Why go to a restaurant when you can cook for yourself in Casa da Serra’s perfectly equipped kitchens, using the freshest fish and seafood from Tavira’s daily market? Well, sometimes you just want to relax and let others cook for you. Or go out and mingle with the crowd. Or have dinner by the sea after a day on the beach. It’s for those days that we prepared a list of good restaurants in and around Tavira. And since the list is long, here are the names of our absolute favourites: Restaurante Capelo, Casa da Igreja, Noélia e Jerónimo, Casa de Pasto Fernanda e Campinas, Mercearia da Aldeia (no. 1 in wines) and Retiro dos Caçadores.
- Casa da Igreja (Cacela-a-Velha – $): There are only a few tables outside and you’ll have to get there early to find a place. But Casa da Igreja is certainly one of the best places in the world to eat fresh oysters. Located next to the church of the beautiful village of Cacela-a-Velha, it has a great view over Ria Formosa and the sea. Phone: (+351) 289 952 126.
- Chá com Água Salgada (Vila Nova de Cacela – $$): In summer, Manta Rota beach is usually too crowded. The reason is that you don’t have to take the boat to get to the sandy side of the beach. And there are many parking lots right next to the beach. By contrast, in winter it’s a nice place to go for long walks by the sea. It’s also in wintertime that we recommend the beach restaurant Chá com Água Salgada (which means “Tea with Salty Water”). The food is a modern take on the typical Portuguese cuisine. The wine list is varied and contains some good Portuguese reds and whites. Try Mapa or Monte da Peçeguina for a white. If you prefer full and complex red wines, try the excellent Quinta do Mouro from Estremoz or the Dona Maria Amantis Reserva. If you are looking for something different, try Casa Cadaval’s Pinot Noir or anything by Casa de Mouraz, an innovative producer of natural and authentic back-to-the-roots wines from organic viticulture. The restaurant is open from 12am to 10pm and closes on Wednesdays. Phone: (+351) 281 952 856. (Update: the last time we went there in October 2022 the food and service was still OK, but overall a bit disappointing and the “sommelier” talked too much memorized blah-blah. If you want to hear about and taste less common Portuguese wines, Mercearia da Aldeia in Santo Estevão is your place to go).
- Restaurante Costa (Praia da Fábrica, Cacela-a-Velha – $$): This restaurant is located next to Fábrica Beach (Praia da Fábrica), one of the most beautiful beaches of the Algarve. It’s a good place to watch the sunset and have dinner after a day at the beach. Although, over the years, the restaurant has lost some of its charm and the quality of the food and service has declined, the view and mussels („ameijoas“ or „conquilhas“) are still good. Phone: (+351) 281 951 467.
- Snack Bar Âncoras (Praia do Barril – $): The restaurant is located in the buildings of a former tuna station. Nothing special, but it’s OK for lunch if you spend the day at Barril beach. Phone: (+351) 962 759 795.
Cabanas used to be a small fishing village at the Ria Formosa. In the past decades it has grown considerably and the new houses and apartment complexes are not always examples of good architecture. Still, the seafront is a beautiful place to watch the sun go down and among the many restaurants there’s the fantastic Noélia e Jerónimo and a few very good ones.
- Noélia e Jerónimo ($$$): In 2015 Portuguese writer and journalist Miguel Esteves Cardoso declared Noélia e Jerónimo “world’s best restaurant”. Even though he might have been inspired by the restaurant’s excellent wines when he wrote this, chief Noélia’s take on the Portuguese and Mediterranean cuisine is innovative and clearly stands out from the normal Algarvian menu. If you go here once, you’ll always come back. Some of our favourites are: Tártato de Atum, Pataniscas de Polvo, Ceviche de Dourada do Mar, Arroz de Limão com Corvina e Ameijoas, Arroz de Ostras “Moinho dos Ilhéus” or just a grilled fish or steak … If you saved some apetite for the desert, ask for the Pudim do Abade de Priscos! Noélia has an excellent and diverse wine list. The restaurant is fully booked weeks in advance, even in winter! So make your reservation as early as possible! Phone: (+351) 281 370 649.
- O Monteiro ($): Good and inexpensive restaurant with well-served portions located at the seafront of the village of Cabanas. The Cataplana de Tamboril is worth the wait. Phone: (+351) 281 370 825.
- O Pedro ($$): Located on the boardwalk of Cabanas with a view to the Ria Formosa, O Pedro is a good, yet reasonably priced, restaurant. Besides the “normal” fish and meat dishes, it has a reputation for its fish stews and seafood risottos. If you want to try something special, have a go at Feijoada de Lingueirão or Açorda de Marisco. Phone: (+351) 281 370 425.
- Restaurante Ideal ($): Long-established restaurant in the centre of cabanas, near the boardwalk and the Ria Formosa. Try Sopa do Mar or the tuna steak Bife de Atum à Ideal. If your kids are reluctant to eat fish, have them try Filetes de Peixe Galo. Phone: (+351) 281 370 232.
Luz de Tavira
- Restaurante/Marisqueira o Fialho ($$): Located right next to the Ria Formosa, O Fialho is a simple, but excellent restaurant whose specialty is fresh fish and seafood. Try to get a table outside. Highly recommended both for lunch and dinner. O Fialho is one of those restaurants that you’ll never find in downtown Tavira. Phone: (+351) 281 961 222.
- Mercearia da Aldeia (Santo Estevão – $$): Mercearia da Aldeia may be the most surprising restaurant of the entire Algarve. From the outside it’s a small and simple roadside tavern. Once inside, you will be overwhelmed by the huge variety of rare Portuguese wines, often from very small producers, that the owners Maria João Madeiro and José Soares have collected over the past years. With more than 3000 different wines and an owner who will enthusiastically tell you the story of every single one of them, this is every wine lover’s dream. On our first visit, we had partridge, wild rabbit and pigeon accompanied by the last bottle of Viúva Le Cocq Reserva 2017 Alentejo red. In a recent story, the weekly newspaper Expresso describes very well the uniqueness of this place, Try it before everybody else does!
Santa Luzia is a beautiful fishing village with various good restaurants. Most of the restaurants are located on the boardwalk, with a nice view over the Ria Formosa. The specialty in Santa Luzia is dozens of variations of octopus (for example at Casa do Polvo Tasquinha or Polvo & Companhia). But it also has one of the best fish restaurants in the Algarve: Capelo. Go there after a day on the beaches of Praia do Barril or Terra Estreita.
- Restaurante Alcatruz ($): The restaurant is hidden in one of the back streets of Santa Luzia. It serves fresh fish, octopus and a variety of small starters. Good regional food from the fishing village of Santa Luzia. Phone: (+351) 281 381 092.
- Restaurante Marisqueira Capelo ($$): One of the very best fish and seafood restaurants between Faro and Vila Real de Santo António and definitely our to-go place for grilled fish! Also one of the more expensive ones. Beautifully located at the harbourside of Santa Luzia. In July and August the restaurant doesn’t accept reservations. Be there early or wait in line with a nice view of the boats in the harbour. Our favourite starters are Ameijoas and a small plate of Camarão de Monte Gordo. As a main dish try the Pregado (turbot) or grilled slices of Corvina and accompany with a bottle of chilled white Cartuxa or Esporão from the Alentejo region. Phone: (+351) 281 381 670.
Serra de Tavira (the hills of Tavira)
- Casa de Pasto Fernanda e Campinas (Corte António Martins – $): A simple restaurant with the tastiest regional food of the “Hinterland” of the Algarve. A very typical dish is Açorda de Galinha which has to be ordered a day in advance. They have the best grilled Iberian porc (Mista de Porco Preto) and very good wines (for example the red Alentejo wine Pêra Grave and a selection of wines by Herdade da Bombeira in Mertola). As a digestive, ask for a small shot of homemade Medronho. Phone: (+351) 281 951 770.
Tavira has many restaurants, some of them beautifully located on the shore of the river Gilão. In summer, these restaurants attract many tourists from the surrounding hotels and holiday resorts. There is something for everyone, but most restaurants serve rather average food. A few restaurants stand out, though, and since December 2021 Tavira has it’s first restaurant with a Michelin star: Chef Luís Brito’s A Ver Tavira.
- A Ver Tavira ($$$): Tavira’s first restaurant with a Michelin Star offers innovative lunch and dinner menus, including a vegetarian option. You can try the wine pairing or choose from their excellent wine list. A Ver Tavira is located within the walls of the old castle with a beautiful view over the rooftops of Tavira. Se Eu Fosse Uma Cataplana (If I were a Cataplana) and Sabores De Um Cozido Português (Flavors of a Portuguese Stew) are among the most original creations. Phone: (+351) 281 381 363.
- Retiro dos Caçadores ($): A tiny tavern where local fishermen have their first glass of red wine at 7 a.m. after a hard night’s work. It does not look particularly inviting, but has the tastiest choquinhos fritos with french fries! Phone: (+351) 963 746 383.