A Foodie’s Guide to Lagos, Portugal

I have a bit of a crush on Portugal. I keep coming back for more. Over the past three years, I’ve digital nomad-ed (no-made?) my way around Porto, Madeira and Ericeira – to the point that this year I finally downloaded Duolingo and started learning Portuguese. But nomads gotta roam, so instead of returning to old flames, I decided to explore pastures new: Lagos – a small city in the western half of the Algarve, on Portugal’s south coast.

Travel to, from and around Lagos, Portugal

The easiest way to get to Lagos (or indeed anywhere in Portugal’s Algarve region) is to fly into Faro airport and then rent a car or take the bus. At the time of writing, easyJet, Transavia and Ryanair fly direct to Faro, but you can compare times and prices on sites like Skyscanner, Expedia and GoEuro. Lagos itself is extremely walkable, but we found it helpful to have a rental car to explore the rest of the Algarve.

Food in the Algarve

Food-wise, the Algarve is known for its cataplana, piri-piri chicken and (naturally, given its location) fresh fish and seafood. But it’s also home to a thriving wine culture that’s long been known locally but is finally starting to gain international recognition as well. And, where there are tourists, expats and digital nomads, there’s also a burgeoning international cuisine scene: we saw Indian restaurants on every corner, but there’s also good Italian, Mexican and Asian food to be found. Let me show you where to look…

Best Portuguese restaurants in Lagos

This section skews heavily towards fish and seafood, because it’s what I enjoy the most, but there’s meat aplenty in Lagos’s restaurants, too. We actually went to Silves for piri-piri chicken (home to the famous Churrasqueira Valdemar) but grilled steaks, chicken and black pork abound in Lagos as well. Vegetarians, however, might struggle: traditional Portuguese restaurants rely heavily on fish and meat, with very few vegetarian options.

O Pescador

One of my dad’s all-time favourite dishes is freshly caught fish, simply grilled in a little olive oil or butter, served with potatoes and veg. And I can’t say I blame him. Done well, grilled fish is a thing of flaky, milky beauty. So I’m positive he would love the food at O Pescador, which (as the name suggests) specialises in fish and seafood. It’s a no-frills Portuguese restaurant frequented by plenty of locals as well as visitors to Lagos. And their grilled seabass was blessed with just the right amount of salt and butter to make it mouth-wateringly moreish. We also tried the garlic-fried shrimp (which was utterly butterly) and the octopus rice, which was steaming hot, soupy and generously portioned. We loved the Esporão white blend from the Alentejo as well, not to mention the friendly price tag. O Pescador is the epitome of Portugal.

Garlic butter shrimp at O Pescador

O Camilo

A little more upscale than O Pescador but with a similar fishy theme is O Camilo: a modern, glass-clad restaurant perched on the clifftops a short walk along the coast from Lagos old town. You’ll pay more, but the views are outstanding and the wine list epic. We ordered a whole red snapper (850 grams to share between two) from the fresh fish counter and were not disappointed – although I marginally preferred the buttery saltiness of O Pescador’s seabass. However, my biggest revelation was the wine we ordered: a 2014 vintage white blend of Bical, Arinto and Cercial graps from the Bairrada region, this smooth mover had spent one year in barrel and nine in bottle – lending it subtle oak, dried apricots and sultanas, and a touch of walnut and caramel. The stuff of sommelier legends.

Catch of the day at O Camilo

A Forja

Back in Lagos old town, A Forja is a properly traditional Portuguese restaurant serving all the specialities you’d expect. We plumped for the seafood rice (are you sensing a theme here?), which was chock-full of a meaty white fish called safio (the waiter translated it as conger) and topped with shrimps and coriander. It was one of several rainy days when we visited A Forja, and this steaming cauldron of comfort food warmed us right up.

Prato Cheio

Ask the internet where to find the best cataplana in Lagos, and all entries point in one direction: Casinha do Petisco. Which would’ve been a great suggestion had there not been a sign in their window for the entire period we were in Lagos saying they’re closed for holidays. With no idea when they were likely to reopen, we resorted to the next best thing: Restaurante Prato Cheio. Outside the touristy centre, this is where the locals go to eat, and it was packed – even on a rainy Wednesday night. We ordered two types of cataplana: one with clams and pork (unanimously the favourite) and one with fish and potatoes (also delicious but with a lot of bones that made it tricky to eat). It might not be immediately obvious why a hot and hearty stew would be so popular in the Algarve, but with the stormy weather we had in late March it was a very welcome winter warmer.

Cataplana at Prato Cheio

Alina’s Bica

A true local café, Alina’s Bica serves up fuss-free, hearty fare to hungry manual labourers and (as it turns out) copywriters. Over the course of my stay in Lagos, I tried Alina’s bifana (a simple sandwich of crusty bread filled with very thinly sliced beef), pica pau (strips of beef in a light gravy with some pickled veg thrown in for good measure), and bacalhau à brás (best described as a salt cod and skinny fries omelette – better than it sounds!). All of which were simple but delicious.

Empanadas & Co

I’d always assumed empanadas were Argentinean, but in fact their origins lie in Portugal and Spain. Just outside Lagos city walls, at Empanadas & Co you can order more than a dozen different varieties of empanada for just a handful of euros each. I tried several of them, and loved the spicy beef, creamy bacalhau and curried chickpea versions. Skip the additional sauces on the side – every empanada is full of flavour as it is and needs no addition.

Empanadas & Co: doing what it says on the tin

Top tapas and wine bars in Lagos

Regular followers will know that I’m a bit obsessed with wines bars, even more so since passing my WSET Level 3 Award in Wine. Luckily, Lagos seems to be full of wine bars that are also serving the Portuguese version of tapas (known as petiscos), which meant I could happily while away an evening tasting the local grape juice not only from the Algarve, but also from the Alentejo, Dão, Bairrada and Douro regions. Saude!


Yes, the natural wine craze has hit Portugal too. I remain unconvinced by the cloudy funk of many natural wines (I have yet to meet an orange wine I can stomach) but fortunately the term “natural wine” is ill-defined enough to cover a multitude of low-intervention sins. I enjoyed Travia’s Peluda rosé from the Vinho Verde region and their Javali red blend from the Douro Valley – both were filtered and avoided the cider effect. Pair with roasted cauliflower with garlic and cashew purée or sweet potatoes roasted with local honey for maximum quaffability (and a welcome hit of vegetables). The hipsters aren’t all bad…

Peluda rosé at Travia natural wine bar


I loved the braised pork cheeks at Mimar so much I went back for second helpings less than a week later. But the menu is full of other temptations as well: spicy seabass ceviche and tuna tataki for the fish lovers, succulent octopus and alheira croquettes for something more typically Portuguese, and even a few vegetarian tapas dishes (which is rare in this neck of the woods). Mimar’s wine list is also well curated (not excessively long), featuring several good options by the glass. I loved their house rosé from Alentejo and their Cab Sav-Sousa reserva blend from the Lisboa region, plus they mixed us a very good pisco sour.

Pork cheeks and a Lisboa red blend at Mimar


The walls at Taninos are lined with bottles of wine, so choosing what to drink is like going to a library and picking out a book to read. It’s also great if you’re with friends and can select a couple of bottles to taste, but less fun for those only looking to try a glass or two. I ordered two bottles of what have recently become firm Portuguese single-varietal favourites: an Encruzado from the Dão region, and a Baga from Bairrada, both of which were great value. The food was top notch, too: think smoked cod carpaccio, scrambled eggs with alheira and asparagus (something I’ve been trying to recreate ever since), and lamb meatballs with sweet potato crisps and yoghurt sauce. Plus, Taninos’ desserts were the business!

Best international restaurants in Lagos

For those moments when you’ve had enough of seafood rice and cataplana, there’s a decent smattering of international cuisine to be found within Lagos’s city walls. From Italian to Asian, here’s where to eat the world.


I didn’t expect Lagos to be home to one of the best Italian restaurants I’ve ever been to – but life is full of surprises. Pomò was literally 50 metres from our front door and we could see the line outside every evening (they don’t take reservations), which means I’m not the only one to be impressed. We ordered the mixed platter of cured meats and cheeses, which comprised a wooden board absolutely laden down with burrata, pecorino, taleggio, mortadella, prosciutto, salami and various other things I’m forgetting. It’s supposed to be for one person, but thank god we decided to share it between two! The same goes for the pasta dishes, which are vast: our lobster ravioli came swimming in butter in its own metal pot, covered with a lid that doubles as a grater for cheese. Pomò’s proprietor is from Puglia, so it only makes sense to order a glass of Primitivo to wash it all down. Perfection.

Puglian perfection at Pomò

The Green Room

You can’t go wrong with a Taco Tuesday deal! Actually, you can but not at The Green Room. On Tuesday evenings before 7 pm, order any cocktail and a free taco of your choice comes with it. The classic margarita is fresh, citrusy and good value, while the tacos come double wrapped (i.e. you get two small corn tortillas) and full to bursting with beef barbacoa, carne assada or fried cactus plus guacamole, pico de gallo and a homemade smoky hot sauce. Yes, it’s a great deal – but it’s also a tasty taco.

Taco Tuesday at The Green Room


I couldn’t decide whether to include DON GULL here or in my section about Portuguese restaurants: its cuisine is a sort of Portuguese-Asian fusion. But traditional it certainly isn’t and delicious it certainly is. It’s also a little off the beaten path, away from the old town charm or marina glamour, but worth seeking out. The menu is mostly fish-based: think tuna tartare with miso, wasabi mayo and poppadums, or breaded shrimp with chilli-mango sauce. I was less convinced by the breaded octopus (why fix what ain’t broken?) but that was the only off-note in what was otherwise a lovely experience. The wine list is well curated (I loved the smooth black cherry Alentejo old-vine blend we ordered) and DON GULL has the added bonus of being dog-friendly.

Asian-fusion tuna tartare at DON GULL

Pom Pom Bagels

Bagels are a tricky thing to get right. And I’m no expert on the matter, but Pom Pom Bagels appear to be doing a very credible job. The everything bagel we ordered was pleasantly chewy, and we could see the kitchen crew boiling and baking them on site. The fillings – in our case, a classic combo of smoked salmon and cream cheese – were generous, and we were well sated for a few hours afterwards. By night, the same location turns into Illicit Burgers; we didn’t get a chance to try their burgers, but they looked pretty good. And if the bagels are anything to go by, they’re worth a try!

The Collab Bar

A coworking space and café, The Collab Bar also serves freshly steamed bao at lunchtime. We tried the Korean cauliflower and the char siu pork, both of which were a pleasing combination of salty, sweet and umami, tucked inside pillowy soft bao buns. With good coffee and friendly service, The Collab Bar is a solid spot to get some work done after lunch, too.

Pillowy soft, stuffed bao at The Collab Bar

Coffee, bakeries and (that all-important) pastel de nata

I’ve written before about the shockingly good value coffee and pastries there are to be found in Portugal – stick to the local places and you’re looking at under a euro for a coffee. But there are also hipster-style barista coffee shops that’ll cost you more money but will deliver on flavour (and oat milk!).

Black and White

The quintessential expat brunch hangout, Black and White makes an excellent cappuccino and ultra-flaky croissant. For those with heartier appetites, the breakfast burrito is also killer.

Pastel de nata: required daily when in Portugal…

Adoce A Vida

My favourite stop for pastel de nata, Adoce A Vida sells so many that they’re always warm (and a little larger than those at other cafés). Their savoury toasties make a substantial and delicious lunch as well.

Padaria Central

A much-loved local bakery that always has a queue out the door, Padaria Central sells pastel de nata, cakes, pastries, fresh bread and more at very affordable prices. I’m a bit obsessed with their signage over the front of the shop, too.

Pastelaria Algarve

On the waterfront, Pastelaria Algarve sells local baked specialities – including the wonderful torta de laranja: a moist, orange-flavoured cake to go with your coffee.

Cocktail bars in Lagos

With my focus on wine, I didn’t drink a whole lot of cocktails in Lagos. However, these were a few places that mixed a good pre- or post-dinner drink or made a cracking jug of sangria…


Overlooking the marina, Artesão is a well located spot to watch the sunset while enjoying an aperitif. Their rosé sangria went down a treat after work.

Sunset sangria overlooking Lagos marina


With its Taco Tuesday and Happy Hour deals, Guanabana seemed to be trying to get me drunk… Their expertly mixed margaritas and pisco sours didn’t help!

Mar d’Estórias

This shop, restaurant and bar in one (each on a different level) has a lot to offer. Mar d’Estórias’ rooftop bar is a classy location for a cocktail or a glass of sangria (there’s an extensive snacks menu too). Beforehand or afterwards, browse the shop downstairs for authentic local products such as tinned fish, pottery and Vinho da Talha (Alentejo wine aged in clay amphora).

Turning tinned fish into an art form at Mar d’Estórias

The Garden

The clue’s in the title at this relaxed, al fresco bar where you sit in a leafy, sheltered courtyard. The Garden has a menu of global fare, but it’s perhaps nicer to stop by for a late afternoon or early evening aperitif.

Staying in the Algarve? Read my foodie guide and wine lover’s guide to the region. Planning to visit the rest of Portugal? Check out my restaurant guides to Porto, Madeira and Ericeira


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