They say that you should never judge a book by its cover – and this seems especially true as we review this restaurant in Armação de Pêra for you.
Established over 30 years ago, it’s fair to say that the outside of the restaurant is nothing remarkable; although easy to find as it is situated right beside the roundabout with the boat in the centre, at the Fisherman’s Beach end of the strip.
And for those of you that remember the old restaurant with its tired facade and interior .. you are in for a real surprise now! It is under new management, and it has a delightful fresh feel to the inside now. Our hosts were the owners, chef Alexander and his beautiful girlfriend Ana, who have brought a new energy and sparkle to the place. They are young, passionate about food and flavours, and intent on providing a high level of customer service and satisfaction to everything that they do.
Together with their fabulously engaging and energetic waiter Lino, who has a fantastic knowledge of the foods and wines they have on offer, and a small back-room kitchen staff – Alexander is the proud chef in charge – they are a small and committed team that are determined to develop something different for the local area.
They have also created an enticing and intriguing menu, inspired in part by Alexander’s Belgian upbringing and training as a chef, but also combining the very best of what Portugal can offer in terms of fresh fish and meats. It’s an excellent Belgian-Portuguese fusion of flavours and dishes that we think will appeal to a wide market – and we were delighted to be invited to taste their menu.
The tables are simply and stylishly presented, with napkins folded ‘just-so’ and nice oil and vinegar jars, with flowers or candles nestling in small glass jars. The effect is subtle – but bodes well for the food! Presentation is key here, small details matter, and everything is focussed on the customer.
The building is originally an old house which had been converted to a restaurant, with a dark but impressive wooden carved ceiling with tiles representing the sun, moon and stars. The original place in the ‘old days’ used to cook fish that had been freshly hauled up from the boats opposite and this is a theme that Alexander mentioned several times to us – the idea of going back in time to using only fresh locally-sourced ingredients. If Red Snapper is fresh in the market that morning and at a fair price – he will buy it and it will be on the Specials Board that lunchtime.
Aside from a simple and tantalising main menu, they are keen to have a different ‘Specials Menu’ each day; alongside a very reasonably priced ‘Prato do Dia’ menu advertised outside.
The twist in the menu comes when you see ‘cheek of black pork’ advertised as a special and find that it has been cooked in a Belgian beer – fabulous! We were introduced to their select but impressive array of beers and wines, all chosen carefully and with a real understanding of the flavours and layers of each one – wine pairing comes naturally to these guys!
They certainly know about their Belgian Beers too – I had a delicious (and unusual!) sour cherry Zimmermans ‘Kriek lambicus’ beer with my starter and it was perfect. Made with sour Morello cherries it sounded strange, poured out as a slightly frothy light pink colour, and tasted surprisingly refreshing.
The attention to detail continued with Dave’s sparkling water which was served with a slice of grapefruit – the sweetness of the Pedras water balanced against the sweet yet acidic fruit – very clever.
Couvert was a nice mixture of traditional with a twist – home marinated olives and fresh bread with thinly-sliced Alentejano sausage – but the butter was an unusual basil, garlic and parsley butter with a lovely smooth flavour.
Starters came in the form of cheese croquettes using a delicious cheese from the Azores – ‘Queijo da Ilha’ which were beautifully presented on the plate and were delicious – a slightly sweet cheese wrapped in the lightest of batter.
Next up was a plate of local mussels cooked in a light marinara – tomatoes, onions, sweet peppers and especially for me – parsley (as I hate coriander!)
It was a nice light broth and it worked well with the mussels. It also went rather well with the German beer!
The House Special of the day was next and this was a fabulous dish – grilled Salmon fillet on a bed of mashed sweet potato, with a white beer sauce. This was absolutely delicious, beautifully presented and cooked to perfection. It was paired with a fresh and light Alentejo wine, ‘Alves Vieira’ thanks to the attention and knowledge of our waiter Lino, who certainly knows a thing or two about wine!
We were thoroughly spoiled when the next main dish arrived, tender lamb chops with sweet potato chips and an apple and mint purée. This was the only dish where we would have loved a few veg on the side as well! This was paired with a red wine that took us by surprise – it was a ‘Periquita’ which we have since discovered is renowned for being the oldest bottled red wine in Portugal. It looked full-bodied and rich, but it was surprisingly light and sweet – the perfect balance for the lamb.
Dessert ‘to share’ came after a reasonable break for us to enjoy the view out of the window and watch the world go by – it’s lovely when you don’t feel at all hurried in a restaurant and can just relax for a while. Our waiter Lino was always attentive if we needed anything, but equally perceptive to allow ‘space’ between courses – a nice touch.
We nicknamed our dessert ‘the bald man’s head’ .. nothing to do with Dave of course! Three generous scoops of quality ice-cream, with differing flavours of coffee creme, cookie crumble, and almond … with a nice big pouring jug of fresh cream and then – hurrah for Belgium! – a jug of hot melted Belgian chocolate to pour over the top. Oh my … perfection!
Even our coffees at the end came with a delicious home-made wafer thin cookie on the side (nice touch guys) and the entire meal was a delight from start to finish.
And the best part of all – the price! This is one high quality restaurant serving beautifully flavoured and presented food – at a very reasonable price. Main courses are priced around 12 – 14 Euros, starters are from 3 to 6 Euros, desserts are from 4.25 to 5.50 Euros and the Prato Do Dia 2 course + a drink is priced from 9 to 12 Euros. A Cataplana for two with either monkfish or octopus is priced at 21 or 22 Euros (for two)
Children are also well catered for as 5.50 Euros will get you fish fingers or meatballs in a tomato sauce or grilled chicken breast with apple purée.
We can highly recommend this place as a real treat at a great price – we can’t wait to go back there soon and see what delights they have added to their Specials Menu – and if you go there do say hello from us.
Disclaimer – we were there at the invitation of the owners of the restaurant – but all of the views, comments and images in this blog are our own – of course!
For more information about the restaurant – they are closed on Tuesdays – including how to book – please see the links below:
Contact Alexander Fernandes
Opening Hours Open 12h—15h and 18h —22h30
Closed on Tuesdays
Telephone Number(s) +351 282099318 click to call phone number
or (PT mobile) +351 924118204 click to call mobile
E-mail Restaurante.firstname.lastname@example.org click to e-mail
Address Rua da Praia, edifício Vista Mar R/C direito
8365—114 Armação de Pêra