For foodies looking for locally-sourced seasonal food, Madeira’s capital city Funchal has the pick of the island’s best restaurants.
Here’s our handy guide on where to eat in Funchal.
#01 – Beginning at the eastern-end of the city, Riso Risottoria del Mundo (or Riso for short) has an inventive menu which mixes classic Madeiran staples such as scabbardfish and tuna, with interesting rices and pulses from all over the world. Their desserts are particularly creative (and delicious) – polenta and rice apple crumble, or chocolate coulant with carolino and redberry rice cream. Not forgetting their seaview terrace which has a wonderful view along the the Garajau coast.
#02 – Next door to Riso is the Barreirinha Bar and Café. They also have a great seaview and a laid-back atmosphere – a good spot for everything from a quick coffee, a light lunch, or home-made burgers and a DJ set in the evening. Barreirinha certainly feels more lively in the evenings – a friendly locals’ place, ideal for your first taste of Poncha: Madeira’s most famous cocktail of Aguardente de Cana (sugar cane rum) honey, lemon and orange juice.
#03 – Just a short walk away from the Barreirinha is O Tasco. Serving more traditional Madeiran cuisine, they don’t tend to have a fixed menu – they serve fresh, seasonal fish based around the catch of the day. It can be a little touristy, but don’t let that put you off – their espetadas de atum (tuna skewers) are a particular favourite of ours, with a side order of milho frito (fried maize).
#04 – Heading down towards the centre of town, you’ll come to one of Funchal’s most historic landmarks – the 17th Century Forte de Sao Tigao which once protected Funchal’s harbour. Nowadays it’s home to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Restaurante Do Forte. The restaurant’s a la carte menu of modern Madeiran cuisine is very reasonably priced, and the staff are super-friendly and knowledgeable. They often host themed evenings with a special menu to match.
#05 – Moving into the old town district – known locally as the Zona Velha, these narrow-cobbled streets with their colourfully painted doors have become a hub for foodies in recent years. This part of Funchal has the highest concentration of restaurants anywhere on the island, and it can be tricky seeing the wood for the trees. One of our favourites is the Taberna Ruel on Rua de Santa Maria, and it’s distinctive yellow frontage makes it easy to find. The menu is a nice mix of Madeiran and more traditional European – but their excellent wine cellar is all Portuguese. There are tables out on the bustling (pedestrian only) street, indoors under the sturdy stone arches of the old building for a more intimate dinner, or out in the rear courtyard for steaks over hot coals.
#06 – Moving out of the old town, one of our favourite restaurants for décor is Armazém do Sal on Rua da Alfandega. It’s name translates as ‘salt warehouse’, and the restaurant’s preserved oak beams and imposing heavy stone help conjure a strong feel for the building’s past life. More importantly, the food is excellent – trout from Ribeiro Frio and octopus risotto to keep fish lovers happy, and fabulous Iberian pork and lamb from mainland Portugal.
#07 – The Grand Cafe Penha d’Aguia is on the city’s seafront Avenida do Mar. There’s a bit of a fib going on with the ‘Since 1844’ on the front – until 2018, the café was the offices of TAP Air Portugal. Ignoring the date and the slightly over-the-top décor, it’s a nice lunchtime spot which is close to the marina and the Se Cathedral, and their gelataria is excellent.
#08 -The Mercearia Dona Mecia can be tricky to find but it’s well-worthy searching out. It’s on the pedestrianised Rua dos Aranhas which runs from the La Vie centre down to the Marina shopping centre on the Avenida Arriga. The Mercearia’s a lovely courtyard café which is perfect for a shady lunchstop, and they have a delicatessen where you can pick-up Madeiran produce as gifts for family and friends.
#09 – Right next door to the Mercearia is the Boho Bistro. There’s a very homely, cosy feel to the décor which is slightly out of kilter with the Portuguese/Asian fusion-inspired menu. The word Fusion often sounds alarms, but the island’s fresh ingredients really shine right across the bistro’s inventive menu.
#10 – Last but not least – the Ritz on the Avenida Arriaga is one of the island’s oldest open-air cafes (dating back to 1910). Location is everything and you’ll inevitably pass by the Ritz during your time in the city – Arriaga is a lively street and the Ritz as a landmark is a good meet-up point. It’s not the cheapest restaurant in the city but they have a nice mixed menu of local dishes. Where they do stand out is with their confectionary – their cakes are sensational.
Our Where to eat guides are based on our first-hand experience and our love of great Portuguese cuisine: