A Foodie’s Guide to Algarve Restaurants

I first visited the Algarve way back in 2013 and wondered why it had taken me so long. I’d had visions of sunburned Brits abroad and fish & chips on every corner. But that stereotype couldn’t have been further from the truth: cool stone cottages, clay-coloured scrubland, wind- and wave-eroded Atlantic beaches and ramshackle local eateries. Not to mention carafe-loads of dangerously drinkable Vinho da Casa. It was the combination of all of this plus my first waterpark experience at the tender age of 33 (literally one of my favourite days ever!) that put the Algarve firmly on my list of places I’d like to live. So when we were deciding where to start our 2024 digital nomad travels, the Algarve was a strong contender. We eventually picked Lagos as home base for our five-week stay – mostly because it has a community of other remote working professionals – which means you’ll find a lengthy article about the best restaurants and wine bars in Lagos here as well. This article, however, focuses on all the fantastic Algarve food, wine and restaurants to be found in the rest of the region. But first, some practical information.

Travel and accommodation in the Algarve, Portugal

The easiest way to get to the Algarve is to fly into Faro airport: at the time of writing, easyJetTransavia and Ryanair fly direct to Faro, but you can compare times and prices on sites like SkyscannerExpedia and GoEuro. I’ve rented a car every time I’ve been to the Algarve (including our most recent stay in Lagos), so that I could explore the rest of the region easily. It only takes around two hours to drive from the western tip at Sagres to the eastern border with Spain, but it’s less easy to get out of the main cities via public transport.

Carvoeiro’s sandstone cliffs, jutting out into the Algarve ocean

While I stayed in Lagos for the reasons mentioned above, for a shorter holiday I’d recommend basing yourself in Carvoeiro. It’s almost bang in the middle of Algarve coast, which makes it a good jumping off point to go anywhere else. I spent a week there in spring 2023 with my family-in-law, staying at a villa called Vivenda Brito: a small set of rooms, studios and apartments set around a central pool and garden area. It’s ideal for family holidays because each person/couple can have their own space but with a shared, al-fresco meeting point in the middle. (I’m not being paid by these people, by the way – I just really liked it!)

Best restaurants in Carvoeiro, Algarve

Now that I’ve persuaded you to stay in Carvoeiro (obviously you can stay wherever you like!) let’s sort out where to eat. There are definitely some tourist traps in Carvoeiro: Irish pubs, dodgy Italians and overpriced steakhouses. But here are a few Carvoeiro restaurants that are tried, tested and foodie-approved.

Earth Shop & Café

Up the hill, along the road from Vivenda Brita, you’ll find the wonderful Earth Café: ready to set you up for a hike along the cliffs or sort out your hangover after a bit too much fun at the pub quiz the night before. I tried quite a few things off the menu, all of which were delicious, but I went back for second helpings of the eggs baked in a hearty bean and chouriço stew. In the same building as the café, there’s also a shop selling local wines and gourmet products that I can highly recommend as well.

Baked eggs and fresh juices at Earth Shop & Café

Touriga Wine & Dine

This small but well-stocked wine bar was the absolute highlight of my trip to Carvoeiro with my in-laws. Whether you order the braised pork cheeks, tender octopus, bacalhau a bras or spicy pica pau, Touriga Wine & Dine’s menu of Portuguese specialities is all perfectly executed. Ideally, bring a group of friends so you can taste as many of the wines as possible: we ordered the Paxá reserva red blend from the Algarve region itself and the Quinta do Sobreiró de Cima reserve red blend from the Trás-os-Montes region. Both were so good I found myself seeking them out for the rest of the trip, and even visited the Paxá wine estate a year later.

Portuguese grilled octopus at Touriga Wine & Dine

Gurkha Kitchen

You wouldn’t expect to find good Indian food in a tiny village in the Algarve… But where there are Brits, there’s demand. And where there’s demand, there’s supply. We really enjoyed the bold flavours of lamb madras, chicken cham cham, lamb momo and jhinga butter prawns at Gurkha Kitchen, which specialises in Nepalese food as well as the Indian classics. And it makes a change from all that Portuguese food!

Nepalese momo at Gurkha Kitchen

Inland Algarve restaurants

Many people’s idea of the Algarve is glistening blue ocean and pristine sandy beaches. But just inland, there are rolling hills leading to rugged mountains, including a mish-mash of mountain villages nestled up steep and winding roads. Even if you’re staying along the coast, I’d highly recommend day trips inland to Silves and Monchique.

Churrasqueira Valdemar, Silves

Think Portuguese food, and piri-piri chicken is perhaps the first thing that springs to mind. And in central Algarve, outdoor-grilled, chilli-marinated chicken is every bit as popular as fish is along the coast. Churrasqueira Valdemar in the Medieval town of Silves is purported to serve the best piri-piri chicken in the Algarve, and the line outside would suggest most people agree. We queued up one Sunday lunchtime while watching the grill master hard at work as the BBQ smoke billowed over us. Valedemar serves a fixed menu of grilled chicken (with or without piri-piri sauce), salad, chips, bread, a small fruit plate and drinks for just €10 a head. An absolute bargain, and delicious to boot.

Piri-piri chicken at the famous Churrasqueira Valdemar in Silves

O Poço da Serra, Monchique

When we arrived at mountain restaurant O Poço da Serra in Monchique, we were the only customers there (to start with at least), it was raining hard and we had our dog with us. Luckily, the friendly proprietor welcomed us with open arms and the kind of food that has me making joyful “wheeeee!” noises. Wild boar and red wine stew, braised cabbage with all sorts of sausage and gnaw-able bits of meat, goat with fried potatoes and giant croutons… Plus a litre jug of Vinho da Casa. And all for about €20 per person – incredible value.

Traditional Algarve charm at O Poço da Serra in Monchique

Bar Bacchus, Porches

Porches is the pottery capital of the Algarve, and is well worth a visit just to see the potters and painters at work on their colourful creations. While at Porches Pottery, we enjoyed a simple but fresh and delicious lunch at Bar Bacchus right next door, which is filled with unique, hand-painted tiles. Go for the ceramics, stay for the quiche, salad and a glass of Vinho Verde!

Bar Bacchus: lunch that passes as artwork

Other restaurants along the Algarve coast

Dotted along the Algarve coastline, you’ll find a multitude of small coastal towns to visit. We enjoyed Alvor, Tavira and Sagres, although I didn’t get as much opportunity to sample the restaurants there as I’d have liked.

A Lota, Alvor

Tucked between Carvoeiro and Lagos, the fishing village of Alvor is characterised by its scenic boardwalk over the mud flats and its extensive waterfront area lined with bars and restaurants. After you’ve been for a stroll, head to A Lota de Alvor (set slightly back from the main drag) for a fish lunch or dinner. We ordered a whole snapper to share between us, which came simply grilled and filleted at the table. But there were lots of other seafood classics as well, from tuna tartare to grilled octopus. A true pescatarian’s paradise.

Fresh fish, cooked to order, at A Lota de Alvor

Wild Sandwich Boutique, Alvor

Also in Alvor but completely different in both menu and location (away from the old town and the marina), the Wild Sandwich Boutique does what it says on the tin. They take their sandwiches seriously, with a wide array of fresh fillings that are ideal for a light lunch. The Irish owner is also a true dog lover: there were four dogs (including my own) sitting outside the lunchtime I visited, and all of them were given little cups of natural yoghurt and peanut butter – his take on a puppaccino. Truffles was impressed, and so was I.

Vila Joya, Galé, Albufeira

Editor’s note: the review below has been adapted from an article I wrote almost a decade ago. But as Vila Joya still holds two Michelin stars and is included in multiple lists of the best fine dining restaurants in Portugal, I think it bears repeating!

Spectacular views from the terrace at Vila Joya restaurant

While downtown Albufeira may be best avoided, just west along the beach at Galé you’ll find the Algarve’s two-Michelin-starred Vila Joya restaurant: a boutique resort as well as a visiting gastronome’s Mecca. We ordered the lunchtime tasting menu by chef Dieter Koschina, which looked like four courses but of course morphed into ten with all the “surprises” (as the wait staff liked to call the amuse-bouches) thrown in along the way. Particular highlights included the starter of scallops with gooseberry and sweet onion, and the pre-dessert of apricots, white chocolate and vanilla. These dishes imply a classic style of cuisine, but the meal was characterised by various “pearls” (self-contained bursts of flavour that exploded in your mouth) – the chef clearly knew his molecular stuff but he didn’t go overboard, either. The sommelier came up trumps as well: a bottle of Quinta das Marias, produced using Portugal’s indigenous Encruzado grape variety from the Dão region, was the perfect accompaniment not only to the food but to the spectacular ocean views.

Planning a trip to the Algarve? Check out my foodie guides to Lagos and Faro, as well as my wine lover’s guide to the Algarve!


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