There is nothing wrong with traditional regional cooking, by Chris Noble of Quinta do Mar boutique hotel
One of the reasons we travel around the world is to experience things that are new to us, culture, people, and food. Here on the Azores visitors can easily find great local cooking, using the rich array of ingredients raised and grown on the islands or sourced from the huge, surrounding North Atlantic Ocean. 16 years ago, when I arrived here, the giant portions and odd combinations took some getting used to, I sometimes felt that I should have been labouring in a field all day to deserve such a meal. There were many fewer visitors in those days, so no reason to change 500 years of tradition! More recently the Islands have become popular with people from all over Europe and North America, the main reason for this is better access and cheaper fares. The Azorean restaurateurs are adapting to the new norm and with the help of review websites to spread the word, are now producing excellent food. In addition, the great hotel schools are providing qualified chefs and waiting staff so visitors are now enjoying some really fabulous food.
Very near us there is “Bar Caloua”, nothing fancy, an open-air restaurant overlooking the sea by the picturesque fishing port of Caloura. All they do is grilled fish; guests choose freshly-caught fish from a chilled cabinet then it is taken away and cooked, simply. It takes skill to keep it simple.
Further afield, about 20 minutes away, my personal favourite is “Quinta do Sabores”, a ‘farm to table’ restaurant serving a set meal of 5, great tasting and manageable portions. Paired with great wine recommendations from Paulo, the owner, it makes for a wonderful night out, well worth the 35 euros cost.
Another great local restaurant is “Gastronomo”, towards the east of Ponta Delgada, near the prison. You can park your car easily on one of the side streets nearby and you will always find a warm welcome in this family run restaurant. The menu is not huge, a good thing in my view, and includes an interesting range of starters (I like their Buffalo Wings), a range of mains including fish from the chilled display cabinet and a varied choice of desserts. Everything is well priced given the quality and that includes a wide selection of Portuguese wines, Azorean spirits like local gin, brandy & liquors.
I’m happy to see a new professionalism, attention to detail and love being given to the food here. Our guests are giving good reports to us about their dining experiences while they are out and about.
Chris Noble has worked in the hospitality industry for over 40 years and is joint owner of Quinta do Mar in Caloura on Sao Miguel. Quinta do Mar is one of our client’s favourite places to stay on the islands and is truly exceptional.
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