert' to your table as you sit down. This is usually a basket of local bread with some butter and sardine pate accompanied by a small dish of olives. Some restaurants may also bring other items such as

  • a small plate of glazed carrots with garlic
  • anchovies with oil and garlic
  • a small local cheese
  • local meat or cheese fritters or pastries

Whatever each restaurant brings, be aware that it is not free, even though you have not asked for it, and of course you can decline it as it is offered.  However, couvert is delicious, cheap and is good to snack on whilst having a drink and deciding what to have from the menu.  However, if you select “dish of the day”, often you will find that the couvert, main course, a glass of wine, dessert and coffee is included in the price.

Algarve beach restaurant

International cuisine

In the unlikely event that you might get bored with the wonderful variety available at the local Portuguese restaurants and cafés, you can find all types of cuisine throughout the Algarve. Try Da Barra’s traditional Irish pub in Quinta do Lago, or the Maharaja Patiala serving excellent North Indian food in Sao Bras de Alportel. You can find The Green Room offering Mexican specialities in Lagos and Amore Vera’s Italian offerings in Tavira.

On the beach

Many of the beach shacks have evolved over the past 30 years into first rate restaurants.  What started out as a wooden hut where you could get a simple snack or fresh fish BBQ in the old days are now often beautiful brick built edifices on the beach with menus and prices to reflect the change.  However, there are still a few beach shacks to be found and the simple fare they serve, especially fresh grilled fish, is delicious and usually very reasonably priced.

Algarve red wine cask and grapes

 

 

Wine

Portuguese wine is not exported in large quantities and so the best wines are readily available and at between €2 and €4 per bottle (in shops) for non vintage wines, are surprisingly good value.  House wine in Algarvean restaurants is excellent – order by the glass or bottle, or do like the locals and order a carafe.

Don’t forget to explore country lanes, small villages and to ask local residents – you’ll be sure to get recommendations for some excellent places to eat that you might otherwise never find!

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