Where I ate in the Algarve, Portugal - Part 1

August 24, 2018

I recently went to the algarve in portugal, the algarve region is Portugal's most southern coast. I went with my mum, dad, and jamie. My sister Alice and our family friend Laura joined us on the first friday. We stayed in albuferia, and most of the restaurants in this post will be in or around albuferia. Last year we went to barcelona, a city with a million beautiful things to see and do. The Algarve was a lot more your classic beach holiday, we spent hours on the beach and by the pool, my tan is looking top notch. It's a big change from the hustle and bustle of a city break but i loved both! This holiday gave me a lot more down time, I managed to read 3 books, and let me truly unwind. I would love to return to portgual, next on my sights is lisbon as I've heard great things! Please forgive me as some of the photos of the food aren't great, as they were taken in low light and on a phone.

 

We arrived on a Sunday, as always getting through the airport and picking up the hire car took an absolute age. So me and jamie wondered around the airport, most of the places did continental cheese and ham baguettes, but we found a small concession selling salads. Jamie got a green one while I chose a quinoa one. The quinoa had far too many rasins in but other than that filled a hole. And it gave me hope that i might survive as a vegan in portugal. We arrived at our villa late in the afternoon, the temperature the first few days we were there was cooler than the UK (which was mid manic heatwave) and the pool felt decidely chilly. So we unpacked, changed and headed out into town to have a wonder round. Me and Jamie got a few drinks, located the beach, and just generally soaked up the atmosphere. We wondered back up to the villa, collected my mum and dad and headed back into town for dinner. Earlier in the day we had been told about a restaurant that was rated highly and had vegan options, we were given directions to a steakhouse, called something 61, just off the main square in the old town of Albuferia. We wondered around for a good while and no vegan friendly steakhouse seemed to appear, so we gave up on that (we would unravel this mystery later in the holiday) and went to a Chinese/Japanese place called Oishi, located right next to the beach tunnel. We were all tired and hungry and just wanted somewhere I might survive as a vegan, The staff were incredibly accommodating. Most of the vegetarian dishes used egg but they were more than happy to remove it for me and assured us they didn't use fish sauce in their vegetarian dishes.To start i had a sweetcorn soup, something I had never tried before, and then fried rice noodles with mixed vegetables. The soup was slightly bland, but i added soy sauce and it was remarkably good. It sorta tastes like what you would expect sweetcorn soup to taste like, not much, while still being tasty. The noodles were delicious and definitely, filled me up.

Our second day we spent relaxing by the pool and wondering around town,  For lunch we stopped at Alfredo an italian place that had gluten free pasta and pizza bases, so perfect for jamie. After talking to them I found out their pasta didn't contain egg and there were a couple of dishes on the menu that were vegan. I chose the Penne al'arrabitta, penne in a tomato sauce with black olives, capers, peas and chilli, and i shared a plate of chips with J. The pasta was delicious but spicy, I was glad for the chips to soak up a little of the chilli, so maybe not one for the very spice sensitive.

that evening we ate at the highest rated restaurant in alubeferia on Happycow called C19.(If you don't know about happycow I strongly suggest you check it out, it's the ultimate vegan travel tool!) We later figured this was the restaurant we had been rather misguidely directed to the night before, and the name did involve numbers but not 61.This place isn't really just a steakhouse either. IT does a number of traditional Portugese dishes, and everything is made from sratch, fresh. The vegan menu isn't massive, but it was good. I went for the stuffed portabello mushroom to start,  and Tofu Stroganoff with chips. Unfortunately they had no tofu, my heart sank a little, but they offered to swap the tofu for seitan and I greatfully accepted. The portbellow mushroom was quite large for a starter but really delicious. It was stuffed with brocolli and cauliflower that was still crunchy (thank the lord I hate overdone veg) and a balsamic glaze and side salad. The Seitan stroganoff was my favourite dish of the whole holiday. I loved it, I mean I really really loved it. It was so creamy, and the seitan was so flavourful and I loved the chunky skin on chips to soak up all the sauce. After the first bite I vowed I would be eating this dish again! I actually couldn't finish all my main though, and they very kindly boxed it up for me to take home, I ate it as a mid afternoon snack the next day. I did manage to squish into my very full stomach a desert though. The vegan desert list was quite extensive, with many flavours of mouse for me to choose from. I went for oat and cacao. It was light and delicious and the perfect way to end what was a very good meal. The couple who run C19 are absolutely lovely! They and all the staff make you feel so welcome, and make a real effort to chat with you, without being too intrusive. 

Day 3 was a very lazy lay by the pool day. I did lots of reading, and me and Jamie wandered around town doing some shopping. We didn't eat out during the day, instead we hit the supermarkets and got some snacks, and i finished off last nights dinner. The supermarkets in Portugal are very vegan friendly. They all have a vegan and gluten free area. we managed to find almond milk, and vegan burgers (some of which were also gluten free), salads, bars, vegan butter and tofu. There were a few products from recognisable vegan brands that hadn't launched in the UK. I tried a rude health  sweet potato and cacao bar, something I have never seen on British shelves. I soon understood why I hadn't seen it, it was awful, one of the driest things I have ever tasted! Despite that slight fail I would say being vegan/gluten free in Portugal is fairly easy, so if you are thinking of doing plenty of cooking on your holiday no worries.

For dinner we went to Stews and More, a restaurant that claims to do Grandmother's cooking but amped up. I ordered  a green salad with peppers and olives to start and the vegetable stew for main, which I believe usually came with cheese on but they obviously removed that. All the stews were served in their own ceramic pot with bread and potatoes. It was really rich and flavourful. The stews are all cooked for an incredibly long time, and you can tell as the veg falls apart and is infused with herby goodness. 

 On the fourth day we got up early and went to Benagil Beach, a cove beach a little down the coast from where we were staying. We ate chips on the beach, and then drove to Silves, a small town with a big castle further inland for lunch. We went to Cafe Ingles which had no vegan options on the menu. But after talking to the staff they said I could have the vegetarian pizza without cheese. The pizza had capers and olives on so I was happy.

 For dinner we tried to go to Don Carlos, a restaurant right in the centre of Albuferia, but despite reviews saying they had vegan options we turned up to discover they only offered a five course set menu, with no vegan options at all. So we wondered down the street into old town and the lovely Il Brigante. An Italian restaurant with gluten free pasta and pizza, and a couple of vegan options. I started with tomato bruschetta (which I forgot to photograph) and then followed up with Pasta Norma, a pasta dish in a tomato sauce with aubergine, courgette, and peppers. This was simple but delicious food, the tomato sauce was deeply rich and creamy.The pasta was perfectly al dente. Jamie went for gluten free pasta and was thoroughly impressed. If you've ever tried to cook gluten free pasta at home you will know there's no way of doing it al dente, because when it's hard it's floury, but he said the pasta was perfectly al dente and was some of the best gf pasta he's had.

 Jamie partaking in one of his favourite hobbies of taking sneaky photos of me while I eat.

 After a much needed lie the next morning, and some time in the pool, me and Jamie headed out for lunch just the two of us to veggie cafe, a vegetarian cafe in new town. The clientele here is mostly portugese, and not the tourists that frequent most of the places close to the beach.It's a quiet AIRY CAFE. The menu is almost entirely vegan, minus one vegetarian hot dog, and they offer plenty of gluten free options. I started with algarve carot, sweet carrot cooked in a delightful spice and herb mix. Jamie had soup and fried sweet potato. I would strongly suggest not ordering fried sweet potato as a starter, as they are sweet potato crisps that are also presented with most of the mains. Apparently the cafe previously sold what we brits would call proper chips, but they weren't popular with the locals so they switched to the crisps. The crisps are ok, and served with a very nice vegan mayo, we just ended up with far too many. The carrots and the soup were lovely. For main I had the tempeh burger, while Jamie had the green lentil burger without the bun. My burger was delicious, it was served with fried onions, gherkins, salad, mayo and of course more of those pesky sweet potato crisps. The drinks menu at Veggie Cafe is also impressive. I went for a banana milkshake, which was thick, creamy and dreamy. They are served with plastic starws though, so remember to ask for them without as I forgot the first time!

After lunch me and J went and played mini golf in a hotel complex on the way in to the centre of town. It was so fun! I had never played mini golf before, but I got a hole in one! Proudest moment of 2018 right there. If you know my hand eye coordination you will understand.

my mum was meeting a friend in the evening, so it was just me, Jamie and dad. We went to the lovely Sao Domingos in Vale de Parra, just a short cab drive from where we were staying. We sat outside, as there wasn't space inside. I would recommend booking, as we only just got a table. There were two vegan mains, and I was having a hard time choosing. The choice was between a tomatoey pasta i think, and a mushroom and pineapple pasta, with a coconut and almond crumb. I decided the mushroom and pineapple pasta sounded so weird, it had to be good, and went brave! I chose right. It was weird as hell,  but bloody delicious! It came in a creamy mushroom sauce, that was really lifted by the sweet tang of the pineapple. I couldn't locate the almond and coconut crumb tho... I don't know if my dish was missing it, or if it just wasn't what I expected from a crumb. I would highly recommend this dish though, it was by far the most inventive thing I ate all holiday! I also got some sauteed asparagus on the side.

the sixth day was Friday, and Alice and Laura were turning up in the late afternoon. I was incredibly excited for the whole gang to arrive. for lunch we went to a restaurant close to C19, called central planet. The food here was ok. They had one dish I could eat, and the waiting staff were pretty informed as to what a vegan was. I got the vegetable kebab, and swapped chips for wedges. It did the job of filling a hole. Afterwards me and Jamie hit Albuferia's beach and waited for Laura and Alice to arrive, while catching a tan of course.

 In the evening, joined by Laura and Alice, we went to Senhor frog's as it offers gluten free deep pan pizza. This restaurant is located just off the strip in new town, and is full of tourist families. Laura is also vegan (just starting out) while alice is dairy free. So we were a complicated lot to feed, the restaurant however competently dealt with all our dietary requests. The Pizza was very good, I hadn't eaten deep pan in forever. And you could basically choose all your own toppings. I think I let myself down by not trying a pizza with pineapple and BANANA on! yes they offer banana on pizza, and yes I'm disappointed I wasn't brave enough to try it. Instead I started with garlic mushrooms stuffed with sweet corn and then went for a pizza with peppers, onions, capers, black olives and fresh tomatoes.

Saturday Laura and Alice wanted to wander around town, shop and hit the beach. WE wandered in around lunch time and stopped at Downtown bar and restaurant, which is in Old town square. Our waiter was a bit of a character, I tried to explain what being vegan meant. I chose the veggie burger after he assured me it was vegan. It was incredibly dry, and I really wouldn't recommend this place for vegan options.  As the burger was coated in breadcrumbs I struggled to keep doubts from forming about whether they had in fact used egg. Needless to say I didn't finish it.

Dinner was much better though. We returned to C19! This time I went for the garlic mushrooms to start, and the seitan steak for main. Laura is a vegan who doesn't like mushrooms, which is like a cardinal sin of being vegan. So she struggled a little with the stater options, and lamented the fact that vegan options everywhere seems to contain mushrooms! (Seriously tho restaurants everywhere, what is with that?) But she joined me with the seitan steak.The seitan steak was herby and had a deep delicious flavour, and the sauce it came with was cream, tangy and tasty. I would advice ordering potatoes or chips as a side as it only comes with steamed veg, and I really wanted more carb. I liked the steak a lot, but not as much as the stroganoff and felt a tiny bit annoyed that I hadn't stuck with my first love. So I made everyone promise we could return.

Part 2 of what I ate in the Algarve is coming soon! 

 

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