A taste of the Algarve
We were fortunate enough to schedule in an out of season trip to Lagos to celebrate some overdue birthdays and ring in 2023.
A firm family favourite destination for many years and a real hot spot in the summer for anyone seeking endless sandy beaches and a laid back beach vibe.
Lagos has definitely got busier and dare I say it…a little more ‘commercial’ in the years that we have been visiting. There is actually a McDonald’s on the outskirts of town – shock horror! However, you don’t have to look hard at all to find traditional Algarvian fare and the ever present Portuguese hospitality, which means our ongoing love affair with the town has not waned.
We stayed just outside of Lagos town in Praia Du Luz in the beautifully maintained Baia Du Luz Resort. Immaculate sandstone coloured apartments set in lush green gardens set the scene for our mini break. The kids still felt it was warm enough to sneak into the adult only heated pool (a serious lack of adults around confirmed to me it wasn’t warm enough!) and a 10 minute downhill walk took you to the seafront where a few bars were serving strong um abatanado (black americano to you and I) or cocktails, if so inclined. It was a great spot to get in some squinty photos and watch the paragliders leaping off the nearby cliffs.
Lagos town is 10 mins in the car or you can hop on the buses that leave from the centre of Luz fairly regularly (even out of season) and be there in 25 minutes and who knew… even Uber works just as well as in the UK!
This trip didn’t disappoint on the food front as we sampled some of our trusty favourites and popped into some new spots too!
We tried for the first time Pizzeria Olivia for lunch and were able to sit outside and soak up the sun and atmosphere. The place was busy with locals and the friendly staff were certainly getting their steps in! We were a large party of 10 and the majority of us went for pizza which you can order in 30cm, 50cm and the famous 1 meter sizes which prompted appreciative ‘whoops’ from all who could see!
The menu was vast and didn’t disappoint. The pizzas were everything you’d want them to be, perfect sourdough base and super fresh toppings! Speed isn’t the name of the game at Olivia’s so would recommend that you order a nice glass of the house wine and sit back and enjoy some people watching, it’s worth the wait! Not only is the food tasty it’s very reasonably priced, we will definitely be back.
No visit to Lagos is complete without a trip to our ‘treat’ restaurant D. Henrique! Set in the meandering lanes in Lagos town. D. Henrique offers an impeccable service and a vast menu filled with the best quality ingredients. The wine list is pretty impressive too, boasting some gorgeous local varieties as well as the best of what Portugal has to offer.
The seafood soup to start was presented beautifully and I was assured by my very discerning father in law it was the best he had tasted since O’Galeao (THE favourite restaurant, whose closing has long been mourned in our family) – very high praise indeed!
The husband and boy always have the fish Cataplana here. For those of you that have yet to come across a Cataplana it is named for the pot that it is cooked in. There are two popular types, seafood packed with both fish and seafood, or a pork and clam version. The seafood version is cooked in a tomato sauce with lots of onion and red and green peppers and presented in show stopping style straight from the gleaming copper pot into your bowl. The Cataplana this time had monkfish, prawns, cat shark, clams and mussels. I think the look on his face says it all!
Every time we visit, I promise myself I will try something new but am always seduced by the chateaubriand served with bearnaise sauce. It’s carved in front of you at the table, cooked to perfection and paired with a lovely glass of Touriga Nacional means I’m in food heaven and unable to refuse. I never regret it!
It’s a little more on the pricey side of things but if you fancy a bit of luxury for an evening there is no where better.
At this point in the trip I’m desperately trying not to think of whether or not my work clothes will fit me when we get home as we have another stunning stop! O Camilo, affectionally known as the ‘motorbike bar’ in our family, I feel that I should point out that it looks nothing like a motorbike bar and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a motorbike there! However, the name has stuck! O Camilo was not much more than a wooden shack when we first started frequenting, with a menu littered with endearing translations (sandwishes – it’s still stuck, we don’t have sandwiches in our house) and a limited but tasty menu. Grilled swordfish with onions was a favourite then and still is now. O Camilo has undergone a radical transformation and is very swish these days but the food is still as good as it ever was. I tried the Octopus and clams which you can have with chips, potatoes, plain rice or coriander rice. I opted for coriander rice and was happy with my decision. Swordfish was still a popular choice amongst the family as well as red snapper and scorpion fish, resulting in a very happy customers. The service was attentive and welcoming as always.
O Camilo’s stunning location, set atop a cliff with the most beautiful views is the icing on the cake. If you’re up for the 230 steps down to the beach you will be rewarded with the highly Instagrammed cove, I wasn’t up for the journey but it enabled me to sample a lovely coffee with Cointreau with the mother in law, which we can both highly recommend!
Last stop on our food indulgence was a new spot for us based in Luz, Onda Luz. It was surprisingly busy given the time of year but every table was full! The menu was packed with traditional Portuguese fare which included a wide range of seafood. We ordered the monkfish rice, fillet steak served Portuguese style and the ‘special’ lamb stew. The service was really attentive and the staff went out of their way to make us feel comfortable and accommodate requests. You can observe the chefs cooking away in the open kitchen and the owner of the restaurant makes his way round each table saying hello and checking in on everyone’s enjoyment. It felt like a real family affair.
My daughter had the fillet steak, served blue and was very impressed with it and I had the lamb stew which feels like such an undersell to call it that! The lamb was so tender and the flavoursome sauce had clearly been cooking away for hours. We ordered a half bottle of Casa de Santar which paired perfectly, it was a blend from the Dao region which included Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional (a fav grape variety of mine…if you hadn’t guessed!). The dessert menu was very limited but given that the restaurant had been closed for the Christmas holiday and we had caught them on their first day open, new years day, they could be forgiven! The quality of the food and service made our last night really special and definitely we will be adding this one to our rota!
So, anther fabulous visit to Lagos comes to an end! Upon landing back in sunny Hampshire we promptly booked tickets to head back in the summer (and a gym membership for me!) We cant wait!! Our plan is to keep exploring and see if we can unearth some more treasures on the culinary front all washed down with some Touriga Nacional! Chin chin!
This guest blog was written by Rosie Sharp