Sardines in Portimão

Liz Hendleyby Liz Hendley   
Ask anybody what a typical Portuguese food is and they will come back with the answer Sardines. Renowned the world over for its simplicity, this highly popular fish, grilled, served with salad and potatoes, is an absolute must for any tourist visiting the region. Whilst, of course you will find Sardines on any menu in any restaurant here, there is one place to go where you can sample this little piece of culture in the true Portuguese style.
In the working town of Portimão, located about 20 minutes drive west of Carvoeiro, you will find a quay with about half a dozen restaurants lining the harbour wall. The smell of barbecued fish is what will hit you first, and even if you are not feeling hungry you will not be able to resist the cries of the Portuguese fisherman inviting you into their restaurants to sample what is probably, the freshest fish you will ever have the pleasure of eating.
Lunch starts at these restaurants at a little before midday and then goes on until mid-afternoon. It really is a matter of personal choice as to which restaurant you choose, as they are all priced similarly and offer the same choice of food. The restaurants are outdoors, but are covered so natural elements are not a problem. I would advise, if you do plan to have lunch here to arrive early, especially if you are visiting the Algarve in the peak summer season. After one o clock it does get busy as the Portuguese on their lunch breaks choose to eat here as well. ( Worth noting, as a general rule is that if you choose a restaurant anywhere in the Algarve, where the locals eat, it will be much better food which is generally cheaper as well, and thrown into the bargain you can feel the true atmosphere of Portugal ).
Sardines of course are the most popular choice. They are grilled right before your eyes, simply served with bread, salad and new potatoes, with a chilled glass of White Vinho to top it all off. You can of course be dignified and use cutlery, but the traditional way of eating sardines is to use your fingers to pick the fish off the bone, put it on some bread and eat it that way, yes, it's a bit messier, but for some reason really does improve the flavour of your lunch! If after thinking about this your mouth still isn't watering, then maybe you might like to have something else of the menu. The restaurants offer several other types of grilled fish, including King Prawns, as well as omelets and burgers to order. For a family of five people, lunch (including soft drinks, but not wine), will cost around 40 euro, really not bad value for money at all! The service is quick and efficient and the atmosphere is about as traditional as you can get, so all in all a very relaxing ( and filling ) way to spend an afternoon.
To get to the restaurant quay, simply take the old bridge into Portimão and then turn left, after that it is simply a case of finding a parking space. The town gets horrendously busy, particularly in July and August so you may find yourself with a bit of a walk back to the quay.

I would highly recommend this outing if you plan to visit our region, and afterward why not take a stroll around the town, to complete your day of sampling the real Portugal.

Liz Hendley

UPDATE: The sardine restaurants have been moved to the right side of the bridge and ample parking space is available nearby.


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