There is far more to the food scene in Albufeira than meets the eye. Search beyond the obvious, look in the back streets and there are numerous gems to be found, providing a range of choices other than the tourist menus that Albufeira is, rather unkindly, known for

Lunch at Alagoa Restaurante
The front of this snack bar resembles every other one. It is clean, functional, devoid of character, Beyond that is a second restaurant space, more homely and infinitely more welcoming; further on is a shaded, secluded courtyard. Like many local Portuguese snack-bars, the energy goes into the quality of the food, rather than designer décor.

The lunch menu changes from day to day and is written on a chalkboard. It is wholesome, well-cooked and served in generous portions – a main course and a dessert is less than €10. There are generally five dishes including a fish dish, a meat dish and more often than not, grilled chicken. The doce da casa changes every day, a particular favourite being custard layered with chocolate mousse, and there is a wide selection of other desserts all of which taste as good as they look.

The staff are friendly and welcoming and are very proud of what they serve. They want you to love the food and are keen to make your experience at the restaurant the best they possibly can.

Open all year round, there is no need to book. Expect to be sitting next to people you haven’t had the chance to meet before and at lunchtime it’s not unusual for another customer to translate the menu into English, whilst at the same time providing their opinion on the best choice of the day. Don’t be put off by the sound of meals you’ve never tried: local stews with beans and unrecognisable meats, soups, oven baked or grilled meat and fish dishes, are all beautifully cooked. Do try the polenta that comes as an extra side dish – you won’t be disappointed. And if ever a dish is offered with Russian Salad, take it.
R. das Telecomunicações 7, 8200-184 Albufeira
289 070 694

Dinner at Bistro
Right in the centre of Albufeira Old Town, just off the square you will find Bistro. This is a family-run restaurant, the mother is the chef and her two sons run a very welcoming and attentive front of house, and take time to explain how each dish is served. The décor is simple and comfortable and the tables are nicely spaced out; there is a small outside eating area.

The menu is small compared to other restaurants in the area, but with enough variety to appeal to all, including pasta dishes, vegetarian choices and a burger option. European style dishes are cooked from fresh ingredients at the time of order.

The couvert is a good one, with freshly-baked bread, a home-made tuna paste, marinated carrots and olives. And for starters, the goat’s cheese with walnuts and honey is a favourite – served warm, with a honey glaze, the cheese is melted to perfection.

There are several exceptional main dishes to choose from. Try the pork tenderloin with plums in a brandy sauce off the specials board. From the main menu, salmon fillet in pastry with cream and mushroom sauce is outstanding, as is the duck magret in orange sauce. Each dish has its own accompaniment, which can be altered to suit your personal preference.

Open from 19:00 daily, March through to December, it is important to book here, especially during the busier summer months. Your table is always ready when you arrive and you are made to feel that you are the most important customer ever to have visited their restaurant.
Rua Alves Correia 37 39 Albufeira 8200-090
914 327 450

Beach-eats at A Sardinha
This is certainly not a typical beach bar. The restaurant specialises in freshly- caught fish, but meat options are always available. The menus are written on chalkboards and the price of the fish is quoted in € per kilo, which can be confusing. But the staff are incredibly helpful, honest and knowledgeable, guiding you to the most suitable option and often bringing the fish to the table to further explain. There are a few dishes, such as the salmon fillets which have a set price, as do most of the meat dishes.

The quality of the fish is exceptional and incredibly fresh. It is lightly grilled, then artfully filleted and deboned at the table. The side dishes are simple: boiled potatoes, salad or chips – nothing that detracts from fish itself – and can be replenished on request.

The service and experience are exactly what you would want it to be. If you are spending a day on the beach and just want a snack size portion of garlic prawns with dipping bread, you can be away within 30 minutes. Equally, if you want an extended, relaxing, leisurely meal watching the ever-changing seascape, it can be that too. Although an expensive choice, it is well worth it for a memorable experience.

It is best to book a table, as it is a small restaurant which does get very busy over the summer. The most popular tables at the front of the restaurant overlooking the beach get reserved quickly.
Praia dos Arrifes – S. Rafael, Albufeira 8200 Portugal
289 591 600

Dinner at Stews and More
This is another welcoming, family run restaurant where they clearly love the food that they produce and have a genuine desire to share that love with their customers. The Dutch and Portuguese, husband and wife owners have combined the recipes of their grandmothers to create a range of outstanding stews. Both are happy take time to explain the menu.

This restaurant is a quiet side street, a short walk from the hustle and bustle of Albufeira and is like stepping into a family home. The décor is quirky, yet simple, with their grandmothers’ old cooking pots adorning the walls. There is a gentle hum here of people enjoying, sharing and savouring the food, much as you would at your own dinner table. It’s comfortable, with plenty of room to move about and ample seating space outside during the summer months.
There is a varied selection of reasonably-priced starters on the menu. Try the delicious shrimp cocktail in home-made sauce, served with freshly baked bread, or the Portobello mushroom stuffed with cheese and tomato, baked in the oven.

The menu offers a choice of main courses, including vegetarian, burgers and salads, providing options for all. But the tasty, slow-cooked, heart-warming stews are the centrepiece; each with a story of how it has been created through the generations. The stews are served with various accompaniments that work particularly well with each; the Mediterranico – a veal stew with Mediterranean vegetables in a port wine sauce – is served with oven baked potatoes. Or for cheese lovers, the Atlantico with sea bass rolls, is a must and served with freshly baked crusty bread, perfect for dipping.

The dessert menu is small but varied and reasonably priced.

Delightful is the Ice-Cream with Baileys – a grown-up version of an ice-cream float, with the ice-cream melting into the Baileys. It’s a dessert to be savoured.
Open daily from 17:30 (closed Sunday), it is recommended that you book here, particularly during the busier months.
rua Almeida Garret n*41 A Albufeira 8200-272
925 712 738

Breakfast at Fat Cats
Located on the marina, family-run Fat Cats provides the perfect place to relax over breakfast, with a view that is hard to beat. The décor is simple and modern. Choose from a variety of seating areas: on the board walk next to the marina, providing a mixture of sun and shade with a gentle breeze, or by the restaurant itself, the perfect spot for a bit of people watching. Nothing quite beats a quiet coffee, looking out over the boats.

Fat Cats doesn’t aim to provide a quick, cheap English breakfast option. Rather, they offer high quality ingredients that are cooked to order. The menu offers a wide range of options that include a traditional cooked breakfast, a continental breakfast and everything in between. They are happy to swap choices to suit your taste.

I recommend the Modern Breakfast. Ripe avocado, on good quality granary bread with poached eggs, cooked to perfection and topped with chilli flakes, and bacon if you fancy. Fat Cats delivers – the quality of the food never wavers, it is consistently high, even in the busiest periods.

Because everything is cooked to order, the service is slightly slower, and in busy times that can mean a wait, but the quality of your breakfast is worth the wait.

Open daily from 10:00, there is no need to book, turn up, embrace the view, and enjoy the experience. It is the perfect spot for a gentle start to the day.
Alameda da Orada, Albufeira 8200-394
927 389 019

Words: Steff Toft

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