Thursday, 9 July 2015

Where to eat in Albufeira, Portugal

Let's be real, one of the best things about going to a new place is trying the food. Or is that just me? Am I just obsessed with food? Probably. But that's not the point. I have an insane obsession with Spanish food; the meats, the fruits, the fish, the tomatoes, everything is better in España than it is en Inglaterra.

So having never been to Portugal before, I was excited to try some of the local cuisine and discover what dishes the Algarve had to offer. As none of us were old enough to rent a car (boo!), we chose restaurants that were within walking distance of our apartment, which largely fell into the area of the old town. Here's my verdict on some of the places we tried...
Best for: Pleasing everyone

We chose to eat at Downtown on our first night as by the time 7pm rolled around, we'd been up and awake for sixteen hours and were in serious need of nourishment. The menu (that's designed to look like a hipstery newspaper) isn't exactly that vast, but for an exclusively pizza and pasta restaurant, it provides exactly what you'd expect. I opted for the Capricciosa Pizza (a pizza with mozzarella, ham, mushroom and tomato) that was reasonably priced and had that distinct 'this has just been made and cooked fresh' taste, which was great.

The menu also offers you the opportunity to build your own pizza if those listed on the menu don't quite take your fancy, which I thought was a pretty neat feature. The service was quick and the wait staff are all really friendly and some of the more helpful we came across.

Best for: A dinner & cocktail combo

One of the pricier options, but the food was a good quality, and the service was definitely fast - whether that's because we were being typically British and eating early while most of the restaurant was empty, I cannot say. The menu definitely favoured Mexican and burger dishes but I'd say there was a decent amount of choice. The servers outside the restaurant were some of the more pushy (and handsy), but the food we ordered was tasty, but maybe not quite worthy of the price tag - €13 for a grilled chicken salad? Seems a bit much. However, the presentation of the burgers was adorable, with the side of fries being presented in tiny chip pan baskets.

In terms of cocktails, the drinks menu was not as extensive as you'd expect from somewhere with 'bar' in the title. As well as that, the prices are pretty hefty and the servers weren't all that nice, and frankly, there appeared to be little alcohol in the drink. Still, Our Sex on the Beaches arrived Instagram-ready with decadent decorations and extra long straws.
Best for: Great value cocktails

Meet Bar (on Avenida 25 de Abril)

More slightly pushy promoters trying to get us into the bar with a "think how much more attractive I'd look if I was holding a puppy" ego and a constant assumption that because we were British, we had euros to splash - sadly not when you're on a student budget, my friend!

Still, these cocktails definitely had alcohol in them and a huge €6 peach daiquiri served with a (slightly scary and a potential health risk) sparkler for sure hit the mark. The promoter promised that if I uploaded the below picture to Instagram, it'd get 250 likes. It didn't. ShockerBeware that although the music is really good, you will be surrounded by rather drunk men at about 10pm (and probably earlier). Get it together, lads!
Best for: Variety

This restaurant had an extensive meat and steak menu with good portion sizes and a family friendly atmosphere. After toying between the grilled chicken and the pork schnitzel (served with chips and salad), I decided to go with the latter as I hadn't eaten schnitzel in so long but it's always a firm favourite. But fear not, there's something for everyone with the menu being vegetarian friendly. The restaurant is also in a great location for people watching and always appeared to be a popular spot.

Rock Cafe Bar (on Largo Engenheiro Duarte Pacheco)

Choosing what to eat here was one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make. The menu had so much choice with salads, meats, fish and pasta dishes all calling out to me. In the end I managed to decide upon a grilled tuna steak in onion and olive oil (served with baked potato and vegetables), that, no lie, I am still dreaming about to this day. It was cooked to absolute perfection and tasted amazing. Across the table, similar reactions were had for grilled chicken and vegetarian pasta. Fairly reasonable prices and staff that are up for some banter.
Best for: Brunch

I know what you're thinking, "brunch, at a place called 'Burger Bar'? Are you crazy?". Nope, not crazy, but after wandering around in the increasing heat, we discovered that Portugal, or at least, this particular town, isn't exactly into brunch. Our best option was Burger Bar and we weren't disappointed by what we got (anywhere that offers coffee and dutch apple pie for €3,50 knows what's up).

We all opted for a waffle with strawberries, ice cream, cream and strawberry sauce, accompanied by a homemade iced coffee (which has a distinct likening to the always-tasty Starbucks Frappuccino). The waffles were devoured and the iced coffees annihilated, but to say I had a severe whipped cream overdose is an understatement - I was full up for days. Burger Bar is a cool place to hang out and is very reasonably priced.
Best for: Gelato!

You can't go on holiday and not go out and each fresh ice cream on the beach at least once (turns out, we went twice). While the price was rather steep, with the cheapest place charging €3,80 for two scoops, there were a lot of super fun and exotic flavours to choose from. We all took this very seriously and spent an age coming up with the perfect combinations. Of course I had to have at least one scoop of my favourite flavour, mint chocolate chip which I paired with pistachio, and upon trying a spoonful of my friend's coffee ice cream, I chose a combination of coffee and banana & chocolate ice cream the following evening.

Ice cream is the best way to round off a day in the sun, so long as you devour it before it melts down your arm or falls on the floor. Nobody should have to cry over spilled ice cream, but I think I would.
Read part one of my Albufeiraian adventures here!
~ Eleanor xo

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