Petiscos (Small Plates) €5.00 - €10.00
Pratos (Bigger Plates) €14.50 - €29.50
Puds Can't remember
Cooking 7.5/10 | Service 5/5
Flavour 4/5 | Value 4/5
So you’re down in the Algarve, and you’re looking for something a bit on the posh side. Sardines and vinho verde are very fine things, as was the bucket of grilled fish you had for lunch the other day (€12.50, including the nibbles, salad, tatties, pud and a gargle of very acceptable white). But you want more.
Nay, you need more, because you’re treating your besties M & I. They winter in the south of Portugal and, inexplicably, for the third year in a row they invite you to stay with them. Anyway, you’re asking around, and folk tell you to come here. Why? Because it’s owned by Kevin, who used to write for The Grauniad. He’s moved to Portugal, and opened this place.
Am I selling it to you? Thought not. Never mind, come with me on the journey. It’s easy enough to find. Toddle down to the square just off the prom, the one with the statue of the lascivious mermaid, and turn right.
You just know when something feels right. Kevin is cool and smiles. If you’re a man you really don’t notice, because the sultry Sonja is with you. Are you dazzled by the huge Gelvi Gelados sign which Kevin bought when an ice cream shop closed down? Possibly – it’s part of the pzazz of the place, but if you’re a man, you’ll be subsumed by Sonja.
In Britain, we feel obliged to comment on the fact that there are small plates. On the Iberian peninsula, they’re called tapas. In the past I’ve suggested that a combo of lots of small plates and some larger ones doesn’t really work. chá, chá, chá just proves that I know nothing.
M, who has been here before, points us towards the Borba Sheeps Cheese, Orange Blossom Honey and a Plum Preserve. A very fine thing, though my mind is taken back to the wonder that was the goats cheese crème brȗlée in Tapa in Leith the other week. Grilled Aubergine with Lemon Tahini was even better than it sounded, some sort of cheesy/yoghurt/light whipped thingy, containing hints of lemon and tahini providing the perfect counterpoint to the slightly bitter tang of the veg.
The menu, which changes daily depending what Kevin finds in the local market, doesn’t hold back on its descriptions. Fancy an aperitif? Sample a lovely glass of our sparkling Rosé Pét Nat. Or a plate of burrata? All that’s on offer is Gorgeous Creamy Burrata. It’s part of the fun, of which there is a lot here.
M fancied chickpea hummus, which can be a bit of a cliché. This was creamier than usual. I didn’t detect the za’ater (sic) oil. An interesting coarse green leaf came from broccoli, but the star of the show was the optional extra of the merguez sausage. It’s a kitchen that’s not afraid to experiment. The majority of the company loved the combo of Smoked Tuna with Orange, Plum, Rocket, Pomegranate, Tangerine Vinaigrette. I was the silent minority. We could have had warm lentils with prawn ceviche, or polenta with pumpkin, green bean ragù and Parmesan. A total of 18 small plates. Quite an achievement for a fairly small place.
Astoundingly there are 13 large plates. How can one resist a plate of 10 Lovely Local Grilled Prawns with Chermoula Aioli? Not a word of a lie. 10 whoppers for €17.50. There was much eating too on a plate of Juicy Chicken Thighs with Harissa Potatoes. Not the star dish, but not a morcel remained. The meal was interspersed with visits from Sonja. Impossible not to love a lady who brings food of this quality, tops up the bread, and exchanges full bottles for empty with great alacrity.
I nearly forgot. Unusually for one of my reviews, pudding was consumed. A lemon tart? Nothing so prosaic. A Lovely Lemon Tart That Happens To Be Vegan was appreciated by all, even if we couldn’t work out how pastry of this quality was vegan. We did pick up on some coconut in it, but the rest is beyond my baking experience. Pud of the day was a splendid mongrel of a thing, a cheesecake on a brownie base.
A great time was had by all. This is the best and most imaginative food I’ve eaten in the Algarve. It would be remiss of me not to say that we all had a raging thirst soon after leaving, suggesting that someone had been a wee bit heavy on the salt. Were we bovvered? No. I wanted to book for the next night.