When we booked it back in October, all we hoped for was that the Algarve in this time of year would be sunny. Temperature wouldn't matter, just sun on our skins please. And that's what we got. A week of sun and never more clouds than the ones in the pic. Friend Ilse and I have a very healthy looking tan, and stocked up on vitamin D.
Our little Fiat Punto took us from west to east, and even into Andalucia for a few hours. The Algarve is beautiful this time of year. Citrus fruits everywhere and some blooming trees already. And, big plus, hardly any tourists. Ok, we spotted about 4 under the age of 40, but the senior Dutch, Germans and Poms seemed to have mostly stuck to golf resorts. I imagine the Algarve in July/August must be hell.
There was a drawback to this peace and quiet tho.... Few restaurants were opened. And we both like our food. I'd made a shortlist based on Tripadvisor but the top two were closed, as were many others. Which led us to some interesting experiences:
There was a place we referred to as Nicola (which seemed to be similar to referring to an Amsterdam bar as Heineken), where we ate twice. In the tourist heart of the city, but incredibly friendly, and properly home made food. On the first night, the owner apologised it had taken so long, as they hadn't pre-prepared anything because of low volumes. Little did we carre, the chicken peri peri had been delicious, the service homey, and the port good.
The next day we went to a place where even the Brazilian waiter spoke some Dutch ('portje van de huis?'). We were tired and hungry so had decided not to look further. Dickhead slimey Dutch waiter clearly didn't like us any more after I concluded, passive-agressive mastered to perfection, that his sauces weren't home made (Ilse asked for an ingredient to be left out, which couldn't be done). His response that 'we can't do that in a busy restaurant like this' made me burst out laughing.
The place where we went the last night was cute and frequented by locals. Nice owner, menu not in Dutch, good food. And Grolsch beer. Or hold on, the Grolsch bottle didn't contain beer. The four locals next to us drank something like homemade grappa from it and offered us some too. With a dried fig. I love grappa, but hell, this was strong. Ilse didn't finish it, and the owner happily polished hers off. A gezellig experience.
One resto we were very keen to visit, was open thank god. Henrique Leis, in Almancil. As we both wanted to drink, we opted for a bus and taxi combo. Good decision, as we gave the sommelier carte blanche for our wine flight and he sure as hell did his job! A seven course tasting menu with three glasses of different Portuguese wines was amazing. Scallops, crayfish, quail, steak, a never ending food heaven. What a joy.
And now after a week of monkfish and seafood cataplane, chicken piri piri, vino verde and grilled sardines, it's back to healthy homecooked meals in London. With my new cookbook (Ottolenghi's Plenty) as inspiration!