Despite the fact that the Algarve is the region of Portugal where the highest number of Michelin stars are found, to find the heart and soul of its cuisine you need to go to one of the beach restaurants below and linger over a grilled fish that still tastes of the sea it was in just hours before. Drizzle it with a little local olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, which you could have picked on your walk to the restaurant. Pair it with a crisp, chilled, Portuguese white wine and raise your glass to the beauty of holidays.
Find a restaurant by area
Gigi’s, Quinta do Lago
This is where the jet-set hang out in the summer, and where Gigi, the owner, sings operatic arias and excellently guides you through the fresh fish and shellfish he bought from the market at dawn. The carabinieri – giant red prawns – are a must, split open and charcoal-grilled, but so too is the sea bass, the sole and the local clams, cooked in white wine and garlic, bulhão pato style. To get here you need to walk across the longest wooden bridge in Europe, with views across the Ria Formosa lagoon; it's a sure way to work up an appetite.
One of only three restaurants in Portugal to hold two Michelin stars (and definitely worthy of three Michelin stars), Ocean just keeps getting better and better. It delivers attentive service, knowledgeable wine pairings and dazzling dishes from Chef Hans Neuner, rooted in Portugal’s culinary heritage. With a different concept each season, the menu is inspired by Neuner’s travels through the Portuguese islands and across the mainland, weaving in local ingredients for your culinary journey. Set in sophisticated surroundings with a sea view, this restaurant, a part of hotel Vila Vita Parc, is one not to be missed.
A Ver Tavira
Tucked away behind one of the many churches in beautiful Tavira, this tiny restaurant offers sweeping views over the town from its balcony in the shadow of the bell tower. But what is delivered on the plate is more than a match for its view. Chef Luiś Brito brings his experience of time in Africa and Brazil and weaves its influence through the local Algarvian bounty to impressive effect. Try the region’s succulent scarlet shrimps here paired with curry and lemon caviar.
Pure Boutique Café, Quinta do Lago
A perfect place for breakfast after an early run on the beach, Pure offers a myriad of healthy drinks from vitamin boosters of lemon and ginger to fruit smoothies and herbal teas. Food doesn’t disappoint with a wide range of protein bowls, homemade granola, porridge, blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs on sourdough toast. From noon, lunch dishes take the lead with salads (do try the supergrain tabbouleh with crumbly local goat’s cheese), wraps, ciabatta sandwiches, soups and a delicious chicken schnitzel with avocado salsa and garlic mayonnaise in a brioche bun. There is a small but excellent wine list.
Reservations: Not necessary
Bar Bacchus, Porches
This pretty restaurant with original tiles by artist Patrick Swift is set within the not-to-be-missed Porches Pottery. In the summer it spills out onto a bougainvillea-clad terrace, where sandwiches, delicious quiches, smoked salmon salad and carrot cake make it the perfect place to stop for a light lunch whilst exploring the Algarve, accompanied by a selection of wine by the glass. Do go in to the pottery shop afterwards where Patrick Swift’s daughters have created a colourful world of fish and owls, dragonflies and flowers captured beautifully on lamp bases, and flower vases, plates, cups and bowls.
Reservations: Not necessary
Rei das Praias, Ferragudo
This is the Algarve at its very best: a spectacular location on a small and perfectly formed beach, a terrace with sea views and a restaurant that goes that extra mile. Expect excellent wines, a good choice of fresh fish and ultra-friendly staff. Start with plates of tasty smoked ham and delicious local cheese before opting for an Algarve special of carabineiros (scarlet prawns) or oysters, before a just-caught sea bass or sea bream that still tastes of the sea, accompanied by a drizzle of olive oil, tomato and cucumber salad and new potatoes. There's also an excellent wine list.
Best table: On the outside terrace
Vila Joya Sea, Galé
On the beach tucked underneath the very elegant Vila Joya is a gorgeously cool beach shack that pulls up its raw coir rope blinds in the summer months. There, wicker lamps swing in the breeze above the cocktail counter and the tap, tap, tap of the chef’s knives can be heard over the moody Portuguese guitar music. The menu offers sushi, sashimi, nigiri, ceviche, mini Wagyu burgers and the freshest of burratas. With views out over the azure sea this is an off-the-radar piece of paradise.
Contact: 00 351 289 591 795; facebook.com/VilaJoyaSea
Opening times: Daily, 12pm-3pm, 7pm-9pm
Vista Restaurante, Portimão
The nautical interiors of Vista Restaurante, housed in Bela Vista Hotel, are courtesy of acclaimed designer Graҁa Viterbo. The hotel was built in 1918 and was one of the first on the Algarve, overlooking the golden sands of Praia de Rocha. The restaurant became a winner of a Michelin star in 2018, with young chef João Oliveira bringing a touch of his native northern Portugal to the Algarve. Expect dishes that sing of the sea, from local clams and cockles, to mussels and sea urchins. Don’t miss his dazzling dish of raw prawn with squid. An authentic taste of Portugal.
Dunas Beach Restaurant, Alvor
The pretty as a picture, white-on-white Dunas, perched on the sand dunes at the edge of long, golden Alvor Beach, with its natural wooden deck and large white sofas, delivers perfectly filleted catch of the day. Elegant service and delicious dishes include local oysters, octopus salad, grilled chicken piri-piri on baguette and a range of light, zingy salads such as Basilicata – smoked chicken with honey-mustard dressing – and the memorable house ceviche, made from tiger prawns, coriander and lime. There is a small range of good Portuguese wines. A children’s menu is also available.
Al Sud, Palmares Ocean Living & Golf, Odiaxere
Newly opened and impressively soon afterwards the recipient of a Michelin star, Al Sud Restaurant sits within view of the sea overlooking the Bay of Lagos. Chef Louis Anjos offers the best of the Algarve on the plate; oysters from the Ria de Alvor, corn from Monchique, peanuts from Aljezur and the not-to-be-missed local scarlet prawns which are worth the journey alone. Make time for a drink first from the most innovative cocktail menu on the Algarve.
Umami, Quinta do Lago
Slick service, dazzling design and seriously memorable food mark this new Asian restaurant, tucked away in the exclusive Quinta do Lago resort, as one to return to. Cocktails (try Reason, a concoction of gin, lemongrass and truffle oil) delight but so too does the crispy shrimp tempura with whipped wasabi, the soft wagyu beef, the sushi and the coconut and ginger panna cotta. A perfect place to watch the sun go down on another cloudless Algarvian day.
Orta Restaurant, Casa Mãe, Lagos
In this breezy, buzzy, open-plan restaurant, dishes that lean heavily on the (hotel’s own) farm-to-table concept are delivered to a young, cosmopolitan crowd. Woven into the beetroot or the crunchy kale are a bounty from the nearby sea, from octopus to squid. Try the seared tuna with sesame crust on a bed of quinoa and the steak tartare with poached egg on top to start. There is a good wine list. A fun alternative to the traditional Portuguese restaurant.
Terra i Mar, Olhão
Olhão is famous for having the best fish market in the Algarve, which sits on the waterfront in an old red-brick domed building. There are inevitably a mass of excellent restaurants gathered around it in this very Moorish town. The best of the bunch is Terra i Mar, where the wine list and menu reflects the passion with which it is run. Along with the normal sea bass and sea bream, John Dory and sole, deliciously crunchy weaver fish are served here as are cuttlefish eggs and eel. Interiors are standard, food is definitely not.
Contact: 00 351 289 714 315; facebook.com/Terra-i-Mar
The One Restaurant, Tivoli Carvoeiro, Algarve
Set on the cliff’s edge above the Atlantic Ocean and beautiful, limestone, rocks which grace the bay, the gastronomic restaurant of this resort hotel, The One, serves a deliciously light take on Portuguese fare. There are a choice of Tasting Menus, including a vegetarian one, and excellent wine pairing drawing on the best of Portugal’s vineyards. Try the Salt cod loin with peas, almonds and Iberian pork cured sausage.