Last year I shared with you some of my favourites – wines, restaurants, places and so on. Quite a few of you took the time and trouble to contact me to say how much you enjoyed my lists, and tracking down my suggestions. So this year I decided to do the same, but differently.
This year, I want to nominate people and places who would get an award from me if I had such a thing to give. The fact that I have not included any places from last year does not mean they are no longer good – it just means I am bringing a few more people and places to your attention. And can I please make two things very clear. First, the restaurants and wines that I recommend are those that I personally like – and my taste is not necessarily your taste! Secondly, I recommend restaurants that I have been to several times and that I am happy to take other people to. They have not paid me to be included here: indeed, they have no idea that they are being included, so it will be a surprise for them too.
FOR SERVICES TO CHARITY AND FOR HELPING OTHERS
There are many unsung heroes and heroines in the Algarve, and I don’t know all of them. But some I am aware of and they include:
• Owen Gee who does more behind the scenes work than you will ever know.
• Jane Oliphant and her ACCA committee for raising money and sharing it among youngsters who need help in whatever form.
• Victoria Padfield for her work with the annual charity golf event at Vilamoura and everything else she does.
• The Mamamaratona committee for their efforts in raising money for a mobile mammography unit.
• Those who work with the animal charities, giving their time and money to help animals that have been abandoned and/or injured by people who should know better.
FOR SERVING GREAT FOOD WITH A SMILE
Almancil (289 399 019, dinners only).
Despite its oriental sounding name, it specialises in food ‘from Italy and beyond’. It has very pleasant décor, lovely people, nice atmosphere, great food and a warm welcome from Jane, José and Claire, a family set-up in the nicest sense. Worth a visit anytime – and the tiger prawns are great!
• Cantinho dos Italianos
Pêra (914 844 269, lunches & dinners).
A tiny place in one of the narrow streets of Pêra – watch for the signs! Genuine Italian cooking, absolutely delicious home-made pasta, freshly-made everything and some lovely Italian wines to go with! It’s best to book, because space is limited and word is spreading!
• Taberna Poço de Almancil
Almancil (289 391 285, lunches only).
A tiny place tucked between a supermarket and an upholsterer and a veritable oasis for those who appreciate good home cooking, Portuguese style. There is no printed menu; Dona Célia tells you what she and her team have prepared that day – and it’s great! Very Portuguese and all the better for it.
FOR GOING WITH GREAT FOOD
• Tapada da Torre. This wine is made here in the Algarve and you can visit the adega – take the road to Alcalar almost opposite the Penina hotel. Personally, I prefer the white, but taste for yourself.
• Baron de B and Dolium White. Évora-based winemaker Paulo Laureano makes both of these from the Antão Vaz grape, yet they taste totally different – try them side by side and see how versatile Portuguese grapes (and winemakers) can be!
• Quinta de Pancas Cabernet Sauvignon. I am usually a fan of traditional Portuguese grape varieties, but for this I make an exception. The quinta has been in the family for over 500 years, and they have created what is probably the best Cabernet Sauvignon in the country. Aim for their Special Selection 1999, if you can find it.
• Cranberry Juice. A very healthy alternative to alcohol, full of vitamins and anti-oxidants – and for those of you who are sensitive to such things, it even looks like red wine in the glass!
FOR ENJOYING IN YOUR LEISURE TIME
• Armona Island –An absolute treasure of a place. Catch the ferry from the dock at Olhão and mingle with the locals. There are a few shops and restaurants clustered around the landing point on Armona, otherwise it is neat little houses, miles of dunes and nature at its best.
• Concerts by the Orchestra of the Algarve – Those who complain that the Algarve is a cultural desert have never been to a concert by the region’s own symphony orchestra. During the season, the orchestra plays at venues throughout the Algarve – international-standard music for very local prices – go along, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
• Plays by the local AmDram groups – We are fortunate to have a wealth of talent, both treading the boards and backstage, in the Algarve. These groups regularly stage the highest quality productions, each one representing enormous amounts of work. They deserve our support.
FOR MAKING IT POSSIBLE FOR LARGER LADIES TO HAVE STYLISH CLOTHESA
As someone who is not exactly supermodel shape, I appreciate the fact that there are a few places where I can buy clothes which are smart, stylish and made for larger ladies. Interestingly, most of the clothes come from Northern Europe, where manufacturers seem to recognise large ladies as an important market sector: • Maxelle, in Boliqueime • Gardeur, in Luz• Jouk’s Studio, in Cannaval • Collections – clothes that come to you!
And finally, I would like to share with you an honour that I have been given. The British-Portuguese Chamber of Commerce is based in Lisbon, and provides a range of support services to its members, who are mostly large Lisbon-based companies. The Chamber has now decided to set up special ‘satellite’ operations, or ‘think tanks’ in both Porto and the Algarve, specifically to address the local situation. It wants to become more active in the Algarve, increasing its membership, of course, but also making people much more aware of the range of services it can offer and the ways in which it can help small businesses to grow.
I am very honoured to have been asked to head up the think tank for the Algarve, and I am delighted that I shall have the Honorary British Consul, Roger Nuttall – and the others on our new committee – to help with initiatives to stimulate business in the Algarve. For me, it is a great way to start a new year and I wish you all that is positive, plentiful and prosperous!