Portuguese holiday diary

We had a lunch stop in Tavira a few years ago when we were on our way to El Bulli, Hotel Benazuza and found the little harbour town quaint enough to say we would come back for longer. Well we eventually got around to it and booked a week at The Hotel Pousada an old converted monastery. D found the place on the Internet and the pics looked nice but the reviews for a higher end hotel were mixed. I must admit that having stayed in old conversions before I was a little apprehensive, anyway there was absolutely no need as the place was fantastic! A sanctuary has been created that is characterful but with a contemporary finish. The service from the staff is excellent.
We were at Leeds/Bradford airport for 6 am and didn’t bother with breakfast so as soon as we had unpacked we headed into the town for lunch. There are a number of waterside cafes and we just picked one that looked friendly, Saveur – Sabor. D opted for the king prawns in garlic and butter and I went for “the road” a selection of 5 tapas which were meatballs, chicken wings, chorizo, octopus and a tuna/potato salad. A couple of small carafes of local rose to wash it idown sitting under a parasol in the lovely heat and voila we were on holiday finishing off with a perfect cafe gourmand.
After the obligatory read on a sunbed and a few dips in the pool followed by a nap we were ready to try the hotel restaurant.
The whole place is on the quiet side as everyone seems to whisper, perhaps the monks are still in charge. We asked to be seated in the open roofed courtyard which is very atmospheric, we watched the sky get darker and waited for the stars to come out.
I ordered a curried octopus starter dish and D went for the goats cheese starter. The octopus was very mildly flavoured and very good but they served rice on the side which in my opinion wasn’t necessary. For mains D ordered the lamb and I decided on confit of cod. D’s lamb came with Mediterranean vegetables and sliced crispy potatoes everything was presented superbly and was superbly cooked but there was enough lamb to feed two hungry blokes. My confit of cod was truly sublime, served on asparagus spears acting as a rack on top of a green risotto. The asparagus was soggy but the cod and risotto was the best I have ever tasted in my life. We shared a bottle of Rose and the bill was only €85 which did make us feel guilty as it was worth more.
The following day was spent at the hotel with a late breakfast in the courtyard and then reading, writing, swimming (only two work calls and 4 emails were made….). In the evening we had a walk around the town which was reasonably busy for this time of year. We had decided to try another outdoor cafe by the fish market which looked seaside authentic. We were seated, drinks were brought out, we ordered clams for a starter and sardines for me and chicken piri piri for D. The waiter came out to inform us that there were no clams on the days catch and they had run out of the piri chicken. We decided to cancel and go back to Saveur – Sabor which was awkward BUT and this is top draw service, the waiter said no problem the drinks were on the house and to come back when the piri chicken will have had time to marinate properly, how great is that?
We then had lots of cheap wine and paella plus made two new friends……

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On Sunday we had a very lazy relaxing morning around the pool, reading writing, swimming and other forms of hard work! Early afternoon we decided to wander into town via the old castle ruins that were a 100 yards from the hotel. The view from the precarious ramparts is superb and the gardens are very pretty. We walked over to the church but as you would expect the on a Sunday the church was full of worshippers so we looked around it another day. Around the back of the church is a lovely courtyard with hibiscus trees for shade and we fell upon a restaurant called A Ver Tavira which is stunning with great views from the veranda, as you would expect we decided to stay right there. The food did not live up to the look and setting but we had a lovely afternoon, my salmon with Algarvian carrots was decent but they did a “Sunday roast” which was dry and boring.
We did eventually get to town late evening and took a table at a cafe called Brisa do Rio, D had a pork and prawn kebab which was lovely if too big and my clam with “black ham” stew was wonderful. We got chatting to a Portuguese couple who were holidaying from Lisbon and had travelled 15 km for the fish. Conversation as was a regular occurrence came around to the economy and it is really evident things are very tough for Portugal, we can count ourselves relatively lucky. A local resident provided music via an open balcony above the street and we were the only two tables in the middle of the street at 1 am, a wonderful day.
Out of all the places our favourites was Saveur – Sabor for simple and eclectic great food (try the raclette) and the hotel Pousada for fine dining (except steaks as they are not like UK).
We hope to return next year.

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G&D

One thought on “Portuguese holiday diary

  1. Lovely to read your Portugese diary, it was a great reminder of our own stay and that lovely Sunday afternoon we spent talking. The wine and craic (as they say in Ireland) were great but couldn’t agree more about the boring Sunday roast. I hope they up their game to match the fantastic view from the terrace, it must be one of the best in Tavira. L&R

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