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Portugal is one of those countries I’m steadily falling in love with. I’d not been at all until I was 33 (the same age I also experienced my first waterpark – go figure) but I’ve been three times since. On that first, waterpark-fuelled holiday, I drove around the Algarve, eating along the way. Then a year or two later, I ate my way through Lisbon and Sintra. This time, the Honey Badger needed to be in Faro for work, so I tagged along and edited an annual report from the beach – because why not? It was Easter the following weekend, so we stuck around to soak up some sun and sangria. Faro may be small, but its Old Town is photogenic, the food cheap and generous, and the people immensely friendly. I’d highly recommend staying a day or two in Faro before heading off to the Algarve’s stunning coastline and rural orange groves. And for when you do, I bring you my Foodie Guide to Faro Restaurants.
8 of the Best Faro Restaurants and Bars
For the best cataplana in Faro: Chefe Branco
Last time I was in the Faro, I was thwarted in my attempts to eat cataplana at my (then) first choice of restaurant, Tasca do Ricky. This time, I had the benefit of local knowledge – all of which pointed me in one direction: Chefe Branco. In case you’re wondering, cataplana is a kind of fish stew with a tomato base served in large, steaming copper pots – it’s comforting and impressive at the same time. We sat outside local’s favourite Chefe Branco, made the most of that Mediterranean climate, ordered the monkfish cataplana, and drank a bottle of Portuguese red wine. A perfect evening.
For Portuguese “tapas” in Faro: restaurant Portas de São Pedro
Possibly my favourite meal in the Algarve, Portas de São Pedro is an unassuming little place that’s set back from the tourist centre of town. It doesn’t have outside space, but it does serve some of the best food in Faro. The dishes are served tapas-style so it’s best to go with friends so you can share a few between you. Unfortunately, I was flying solo that day so I was only able to try two of the dishes – recommended to me by those who’d gone before me. The grilled octopus that you see here was slightly charred and served with textured sweet potato and an unholy amount of roasted garlic. I loved it – but you’ve gotta be cool with the garlic breath. I also ordered the eggs with coriander, more garlic and cubed pieces of meat known as farinheira, which Google later told me was a smoked pork sausage. Oh, and a small beer was only a euro – #WINNING!
For traditional Portuguese food in Faro: Adega Nova
I was lucky to get out of Adega Nova with my fidelity intact, so charming were the waiters (my eyes were amazing, my French was perfect, they wanted to take me out for a glass of wine, etc., etc. – total nonsense, of course, but made a change from the Dutch norm). Adega Nova is a very traditional Portuguese restaurant with as much local clientele as there is fresh fish – all of which is served simply with boiled potatoes and salad. They also had some incredible-looking seafood skewers, which I’d definitely have ordered if I had someone to share it with (they were huge). The food is simple but good value; not all the waiters speak English, but French will get you by if you don’t speak Portuguese.
For budget food in Faro: the “Menu do Dia” at Saudade em Português
I first discovered the concept of the Menu del Dia in Barcelona – a fixed (or limited choice) three-course menu, often including a drink and/or coffee, for an insanely affordable price. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the same system applies in Portugal, and the prices are even lower. At Saudade em Português – another recommendation from a local Faro resident – the Menu do Dia cost just €7.90. For that, at lunchtime I ate a mangetout and orange salad, date-stuffed pork loin with a creamy pasta gratin, and fruit salad (which I instantly regretted as the cake option looked amazing).
For sangria in Faro: Tasquinha Cruzeiro
Another thing I only discovered shamefully late in life is white sangria – I now far prefer it to its red counterpart. I’m not sure why, but it’s a fruity and refreshing drink that I can’t get enough of when I’m on holiday (or – errm – working remotely). At Tasquinha Cruzeiro – a cute little tavern just behind Faro’s main drag – they serve a generous white sangria for €3 a glass (and frankly not much more for a jug). I tried the food there too but wasn’t so impressed – I’d suggest eating elsewhere and then popping in for an after-dinner drink.
For drinks at a Faro rooftop bar: Ria Formosa or The Woods
Faro’s geography lends itself to rooftop views: the city fans out around the marina, which in turn gives way to a series of islands punctuating the Mediterranean sea. From both Ria Formosa (the restaurant on the fifth floor of the Faro Hotel) and The Woods (just the other side of Rua 1 de Maio), you get spectacular sunset views over the boats and ocean. Of course, you pay for it – a coke was €4 at Ria Formosa, and a white port and tonic was €7 at The Woods – but it’s worth it for that golden hour when the light is slowly fading…
For coffee and pastel de nata in Faro: Quente & Frio
You can’t go to Portugal without eating at least one pastel de nata (a day): those incredibly moreish custard tarts with the flakiest, butteriest pastry casing imaginable. I didn’t find particularly good coffee in Faro, but I did discover Quente e Frio: top notch pasteis de nata and at least ok coffee. Plus, they have a sunny terrace where you can easily while away half an hour reading, people-watching, or just sunbathing.