Over the past few months we have been lucky enough to discover new restaurants and cafes in our local area.
People often ask for recommendations but it can be a bit of a minefield. What one person likes, another might hate. A style of cooking could be too 'out there' for someone visiting the country for the first time, or a simple restaurant that has no frills might not be the preferred choice but I am a great believer in recommending when I have found something I would like to share.
I drive through Nafarros frequently but it was only fairly recently that I realised there were two restaurants - O Padeiro and Adega do Saraiva. We had eaten at O Padeiro previously but the Adega do Saraiva was a totally new experience.
The restaurant was previously an adega and therefore is a bit of a warren. The menu (in portuguese) is very traditonal with an emphasis on the really good dishes that only the portuguese know how to cook and present. Taking the time to choose, we were able to spy on other diners to see what everyone was having. The table behind us with four gentlemen in varying ages, were tucking in heartily with lots of praise for the food. Always a very good sign. Considering it was a mid-week visit, it certainly did not lack customers.
I could not resist Filetes de Pescada (fillets of hake) and Glenn went for the Lombo de Porco (pork loin). Both dishes were fantastic. As was the house red wine. The specialities of the restaurant include Bacalhau na Brasa, Caldeirada mista, Feijoada de Chocos, Cabrito no forno and the portuguese favourite, Cozido a Portuguesa. The desert menu was also very good but special mention must be made of the bread!
Now bread is a good topic of conversation here. People have their favourite bakeries, type of loaf - that even includes what to chose to have for your toast in certain cafes! Now where we live we tend to stick with bread from the bakery in Janas, which is sold in most local shops or you can visit the bakery and buy direct. Fatal really, considering the smell of bread is so irresistable. However when I asked the waitress where this particular bread came from she told me it was from a village on the road to Ericeira. I still have to find this bakery as the bread was divine.
The restaurant is a joy and although we were the only estrangeiros, we were made to feel very welcome and another visit is due to be made in the next month.
Another wonderful find, but at the other end of the spectrum is Refugio do Ciclistas in Penedo. Tucked away at the top of the village, with spectacular views to the sea and over towards Mafra, this restaurant is reminiscent of the restaurants I used to love in the Algarve before it got 'glammed'.
You enter along a passageway and the door opens on to a large room with a smaller room at the back. There is a counter with the days selection of fish, meat, poultry etc and a huge grill run by Antonio. The tables are all laid out in a school canteen style. Long benches run along the tables - always take care if you are on the end and the person at the other end gets up - you can suddenly take off! It is decorated with framed Tshirts of famous cyclists, photographs and other memorabilia to do with cyling.
It is an amazingly friendly place as you share the tables with whoever is sitting there - local builders, forestry boys, phone engineers, pool maintenance guys, tourists, walkers or locals and this week, our local lifeguard and his girlfriend (lifeguard duties having finished in case anyone is wondering why he was not at his post).
In fact if anyone remembers 'first and second sittings' at school, it is a bit like that as about 13.15-13.30 you have to be aware that trucks, vans and cars are heading out of the village along the practically single track roads which lead to the village from Colares in one direction and Almocageme in the other, with few passing places but quite a few mirrors. This makes it rather interesting or for the nervous, white knuckle.
The menus are 6 or 8 euros. For that you get bread, olives, soup, main course, a bottle of red wine, a bottle of 7UP (or you can opt for white wine, water or similar), a main course with veg, chips, rice or salad if you wish and dessert. Everything is fresh and grilled to order so no worries of the dreaded 'ping'.
Antonio's wife serves and controls the tables, sometimes assisted by other members of her family and there are two other ladies in the kitchen keeping on top of washing up and preparation.
What we love, apart from the wonderful food, is that you meet new friends because of the layout of the tables. One interesting encounter was with a very nice man who was having lunch with his very beautiful daughters and their friend. We got into conversation and I discovered that he was involved with promoting portuguese food. He has kindly allowed me to share his website on my blog and I am hoping to take part in one of the courses in the not too distant future. The site is www.insider-cooking.com.
A few weeks ago we had to go up into Sintra for a meeting and I had been told by a friend that there was a wonderful cafe that we should visit close to the terminus of the Sintra-Rossio train line. What a find. If you are up in Sintra do please check out Cafe Saudade.
The building is beautiful and was originally one of the factories that produced the lovely Sintra cheesecakes (Queijadas de Sintra). It has been restored and is a fascinating place to go and have coffee, cakes, snacks or even a drink. Beautifully decorated with some rather comfy armchairs, it also sells a good range of teas to take away with you.
And before I finish, I must make mention of a site that has just come to my attention today. A couple of very enterprising ladies - Amelia Macedo and Margarida Jordan have set up a lovely site called Belas Tartes. All freshly made by themselves with deliveries to Cascais, Estoril and Sintra. Choose from savoury or sweet. Here are a couple of examples to wet your appetite:
Asparagus and cheese pie (with or without ham)
Lemon and raspberry tart
The girls do not have a website or shop as yet but can be contacted for more details of their lovely wares via www.facebook.com/BelasTartesSintra or by telephone: Amélia Macedo: 919614527 / Margarida Jordan: 914561136. I really hope this takes off for them as it is a fabulous idea and everything is freshly made by them on a daily basis.