#01 – The harbour town of Camara da Lobos is the up-and-coming place to live for Funchal’s commuter set due to it’s proximity to the capital, it’s south-coast location and it’s sunny micro-climate. It’s cafebars and restaurants could be accused of playing catch-up on the more modern, Lisbon-leaning chefs in Funchal – whereas we often feel their traditional-Madeiran menus are a big part of their appeal.
Casa do Farol is a good example – just a few short steps from the old harbour front, their seasonal menu and simple preparation allows the fresh local fish to shine. Their Gambas a Diablio (deviled prawns) are a particular favourite, as is their own home-made ice cream. They also host live music, including Fado evenings – check their Facebook page for any upcoming events.
#02 – The Taberna Dos Lobos is just across the street. Historically, tabernas served wines and spirits with some petiscos (small dishes/snacks) served across the bar. Nowadays, they serve more substantial meals: locally-caught pargo (Red Snapper), black scabbard, lapas and octopus. If tables are available (and if you don’t mind a small surcharge), the upstairs terrace has a nice view of the harbour, and is a cooler option if you’re escaping the midday sun.
#03 – Head up the Rua Sao Joao de Deus and you’ll come to Deserta Pequena – a restaurant with more of a modern/Funchal slant to their Madeiran dishes, with a few pasta and risotto options on the menu. Leave room for their Volcao de Chocolate desert.
#04 –The restaurant with arguably the best view in Camara da Lobos is the Pier One Grill Terrace. Pier One is part of the Pestana Churchill Bay – one of Madeira’s newest hotels – and is open to non-residents. As you’d expect from a Pestana, the standard is high across their a la carte menu – particularly their take on black scabbard, served with a banana and passion fruit coulis.
#05 -Away from the harbour, two of the town’s most-popular restaurants are in the modern Pingo Doce development on Rua Doutor Joao Abel de Freitas. Restaurante Vila do Peixe has a big, bright warehouse feel with its floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay. Select your own fish from the open kitchen, and watch it being prepped and cooked over hot coals. Vila do Peixe is also one of the better options in Camara do Lobos for vegans, veggies and gluten-free diets.
#06 – Sister-restaurants Vila do Peixe and the Restaurante Vila Da Carne next door mirror each other in décor and service, with the latter very much focussed on meat. Again, there’s an open kitchen with cooking over hot coals – producing some of the best espetada on the island.
#07 – Continuing west along the coast, you might like to take a short detour in land to the Taberna da Poncha. The tavern is one of Madeira’s most-popular bars and owes it’s ‘infamy’ to one of the island’s most-popular drinks. Poncha is a traditional alcoholic drink made with Madeiran sugar cane rum – the classic recipe mixed rum with honey and lemon juice , but maracuja (passion fruit) juice is also very popular. It’s a quirky little locals bar which is often included in guided tours of the island – you’ll see the walls and roof beams are decorated with a mosaic of banknotes, business card and football scarves left past visitors, and the floor is covered in peanut shells (no idea why that tradition started).
#08 – The secluded seafront village of Ponta do Sol is popular with locals and tourist alike for it’s bright, sunny microclimate. If you’re visiting for the day, the Restaurante Sol Poente is an excellent option for lunch. Sitting on a promontory by the Cais da Ponta do Sol footbridge, the ocean view from the small balcony is wonderful (although table space it limited). Good for fresh seafood and friendly service. If you’re staying in the village, be sure to snap-up a balcony table at least once: to enjoy one of Ponta do Sol’s legendary sunsets.
#09 – Speaking of sunsets – arguably the best place to mark the end of the day is the restaurant at the Estalagem Ponta do Sol. Perched high on it’s cliff top overlooking the village, the Estalagem is one of our favourite hotels on the island. Their excellent restaurant has a modern-Madeiran menu and is open to non-guests – and the garden terrace is perfect for toasting the blazing brilliance of a mid-summer sunset.
#10 – Down in the centre of Ponta do Sol, the village has a nice selection of family-run restaurants. The Old Pharmacy (opposite the Igreja Ponta do Sol) serves interesting and appetizing petiscos (tapas) and be sure to check their chef’s specials.
#11 – The Small House is just next door to The Old Pharmacy. Size isn’t everything – this beer house is undeniably small, but it’s a friendly locals’ spot serving craft beers, ciders, rum and whisky from across Europe.
#12 – Leaving Ponta do Sol behind and heading west along the coast, you’ll come to the harbour town of Calheta.
It’s sheltered beach and marina are a welcome-alternative to the much larger harbour in Funchal. There’s a friendly, laid-back atmosphere which is matched by the warm welcome you’ll receive in the cafebars and restaurants overlooking the marina. The Leme Marisqueira, the Restaurante Essencia do Atlantico and the Marina Azul Restaurante all sit directly on the marina – arguably the Leme just has the edge on service but they all have similar, traditional-style Madeiran menus with a focus on fish. Their location means they’re pretty busy during the day, but tend to be quieter in the evenings when the day-trippers head home to Funchal – if you’re staying in or around Calheta, I’d recommend reserving a table in advance.
#13 – Also in Calheta, the understated Restaurante Beira Mar might not have the marina-front location but they tend to be the restaurant of choice for locals – particularly for their polvo (octopus) and grilled lapas (limpets).
#14 – The Manifattura di Gelato is also worth a special mention – if you’ve any fussy eaters in the family, the Gelato’s pizzas, fresh pasta and (of course) ice cream are all excellent. They also mix a mean Mojito.
#15 – As you leave Calheta, lookout for one of the island’s few surviving rum distilleries at Engenho da Calheta (on your left as you head uphill, away from the marina). Perhaps better known for its fortified wines, Madeira also produces white rum from local sugar cane. The distillery itself is a fascinating, living museum using 19th Century engineering and production methods. A happy by-product of the rum production process is the leftover Molasse, which is the key ingredient in one of Madeira’s oldest delicacies: Bolo de Mel. It’s a deliciously dark, sticky sponge cake filled with walnuts, almonds and spiced with cinnamon.
#16 – Taking a detour inland to the village of Prazeres – the Restaurante Chico and the XS Café are quiet lunch spots, well-away from the ususal tourist hotspots. The nearby Quinta Pedagógica dos Prazeresa is a family-owned small holding and school farm which produces it’s own preserves and liqueurs from their own herbarium and orchard. Worth a visit for the fruit teas served in their tearoom.
#17 – Returning to the coast, a tight switch-backing road will bring you down to the fishing village of Paul do Mar. Before the road arrived in the 1960s, Paul do Mar was only accessible by boat or via the steep cobbled path which zig-zags down the sea cliffs (and requires a good head for heights). The village is still popular for it’s fresh seasonal fish, although it does get tend to get invaded by guided tours around lunchtime. The Bay Side is my favourite, overlooking the harbour at the southern-end of the village, (and if possible, grab a table outside or on the small 1st floor balcony). Calhau’s Beach Bar does a nice Octopus stew and their terrace is right by the ocean. At the northern end of Paul do Mar, the Restaurante Sol e Mar is typically Portuguese: local dishes and big portions.
#18 – Approaching the west coast of the island and the village of Ponta do Pargo, look out for the Restaurante O Forno (on your right as you reach the far-end of the village, just before the big roundabout). Great for pork espetadas and steaks cooked over a wood fire, and there’s always something interesting on their specials board.
#19 – Heading out of the village towards the most-westerly point on Madeira, the Ponta do Pargo lighthouse, you’ll come to the island’s most-westerly restaurant: O Farol. It’s remote location makes it a popular lunch spot with fly/drive tourists ticking the lighthouse off their must-see lists. Typically, the specials board has the edge on the regular menu and they serve excellent soups.
Our Where to eat guides are based on our first-hand experience and our love of great Portuguese cuisine:
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The service was personal and the team helped me plan a very special holiday (with extra surprises along the way !).
From first contact to the compeltion of our holiday, all staff were extremely helpful and our itinerary was packed with awesome experiences.
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Views to die for !
We had the most fantastic time, the accommodation was fabulous, the walks and views were to die for. Insightful tour guides that kept it fun and interesting at all times.