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

Two Thousand and Ate – A Retrospective

 

Not quite a retrospective but an attempt to play catch up and get back to some regular posts. Where to start is a dilemma January or April, the latter being the start of the ‘Troffers’ journey and this web site, how time passes? Remembering foodie events from January to April 2008 is hazy but the highlights are memorable. Italy is always a favourite and a February ski trip to Breuil Cervinia discovered the Copa Pan a lively après ski bar with a excellent restaurant downstairs serving great pasta and local dishes. Not sure which months, but two local…ish favourites were visited, the Yorke Arms at Ramsgill in Nidderdale which in my opinion has the most consistent, quality dining experience and Sunday lunch is a must. The Sun Inn at Kirkby Lonsdale is also becoming an old friend which never disappoints. Some highlights from April and May are still in the Archives and things get going again in late June. Sirmione starts our summer with two of my favourite Italian ristorante / trattoria’s both located in what in my opinion is one of the most romantic locations ever … Sirmione on the base of Lake Garda. Antica Trattoria La Speranzina (www.lasperanzina.it) was visited on our wedding anniversary for the tasting menu which can be either from the land or lake/sea and either is an experience not to miss. When all the elements of atmosphere, quality food, wine and attentive service are put together in a special location it becomes a memorable evening and this was it. On the Saturday for dinner we visited another old favourite Ristorante Signori (www.ristorantesignori.it) again with a table at the lake side and were treated to another excellent dining experience this time with a firework display on the other side of the lake at Desanzano after the sunset. I have posted a few pictures but take a look at the web site links. After northern Italy we were soon in Portugal visiting our old friend Diogo at the Palladium in Guia for his prawn piri-piri washed down with Lancers rose, I am sure we posted this earlier along with Pier One at Villamoura and O’Teodosio again at Guia. Our fellow troffers Dawn and Gurdev then joined us for the rest of the holiday where we had a few days left in Portugal and then drove down to Seville. The culmination of the tour was two nights at the Hacienda Benazuza – El Bulli hotel in Sanlucar la Mayor (www.elbullihotel.com) to dine in Ferran Adria’s La Alqueria restaurant. Again this has been covered earlier by Dawn but to say the 28 course tasting menu was an experience which will probably never be equalled. To finish the experience memorable meals were had in Seville and a strange location involving Planes, trains and boats all at a little seafood restaurant on Faro harbour.

 

Moving on to autumn and winter one of our regular visits to Norwich coincided with the local food festival and highlights were the food theatre, local growers displays and a well attended sausage competition? A return visit to Adlard’s (www.adlards.co.uk) did not disappoint and the presentation and quality of food were excellent. Two thousand and ate was definitely a year of foodie experiences but despite all the great restaurants visited a mention has to go to the culinary talents of friends and fellow troffers which has provided some fantastic dining moments at respective homes throughout the year.

J&L

Portugal and Seville with John and Linda 7th July/ 13th July

We were collected at Faro Airport by J&L and within 2 hours we’d got to their villa at the Quinta de Suadade and sat at one of there long term favourites eating an annual traditional lunch of Prawn piri piri at the Palladium(Guia). The Restaurant owner Diogo hasn’t changed in years nor has this tasty dish, great to start to our gastronomic extravaganza.

Pool, sunbathing, books and kip.

Dinner was at Il Marinero another usual haunt and excellent fresh fish and lamb kebab with a good local Vinho Verde.

Tuesday 8th July. Chilling morning sleeping and reading. Lunch was Chicken piri piri with chips and tomato salad washed down with Sagres beers were just the business(O Teodossio, Guia)!

Shopping, swimming, sunbathing, books followed by a siesta…………..hard work.

Dinner was in the beautiful Marina Town of Villamoura at Pier 1. Fantastic view, chefs treat of lamb somosa’s were exquisite but G still raves about his starter mixed green salad. Mains included, steak and fish all were spot on. An excellent Portuguese Sparkling wine was a great aperitif and a great value Alentejo accompanied the meals. This is definite recommend a special place.

G&D

Ps J&L will no doubt add some more detail and maybe the tinned carrots.

To be continued…………………..