“The sea hath fish for every man” William Camden
It’s our friends’ fault! They invited us over to their local ‘all you can eat’ fish restaurant in Tavira and we loved it! Plate after plate of yummy fish – freshly cooked – and amazingly good value. But quite a long way from us.
So we asked a local Portuguese friend and he said “oh we have that here too – you need to go to ‘Zé Leiteiro’ in Armação de Pêra”. So we did – and it was fab!
So now we are going to share the secret with you too – but – be warned – once you have eaten there you will forever be spoilt – and you will walk past other fish restaurants that charge for their fish ‘by the kg’ and think ‘how much for ONE fish?’ – just like we do now!
Because at ‘Zé Leiteiro’ you pay 11.50 Euros each – that’s it … and then you are given a seemingly unending supply of freshly cooked fish! By the platter … and then another platter – and then another …until you have to wave your napkin at the friendly waitress or attentive waiter – and signal your defeat!
It’s an unremarkable looking little place – up a side street – hidden from view, with only three little outside tables, and a series of long benches and wooden tables inside. You really are eating with the locals here, side by side, with all the chatter and bustle and charm that brings.
If you know where the Fisherman’s beach starts at Armação de Pêra is then you should be able to find it. The name ‘Zé Leiteiro’ means ‘at the Milkman’s’ as far as we can work out!! They are closed on Mondays; open from 12 noon at lunchtime and about 1845 or 1900 in the evening (beautifully vague!!) I think they close at night once all the fish has been eaten! They don’t accept credit cards.
The only questions you are asked when you arrive are ‘how many are you?’ and ‘what would you like to drink?’. As far as we can work out, the only thing on the menu is the fish – and you don’t order anything – they just bring you out whatever they have cooked that presumably arrived at the kitchen door that morning!
Your drinks arrive (we usually just order a large bottle of water to wash the fish down, I think a small carafe of wine is 3 Euros and a large one 6 Euros so it’s extremely reasonable) and then almost immediately bread rolls and a tomato, onion and pepper Algarvian salad is placed on the table.
The fish takes 10-15 mins to start arriving, which gives you time for you to soak up the atmosphere and chill out. Oh and a bowl of new potatoes arrives soon after – which are temptingly hot and demand a drizzle of olive oil!
We went again this week with a friend Andy who assured us that he ‘loved’ fish – so we decided that this was the perfect test for him!
It’s difficult to describe exactly what you eat – as it changes each time we go – it’s part of the fun not knowing what is coming next out of the kitchen! But thanks to Andy, we have photos of nearly every platter for you this time! We’re also not experts on all the names of all the fish – but we can confirm that they are all delicious!!
We started off with three rather fantastic Douradas – Sea (or Golden) Bream, split and grilled to perfection.
They were so big – we had trouble fitting them on our plates!
Then came some succulent white cutlets (we ate the next few platters too quickly to photograph them!) which were either Scabbard – Peixe Espada or Swordfish – Espadarte and were delicious. They were followed by Robalo – Sea Bass and some Salmon fillets.
Then one of my favourites – Lulas – Baby Squid, which were full of flavour. Before we could even begin eating these, the waiter arrived with some more fish:
These were pinky coloured, we think they might have been related to either Pargo or Sargo (!) and were absolutely delicious too!
We were beginning to get to that ‘full up’ moment, but then the waiter came back out and asked us what we would like more of – Dourada or Robalo? Well we couldn’t decide which we had enjoyed most – so five minutes later – he delivered both – piping hot and waiting to be eaten!
Apparently the restaurant also serves dessert (2.50 Euros) although I have to confess I have never managed to try them – we’re always so full of fish that it’s actually difficult to move!! Espresso coffees and a leisurely relaxing time watching the world go by is a must before the bill arrives – for three of us, including drinks and coffees, it came to 36.80 Euros. Amazing value!
And then there’s the gentle amble back to the car – luckily Armação de Pêra has lots of benches you can sit and rest on all the way back to the car park (!) while you reflect on the fact that you feel like you have eaten half the North Atlantic fish supply in one sitting!
And our friend Andy? Well he had a fab time, and had that contented ‘hands across belly’ look about him for the rest of the afternoon!
To find out more about Fish in the Algarve you might also enjoy our F is for Fish post.