Even though we were all-inclusive at the hotel, we decided to venture out for a couple of meals and found two lovely places – one of which I had been to before, with family. The food at the hotel was surprisingly good, with loads of choice and some nights featured some more traditional and Portuguese food (one evening I had the most yummy octopus rice and had lots of natillas/arroz com leite! Mmm). I always knew we’d go somewhere else for a change and was lucky to find some good restaurants – unfortunately, I won’t be mentioning one of the places we went to, it was SO bad, but it was the only place to show English football at lunchtime, so we weren’t left with much choice.
Lunch at Sueste, Ferragudo
I ate at Sueste when holidaying with family in Carvoeiro several years ago and the restaurant is pretty much unchanged since then – the decor is the same, the menu is the same and it’s still increasingly popular. I’m sure I even recognised some of the staff. Situated at the end of the quayside, the menu and views are unrivalled and if you want fish, there’s no place better. I hasten to add the restaurant only serves fish – no meat and no veggie option. Food doesn’t get much fresher either – sometimes you even see men fishing.
To start I had squid and the smallest one they had was 280g – which was more than enough for one. It was simply cooked on the grill (like everything else at the restaurant) and then served in garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon – simple but incredibly tasty. The photo doesn’t do it justice at all. We then shared a seabass and side salad. All the main dishes are served with herby garlic new potatoes. Each fish is priced by weight and the staff weigh the fish before bringing it over to you. You have to be savvy though, as obviously they try and make you buy more than you want. We had 650g between us, which was just enough – I don’t think we could have eaten more – and was half a fish. Although I managed to serve up the bass, the staff are also on hand to remove the bones if you struggle.
There’s indoor and outdoor seating; we sat outside with a beautiful view of the port. The atmosphere is also always very good. It’s always packed which means the service suffers a bit, but then there’s no hurry and the setting is lovely, you don’t want to leave! For lunch it was a little on the pricy side ( £50) but considering what we ordered, it was good value – and after all, you’re paying for quality and location.
Dinner at The Village Inn, Mexilhoeira da Carregação
The menu for The Village Inn was in the lobby of our hotel and we were quick to book a table for the Friday night. The restaurant mixes traditional Portuguese decor with olde-worlde touches to create something totally unique and quaint. You can’t miss the bright yellow exterior as you enter the small town and the inside is so cosy. We sat out in the courtyard, which has space for 12 diners and each table is decorated differently.
The host and owner Kathie was incredibly friendly, passionate and her hospitality was spot-on. It was hard to believe she was pretty much single-handedly running the place and the service throughout was very good – she was definitely a character. I think it best now to mention she even dropped us back at our hotel after the meal, on the basis that the taxis in the are unreliable. Where else would you get that kind of treatment? It was such a kind gesture.
The menu is a random affair with the dishes varying from Portuguese to British – and even oriental! To start I had baby squid, sautéed in garlic which was lovely – a clean and simple starter. I followed this with the Persian lamb, which wasn’t what I was expecting – it was more like a curry, with fragrant rice and a number of interesting accompaniments (which included bananas dipped in coconut). The portion size was huge and there was definitely enough for two, but the dish was packed full of flavour and incredibly tasty. It’s made me keen to visit a Persian or Iranian restaurant.
I couldn’t believe it when the bill arrived - £30 for two courses, two drinks and coffee was far too cheap! The glass of wine alone was £1.20, with bottles of beer at a similar price. Although we were the youngest by far in the courtyard, I never felt uncomfortable and it was lovely to be able to converse with the other diners in an informal setting – one of the couples had been visiting the restaurant for about 20 years and had become quite food friends with Kathie. The decor definitely appeals more to an older clientele and I could see it being somewhere members of my family would enjoy. I just wish I had taken more pictures as the setting was truly magical – and so different from anything I’d seen before.