A welcome addition to Carvoeiro’s restaurant scene, but where’s the piri-piri?

Restaurant Review – Garden Restaurante

Opening a new restaurant in the Algarve during these difficult and uncertain times takes quite some courage, especially when it involves a major refurbishment on a substantial scale. This is exactly what has happened to what used to be one of central Carvoeiro’s best known restaurants, Chefe António.

Whilst the building still belongs to Chefe António, the new project is under the management of the team behind Lagoa’s Chill Inside café and restaurant.

With its huge indoor garden terrace, the main indoor restaurant space and outdoor terraces on the front of the building, this is one of the largest restaurants in the area and, until it closed after the 2019 season, Chefe António would always be full to capacity during the summer season and busy year-round with a mixture of local residents and visitors

The refurbishment took place during 2020 and the first few months of this year, finally opening with a totally new concept and a fresh modern décor in June. 
I first visited a couple of weeks ago, just a few days after it opened, and started with a plate of fresh local mussels in a Moroccan-style Harissa sauce – very tasty and a portion that is large enough to share as a starter, especially if mopping up the sauce with the proper ‘pão caseiro’ from the couvert.

For main course on my first visit, I also thoroughly enjoyed a dish of roast octopus served with cabbage and ‘chouriço’ sausage.

The menu also includes a variety of other meat, fish and vegetarian options and seems to have something to suit everyone.

But the big thing here is supposed to be the grilled chicken. Carvoeiro has always lacked a decent ‘casa de frango assado’ and this place has the space and location to make it work.

The chicken options on the menu are a little confusing though. It states that, for €16, we can eat as much chicken as we like. What is not clear is if this is per person but, on further investigation, I discovered that the idea is that if one person in a group (of say four people) takes the “all you can eat” option, the others in the group can also tuck in as long as they also order a main course each, which, in the case of chicken, costs €9. So, for a group of four hungry people, it is actually a good deal.

I returned this week as a group of four and this time we shared two starters: the mussels again and garlic prawns. The good quality bread once again doing the job very nicely of mopping up the sauces.

We then each had a normal portion of chicken, served with good homemade chips and a salad (charged extra). The chicken itself is good, but it was served without piri-piri and it turns out that they do not have a homemade piri-piri sauce, the only options being tabasco or the passable and very spicy bottled sauce made by Calvé.

I had to ask myself, how can a restaurant in the Algarve offer grilled chicken as a house special without having a real piri-piri sauce? It seems like a major oversight and something I hope to see rectified very soon.

The lack of proper piri-piri with my chicken is one issue and my only other gripe with this restaurant is with the wine. The restaurant uses decent quality wine glasses, has a nice glassed-in wine display inside and what is undoubtedly one of Carvoeiro’s best wine lists, with reasonable prices and a very respectable cross-section of wines from most of Portugal’s main regions … apart from the Algarve. 

There are wines to suite most tastes and pockets, but, for some reason, the Algarve has been all but excluded, the only options being a few wines from the very good local producer Morgado do Quintão.

Had the wine list been restricted to just one or two producers from each region, this would be fine, but it is not the case. Other regions such as the Douro and Alentejo are very well represented.

Reading through the wine list, I got the impression that the management are not fond of our local wines or maybe do not understand the importance of promoting our local wineries.

I hope that this is just another oversight that will be corrected soon, like the piri-piri, because, apart from these two minor gripes, Garden is a welcome addition to Carvoeiro’s restaurant scene that deserves to succeed.

Located on Estrada do Farol
(restaurant hill) – 282 357 216

By Patrick Stuart