Uma lealdade ao retro e uma reinvenção do Algarve

It is a great pleasure at this time of year to have the time to research some new restaurants.Its all part and parcel of running a guest house.We would never recommend a restaurant to our guests if we had not eaten there ourselves.It is a truism of the hospitality business the more you put in the more you get out and  giving lots of insider information, tips and suggestions might secure a return visit.
"They also directed us to some wonderfully located local beach restaurants, though sadly the food never matched the quality of dinner at Casa Rosada"    guest review on Tripadvisor

Getting to know the staff of local restaurants can always be a help when making reservations on behalf of clients.A voice recognised at the end of the telephone I always think will make for a better service, and possibly a better table on arrival.
Most recently we selected two very different restaurants to try out in the company of friends.I say very different when I refer to style, but both establishments had two common denominators,phenomenal service,and a strong sense of nostalgia or saudade. 

Restaurante Chaminé, Altura
Having spent over 10 years living and working in the east Algarve this was our first visit to A Chamine.From the moment of our arrival we received very good service from attentive staff. The restaurant is well known for its  chef Joaquim Feliciano who has been the chef proprietor for 36 years. Our waiter, Fernando, could not do enough for us. We we were shown to our table and sat down in an almost retro atmosphere,the environment is fine but just a little old fashioned,but this is one of the factors that gives it its charm.What I was most drawn to was that we were able to watch from our table the streamlined, efficient service taking place in the kitchen.A great set of elderly cooks (all women),and waiters were watched over by snr.Feliciano who did not appear to be cooking himself although dressed appropriately for the role of head chef.He is one of the most renowned Portuguese chefs of his generation and quite clearly a true connoisseur of Algarvian retro gastronomy.
 The cover was excellent ,with a variety of breads, pate and special starters.The buttery sheeps cheese Monte da Vinha,served at room temperature with a spoon was especially good.For our mains I ordered the lamb cutlets in mint sauce, which were excellent, though looked over jealously at the fat veal steaks and lamb stew that my companions had ordered.
The food was well presented in a quaint old fashioned style and accompanied by a very good comprehensive wine list.A Chamine obviously has a great reputation, and I am loathe to be too critical of this place. It is very charming, and the staff are excellent and go out of their way to please you.The restaurant has been representative for Porrtuguese and Algarvian food in competitions abroad.Chef Feliciano has won several prizes in contests and gastronomic competitions among them the most recent"The golden cataplana"
Mariza with Chef Feliciano
A Chaminé is situated in the heart of a pristine seaside village, elegantly surrounded by gardens.At the entrance you cross a comfortable terrace where you can also dine or have lunch, especially in the summer. In the interior, we find an exquisite atmosphere, where the white, impeccably starched tablecloths stand out,dressed with scallop folded napkins.As we look at the walls, I am once again fascinated by something I have not seen for along time and a mark of its generation  photographs of some of its more celebrated diners, who are frequent visitors to this house,politicians,diplomats as well as some football stars and more recently the celebrated Fado star Mariza.
A Chaminé is a well run,familiar and typical Algarvian restaurant. Not trendy, but very much a family friendly place.

Av. 24 de Junho, 8950-411 Altura  Phone +351281950100

Restaurante Gilao, Tavira

 Tudo azul,blue winter skies, warm sunshine and the
 perfect time and place to find a table for a langourous lunch

Our second  choice of establishment to check out was a classic and for me a very successful example of the Algarve re-inventing itself.
This restaurant shies away from the obvious, the easy and predictable, and instead brings surprises to the table that are clever takes on some of the most genuine and traditional of Algarvian gastronomy.This was more than a surprise, an example that should be followed for boldness and originality.We have very strong memories,(the Portuguese would call it saudade)of the old working market on the riverfront in Tavira.Alas the market closed and moved to a more modern location.Someone somewhere had the brainwave of injecting new life into the traditional markets of Portugal. Old buildings full of history have been reborn all over the country with creative and innovative restoration proposals for a change of use as restaurants.
In Tavira, right next to the Gilão River,the old Mercado de ribeira has a new restaurant, born from the ashes of a former family snack bar. The name derives from the neighbouring river and also designates the origin of many of the dishes they serve.The menu is extensive but in no way touristic and Gilao needs to be returned to several times to be able to sample the full potential of their menu.the layout spreads over three distinct spaces all displaying traces of this redefined modernity.
before the lunchtime rush
A bar, an extensive outdoor riverside terrace  and an elegant light and airy dining room. 
The menu  features the fantastic creations of chef Cecilia Paixão.  Challenged by owner Ângela Botelho, she has built a menu highlighting the best of Algarvian produce from fish and seafood to mountain food.There is very little I would not want to try on this amazing menu.Its like a dream shopping trip, trying on different clothes and not knowing when to stop.
There is so much to discover here in this whim of re-invention.There is something for everyone ,so does one opt for the à la carte service or let yourself be tempted to try the surprising range of tapas? Who said tapas dont work in the Algarve Paixão has proved it does and pitched at an audience that wants value for money.
How about Chamuça de cavala em molho de caril e gengibre (€2.50) (Horse mackerel samosas in a curry and ginger sauce), a specialty that came to Portugal through Indo-Portuguese cuisine from Goa, Daman and Diu, once belonging to the Portuguese State of India.This,in my eyes, gains Paixão big brownie points. Or "Tempura of octopus and spicy honey". Spicy honey enhancing the texture of octopus.Clever.
There is a delicious baked camembert with raspberries (€ 4.50)(oh so Avillez!!!!)
 The Pianinhos (baby pork ribs)in the oven in honey and mustard (€ 4.50) are a temptation, as well as the Skewered octopus on fried tomato toast (€ 6).
In all there are more than 20 tapas proposals for snacking and sharing with friends. Throughout the menu Alentejan influences pop up in the guise of a Migas of farinheira and egg with coriander and parmesan chips (€ 7). Shrimp,in piri-piri sauce and  aged brandy (€ 11)  puts a brilliant modern twist on the famous Taviran dish, Piri piri prawns with whisky and lemon
 Local classics are also featured in the cockle stew with Xarém  (€ 6), the stew of mussels in tomato sauce (€ 7).Another of my favourites, Raia alhada and mussels (€ 23), and the Bulhão Pato clams. If the idea is to share, lose yourself in the bold flavours of the Cataplana for two people, or choose between two more Alentejan classics, black pig cheeks and clams  (€ 26),or the octopus with Aljezur sweet potatoes and black pudding (€ 26 ), pork tenderloins with grapes and sweet potatoes,where Paixão once again shows a brilliant conjugation of flavours.The Sweet potato is from Aljezur,its uniqueness  geographically protected by the European Union.Signature dishes abound exhibiting Paixão´s creativity.You can spend as much or as little as you want at Gilão,you can mix and match and share and share alike from spicy chicken wings, garlic sauce and chili pepper at just (€ 3) or you can push the prawn out defying your purse strings and order the seafood in brandy sauce and coriander (€ 40)
Coming back down to earth with the phenomenal and daring Carré of lamb sealed in mango and rosemary sauce (€ 16).In a clear reference to the sea and the Algarve, allow yourself be tempted by the Robalo da costa escalado na grelha, batata a murro e manteiga de alho (€14) (butterflied sea bass on the grill, with punched potatoes and garlic butter (€ 14)
or my all time favourite, Polvo a lagareiro com batatas a murro (€13).Oh and I nearly forgot to mention the red velvet cake being given a rightful showing.
Tavira, has always had a rich, intelligent cuisine,but what one discovers at Gilão are some  peculiar but very modern ways of using the most common foods.Set in a land of traditions and history, Tavira knows how to line your stomach to the full. For me, dare I say it, is one of the best destinations for sampling Algarve gastronomy. 
                                                                      Vamos voltar...até breve

Rua do Cais, Mercado da Ribeira, Loja 2A 8800-218   Phone: 281 322 050


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