The Algarve has long been famed for its tasty, typical cuisine served at quaint, no-frills restaurants and at prices that can still be found at single figures for the daily set menu. Pictures of platters heaped with grilled fish and meat, flanked by baskets of fresh bread, dishes of olives and the obligatory jug of red or white wine consistently grace the pages of evocative Algarve travel pieces.
But, as appealing as the simplicity of such wholesome cuisine may be the Algarve has also been quietly building a solid reputation as a first-rate fine-dining destination, with luxury restaurants and inspired menus to rival those of its most polished national and international gastronomic peers.
It’s an exciting time for foodies in the Algarve, with so many talented chefs and innovative cookery emerging, adding another string to the region’s ever-growing bow. Now counting seven Michelin-starred restaurants – two of which boast two stars – and a host of other scintillating eateries, the Algarve’s gourmet scene is alight with creativity and flair
From swanky settings in cliff-top hotels to romantic rural retreats, visitors are spoilt for fine-dining choices, and should indeed indulge in a little bit of Algarve culinary luxury to add a special touch to their holiday.
To help make that choice, Algarve Fun has compiled a list of the Algarve’s top 10 best fine-dining restaurants, from time-honoured classics to exciting newcomers, and a few other unique eateries that promise to make any occasion memorable.
Ocean, Alporchinhos (Lagoa) – two Michelin stars
Ocean is an impeccably put-together ensemble of clean lines, seaside colours, and stunning ocean views, where exceptional cuisine rightly takes centre stage. Located in the exceptional five-star Vila Vita resort, under the guidance of acclaimed Austrian chef Hans Neuner, Ocean has held two Michelin stars since 2011. Local ingredients are handpicked to create inspired seasonal menus, with particular focus on fresh seafood, complemented by a vast wine range. Stylish and intimate, Ocean is the place to head for an extra-special celebration.
www.restauranteocean.com, +351 282 310 100, open Wednesday to Sunday, 7pm-10pm, reservation required, menus from €170pp
Vila Joya, Albufeira – two Michelin stars
Located within the exclusive Vila Joya resort, the eponymous restaurant excels at its craft, having held two Michelin stars for 20 years. The contemporary tasting menus, tweaked daily under the expert eye of Chef Dieter Koschina, are as enticing as the terrace’s ocean views. Or for a more informal experience, sit inside the cosy main dining area, with its exotic Moorish touches. Visit Vila Joya for the ultimate romantic experience.
www.vilajoya.com, +351 289 591 795, average price €120pp
Vistas, Monte Rei Golf & Country Club, Vila Nova de Cacela – one Michelin star
Vistas is the newcomer on the block, having scooped its first Michelin star just this year. Located within the upscale Monte Rei Golf & Country Club, Vistas’ rising young chef Rui Silvestre has caused something of a stir on the Algarve food scene. Locally-sourced quality ingredients are coupled with emerging global techniques to create dishes that are distinct in flavour and refined, served in a setting that gazes over the rolling eastern Algarve landscape, all the way down to the Atlantic Ocean. Make your reservation now to sample the Algarve’s newest Michelin star experience.
www.monte-rei.com, +351 281 950 950, Tuesday to Saturday, 7.30pm-10.30pm
Bon Bon, Carvoeiro – one Michelin star
Also a relative newcomer, those in the know had long championed Bon Bon be granted a Michelin star – an accolade that finally came along in November 2015. As pleasing on the eye as on the palate, talented young Chef Louis Anjos’ creations are anchored in Mediterranean and Portuguese flavours, elevated to the highest levels of sophistication. The bright and airy restaurant, on the outskirts of Carvoeiro village, near the Pestana golf course, overlooks the scenic Monchique mountain range. This is a place to head for a laid-back meal with exceptional food, wine and service.
www.bonbon.pt, +351 282 341 496, lunch menu from €38; tasting menu from €98 (€153 with pairing), reopens Feb 2020
São Gabriel, Almancil – one Michelin star
Housed in a typical Algarve farmhouse, São Gabriel is a culinary stalwart; a bit of an institution on the Algarve gourmet scene. Set among pretty gardens, located in the manicured Vale do Lobo resort, São Gabriel oozes classical elegance. As do native Algarvian Chef Leonel Pereira’s menus, which are inspired by fresh produce from the region’s countryside and coast, complemented by handpicked, quality international ingredients. São Gabriel’s Sunday Lunches are also a bit of an institution, with a dedicated following.
www.sao-gabriel.com, +351 289 394 521, Tuesday to Sunday – 7pm-10.30pm, Sunday Lunch – 12.30pm to 2pm
Gusto By Heinz Beck, Almancil – one Michelin star
As the Conrad Algarve’s flagship restaurant, expectations are naturally high for Gusto. And it meets them effortlessly. Its swanky Scandinavian décor coupled with a buzzing open kitchen (and a coveted Michelin star) makes Gusto feel sociable and relaxed, but still rather special. Acclaimed three-Michelin-star chef Heinz Beck and his team have poured their talent and passion into creating an outstanding menu, where classic Mediterranean cuisine gets an innovative twist.
www.conradalgarve.com/dine, +351 289 350 700, Wednesday to Sunday – 7pm-10.30pm
Vista, Bela Vista Hotel & Spa, Portimão – one Michelin star
From its privileged cliff-top position in the grandiose Bela Vista Hotel, Vista Restaurant is an experience to be savoured slowly. Overlooking sweeping Praia da Rocha beach, it is an oasis of refinement amid the neon lights of bar-lined, fun-filled Praia da Rocha. The dishes are true works of art, inspired by nature, designed to stimulate all five senses, perfectly mastering the balance between Portuguese and Mediterranean flavours.
https://vistarestaurante.com, +351 282 460 280, season menu from €85pp, full Vista menu €170pp
Windmill Restaurant – Albufeira
Possibly one of the Algarve’s Best Kept gourmet Secrets, Windmill is an exclusive fine dining experience that deserves full attention. With just 12 seats, this bijou eatery is housed, as the name would indicate, inside a renovated windmill. The dining area is located on the top floor of the historic building, which dates to 1938. The menu is kept small and seasonal to showcase the finest national produce, while the views over Albufeira are breathtaking. For a truly memorable, romantic occasion, or a special private event, this unique gem is a frontrunner.
www.windmillrestaurant.pt, +351 967 764 290, 3-course menu from €45, reopens March 2020
Al Quimia, Albufeira
With a sharp focus on regional fare, Al Quimia, in the Epic Sana Resort, is a phenomenal highlight to a stay in the area. The bold and daring creativity of the dishes is accompanied with a healthy dose of storytelling, to make each course extra-special and interesting. Vibrant, colourful creations are offset by an excellent wine-pairing designed to enhance the regional angle. With beautiful views over the resort’s magnificent gardens, Al Quimia is definitely one to watch.
www.algarve.epic.sanahotels.com, +351 289 104 300
Mirandus Restaurant, Lagos
The apple of the Boutique Hotel Vivenda Miranda’s eye, Mirandus Restaurant boasts sweeping ocean views and a menu that reflects its sunny surroundings, embodying Mediterranean and gourmet artisan cuisine. Effortlessly luxurious, the restaurant is charming and cosy inside and has a fabulous outdoor terrace for al-fresco dining with incredible vistas. The menu is crafted from fresh local, seasonal produce, creating flavours that are natural, and naturally sensational.
www.vivendamiranda.com, +351 282 763 222, Lunch: 12pm – 3pm, Dinner: 6.30pm – 10.30pm, re-opens 27 Dec.