SPENDING AN evening walking along the neon lit tourist strip of Albufeira may not appeal to all of us, but a few minutes walk away from the hustle and bustle is Johnny Hooper’s Saxophone Bistro, offering a unique and edgier approach to eating out.
Saxophone Bistro opened on June of this year by English saxophonist Johnny Hooper. Johnny has been a professional musician for most of his life, recording over nine albums, and has worked with many eminent entertainers and musicians including Eddie Izzard, The Drifters and Mike Doyle. He has been playing in the Algarve since the mid-nineties, spending a six-month stint entertaining tourists from all over the world. He made a reputation for himself in Albufeira from playing at the Cave Bar and busking in the main square of Albufeira’s old town, so much so, that he made the decision to open his own bistro where he can play his music.
The restaurant has been refurbished carefully in order to retain that traditional relaxed, yet buzzy, ambience associated with Johnny’s performances. The walls are adorned with photographs of jazz greats such as Miles Davis, and the rustic paintwork and dim lighting add to that gritty jazz bar touch.
Johnny plays in the restaurant every Tuesday and Friday nights from 8.30pm. A lively atmosphere greets you upon arrival as Johnny takes the stage beginning with an array of jazz classics including Pennies from Heaven, Can’t take my eyes off of you and So What, in addition to some of his own original material.
The performance is very energetic and encourages audience participation as Johnny dances between the tables as he plays. Tambourines are passed from table to table so that customers can play along with the music and participate in some singing. For those of you seeking a quieter meal, there is an outdoor veranda area where you can choose to sit.
After Johnny’s first set, he takes a break and holds a quick music quiz, with the winners being awarded a bottle of Port. Johnny takes this opportunity to start some banter between the tables and get everyone in the mood for some frivolity. His second performance sets the tone for the rest of the night. After a few upbeat standards, including a great rendition of Birth of the Blues, Johnny puts down his sax and the music descends into disco hits so that people can start dancing as they finish their meals.
The varied menu, cooked by Chef Julie Martin, offers a selection of Mediterranean food, which is sure to please all tastes. The starters offer dishes such as homemade soup of the day, mushrooms in wine and blue cheese as well as Greek Feta salad. Main courses include steak dishes and salmon with wholegrain mustard. Potatoes and choices of salad accompany all meals. There are also vegetarian options including roasted red pepper lasagne with mascarpone. Homemade desserts include apple pie, ice cream, chocolate torte and a selection of cheese.
The wine list offers all the popular Portuguese wines such as BSE, Planalto and Lancers. All night you are waited on by an efficient team of waitresses who are extremely fast and helpful. Saxophone Bistro endeavours to put on an evening of entertainment and will no doubt be a success with those of you looking for a lively and musical night out.
To find Johnny Hooper’s Saxophone Bistro from Albufeira’s Strip, walk up to Liberto’s disco bar and take a right onto Rua Almeida Garrett. A few hundred metres up, you will see the Bistro on your right-hand side. For more information, call 963 176 635 or e-mail [email protected] Ruth Sharpe