“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.
Only 11 euro for fresh, all-u-can-eat grilled fish. Amazing. I’m coming to Portugal. Bon dia!
ooh yes you should definitely come over – the sun is shining today too!!
My mouth is watering …
it’s well worth a visit – just don’t have a big breakfast first!
They do actually have a tripadvisor page with a number of reviews on there … http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g189113-d2604352-Reviews-Casa_de_Pasto_Ze_Leiteiro-Armacao_de_Pera_Faro_District_Algarve.html … mine’ll be up in a few days. 🙂
Yes I know – I’m worried now that far too many people will flock there and we won’t be able to get a table next time!!!! 😉
Shame nobody else in our house likes fish – just me!
As a thought, Zé could well be a contracted form of José. It’s a common abbreviation.
ah!!! brilliant – you are clever as I think the original owner / fisherman was called José – think it’s his son that runs it now – mystery solved! – except for the milkman bit!!
What a fishy bargain! I’ll definitely have to check it out next time I’m down your way. Maybe we can go together – it seems you won’t need much arm twisting 🙂
ooh yes! that sounds like a date! 🙂
Wow, that’s some serious fish eating. Looks so good.
it was amazing!
At that very low price and it being so good, It would be nice to do what some people are starting to do in Coffee shops around the World. Pay for two or three meals so the others less fortunate than yourselves can enjoy a good meal. How about it?
I love that idea – suspended coffees are a great way of sharing – so why not a meal too?
Wow, great value and beautiful fresh fish. I love the look of the squid!
I wish I could find a fish restaurant in Perth, here meat is more appreciated than fish.
I will keep this place in mind next time I visit Portugal and the Algarve region.
As Tracey said: Ze is the diminutive of Jose, Leiteiro means milkman. You say the restaurant belonged to his dad, so it means his dad could have been a milkman, hence his nickname “Leiteiro”. In the countryside a lot of people with popular names as Jose and Antonio get nicknamed by their profession so they can be told apart, instead of their family name.
ah thanks for helping me out with that one – the only weird thing is I was told his dad was a fisherman – which would make more sense?!! perhaps he only caught milk bottles in his nets!!!
We went also there in december 2012. It was great!
it’s fab isn’t it!
Sounds lovely! We tend to go to the Eastern Algarve so was wondering if you remembered the name of the fish restaurant you went to in Tavira as would love to give it a try when we’re next there in June.
Hello it’s called Vela 2 and it’s moved to the outskirts of Tavira – here’s the trip adviser link to their page
Thank you it sounds great. We’re staying in Santa Luzia & it looks near enough for an early evening walk there.
can definitely recommend! don’t forget they are closed on Mondays
looks sooo yummie 🙂
mmm yes they were!!!
Mmmmmm delicious – what a great find!
it sure was!! Am I tempting you over here yet?!!
We are hoping to visit Lisbon and Porto within the next few months (maybe even in a couple of weeks), but I don’t think we will be heading for the Algarve this time.
ah maybe next time then!
Yummy! What a great place to visit. I’ll put it on my bucket list. I’m glad you are having such a good time, and eating so well! 🙂
ooh thanks! it’s all quite healthy you know (winks!!)
All but the desert you didn’t have! 🙂 Good for you! 🙂
I seriously could not have fitted in a pud even if it was free!!!
I bet you didn’t even save room for an after-dinner coffee, either!
ah no there’s ‘always’ room for uma bica!!!
Looks so delicious, especially the squid.
yes the squid was great – it took me a few goes to get it ‘topped and tailed’ properly!!
I love Portuguese restaurants that just keep bringing out platters of food until you say stop! I wish all restaurants did this!
yes me too! trouble is we are utterly spoilt now for eating fish anywhere else!!
Mmmmm, I’m hungry now – thanks for your appetizing post – I know where to go for my fish supper next time I’m in the area 🙂
ooh yes do!!!!!! 😉
Amazing!! Thanks for the tip. I’m going there in 2 months and will definietly find this place 🙂
might well see you there then!! hope you enjoy it as much as we do
Thanks for this great post, we have passed this little restaurant many times but still haven’t managed to eat there yet. Friends have eaten there and rave about it. After reading this review and seeing the photo’s of the food, it has to be at the top of our list of things to do, when we’re out there in a couple of weeks. Thanks for sharing this, I’m sorry but I also had to share it on my FB page too!!!
thank you for sharing it!!!! you can always give us a call when you are planning to go and we’ll meet you there!!!! 😉
excellent blog on the algarve ( yours that is ! )
thank you! off to check yours out too!