Gastronomic Gorman on tour: Algarve, Portugal

With soaring temperatures, stunning coastlines and amazing food, Portugal is one of the most popular destinations for British travellers. I’ve been on holidays to the Algarve many times, my last trip took me to Cavoeiro, and this is my guide to the area.

I stayed on the Vale Da Pinta golf resort in Carvoeiro, which is in the municipality of Lagoa, an important wine producing region and the home of Algarve pottery. Here’s my round up of my favourite things to do, buy and eat!

Things to do: This area of the Algarve is famed for golf. With 14 different courses in the West Algarve alone, if you’re a golfer, you’re in paradise. My uncle, who is the resident golfer in my family, highly recommends the Penina Championship course near Portimão.

The stunning Portuguese coastline also provides a plethora of beaches to choose from. In Cavoeiro, you can enjoy a little luxury with a Champagne bed overlooking the sea from Rei Das Praias restaurant’s private beach (more on Rei Das Praias later).

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Travel towards Albufeira and you’ll find Galé, a long, sandy beach with a great selection of watersports to try, from Jet Skis to Banana Boats and even Parasailing. If you’re not into the watersports, you can watch from one of the two bars overlooking the beach. Or walk further along towards Lourenço beach and you’ll find a small secluded bay with sun loungers where you can relax away from all the hustle and bustle of the main beach, but still be close enough to grab a cold beer from the bar. If you’re planning on spending the day though. arrive early as parking is minimal and Galé gets very busy. Or, spend the afternoon, as the locals tend to start coming off the beach at around 2pm, freeing up some space.

What to buy: Obviously if you’re staying in a wine producing region, wine makes the perfect souvenir to take home, and sampling the local wine was something I really enjoyed on this holiday. Situated between Cavoeiro and Portimão, Quinta Dos Vales vineyard produces award winning reds, whites, rose and sparkling wines that are among the best in the Algarve. I highly recommend the Duo 2013 white, which is a crisp, dry but fruity white that pairs beautifully with fish and seafood.

The home of Algarve pottery is also in the municipality of Lagoa so pottery is in abundance in this area. If you want the authentic experience Porches is the place to go, with shops full of traditional blue and white pottery. However, there are factory outlets all around the region and in the centre of most towns. Cavoeiro’s old market has a good selection of items, all handpainted but in more colourful designs. I picked up some adorable oil and vinegar bottles and olive serving dish in Cavoeiro.

What to eat: Some of the best things to eat in Portugal are fish, shellfish, pork and steak. These are my favourite restaurants from our trip.

Best for Steak: Fim Do Mundo, Ferragudo

Restaurant Fim Do Mundo is a little out of place in the fishing village of Ferragudo, as they are most famous for their steaks. A homely restaurant serving up rustic, traditional Portuguese food with fantastic meat and a warm welcome from English Jo and her Portuguese husband, who is the chef.

The walls are adorned with old farming tools and the kitchen is open so you can see the chef at work. It always has a buzzing atmosphere and the place is packed every night!

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One of my favourite things to have at Fim Do Mundo is the Portuguese flaming sausage starter. Similar to Chorizo, it is a cured pork sausage flavoured with paprika, flamed to render some of the fat and crisp up the skin.

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And of course, you can’t come to a restaurant that’s famous for steak and not have one! This time I opted for one of Jo’s specials, a 6 month old T-Bone steak, simply chargrilled and served with chips and salad garnish.

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I cannot overstate the flavour of this meat. It was absolutely delicious, one of the most flavoursome pieces of meat I’ve ever eaten, even comparable to the amazing steaks at Fiesta Del Asado back home. The texture was succulent and almost melt in the mouth. Definitely one of my favourite places to eat of all time!

If you find yourself in the vicinity, you must go, but be warned, book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Best for Fish: Rei Das Praias, Caneiros

Rei Das Praias is a beautiful fish restaurant up on stilts above the beach in Caneiros, with stunning sunset views over the cliffs and the ocean. As you walk in, there is a display cabinet with all of their fresh fish and shellfish of the day, so when you order from the menu, they’ll bring you a fish from the chiller cabinet for you to inspect before they cook it for you.

When we dined here, I had clams cooked in garlic and herb butter to start with and grilled Dover sole for my main course. The first time I ever ate clams was in Portugal and I have loved them ever since. The clams at Rei Das Praias were delicious, sweet and tender and a mountainous portion!

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The Dover sole was also fantastic, tender fish, simply seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon, and no bones.

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Also noteworthy were the red prawns with garlic and piri piri which looked amazing!

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As did the Lobster Rice, which I did get a sneaky sample of! Delicate seafood, meaty lobster and a beautiful saffron infused sauce made this a really stunning dish.

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Like Fim Do Mundo, Rei Das Praias is buzzing and always busy, so it’s advisable to book in advance for dinner.

As well as the restaurant, Rei Das Praias also has a private section of the beach with luxurious sun loungers and beds to hire for the day, which I highly recommend. The Champagne bed is €70 for the day, with a luxury double bed sunlounger with canopy, towels and a chilled bottle of Champagne served right to your bed at your request.

Fine Dining: Hexagone, Sesmarias

Hexagone in Sesmarias is a lovely restaurant, with some traditional Portuguese elements and fine dining flair in the presentation.

I ate here twice while I was away and enjoyed both meals equally. My standout dishes were the Portuguese game sausage pastries, a lovely little starter, which were surprisingly delicate in flavour with a smoky red pepper sauce.

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The other impressive starter was the Seafood Tasting Platter, with scallop carpaccio and watermelon jelly, goose barnicles and marinated mussels. The scallop carpaccio worked brilliantly, the refreshing watermelon cutting the richness of the scallop, the marinated mussels were of course lovely, and the goose barnicles shocked me as I expected them to be slimy like winkles, but they were actually quite meaty with a salty flavour. Quite enjoyable!

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Onto the mains, the suckling pig at Hexagone is fantastic. Two large pieces of pork belly with crispy crackling and juicy meat served with potato crisps, gravy and fennel salad. The fennel salad had a little too much fennel for my liking, but was a lovely compliment to the rich meat. The pork here had so much flavour than pork I normally have back home so it was a real treat.

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The Red Prawns at Hexagone also looked fantastic. You may have guessed that I am a prawn fan by now! The presentation really was worthy of a photo though!

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The other thing that makes Hexagone a great destination is the desserts. Many of the restaurants we went to had amazing starters and mains, but struggled a little with desserts. Hexagone, however, does not. This beautiful chocolate dessert with chocolate fondant, white chocolate ice cream and crushed, caramelised nuts was fantastic, especially washed down with a lovely glass of port to compliment the spiciness in the chocolate.

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Best for Lunch & Light Bites: Nosolo Agua, Portimão

Nosolo Agua has 2 locations, a beach bar right on the sand with sun loungers for hire, inflatables in the sea in high season, and a shady bar with seating areas. Then there’s also a larger bar next door with luxury loungers around a large pool and a restaurant area.

Nosolo Agua are known for their sushi platters, cocktails and lunch dishes. When we went, we enjoyed their crispy calamari and garlic prawn starters.

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For main, their  seafood linguini with fresh tomato sauce adorned with a large green lipped mussel is lovely, but the portion was rather large even for me!

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The staff here are also lovely and very attentive, with waitress service to your loungers, but the music is loud and it’s always busy, so not for you if you’re seeking quiet seclusion. Entry to Nosolo Agua is €7.50 per person with sunlounger hire for the day at around €22.50 for a 3 person section. All drinks are put on a tab card which you pay on exit.

Staying In: Surf & Turf on the barbecue!

The quality of the fresh produce in both the local markets and Supermarkets in Portugal is fantastic, so eating in really isn’t a compromise. Our favourite thing to make was Surf & Turf with king prawns and sirloin steak.

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Served up with a tomato & mozarella salad, Algarve salad and Mediterranean style potatoes with onion, balsamic vinegar and oregano.

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Delicious!

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Portugal is a fabulous destination, with year round sun, scorching temperatures, a breathtaking landscape and of course, fabulous food.

Saúde to that!
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