With ocean views, traditional Portuguese architecture, tree-lined boulevards and delightful squares, Funchal, on Madeira’s south coast, promises to leave a lasting impression.
This charming city makes for a great place to explore the island, with everything from hiking to surfing on offer. After a day of adventure, there’s a superb selection of restaurants to replenish your energy before you head off to one of the many hip cocktail bars for a nightcap.
Pop on your glad rags for a trip to this upscale Michelin-star restaurant set within a clifftop hotel. Feast on prime views of the Atlantic Ocean while tucking into a meal to remember. The William restaurant, named after the original founder of the late 19th-century Belmond Reid’s Palace Hotel, serves up a six-course tasting menu complete with a vegetarian option. Expect seasonal dishes making use of local produce from the island, rounded out with coffee and moreish petit fours. Pair your courses with a flight of wine, with the knowledgeable sommelier on hand to help.
With rave reviews, Cris’s is a smart spot with leafy views towards the ocean and artfully presented dishes. There’s a lovely terrace and floor-to-ceiling windows, so you can still soak up the scenery while inside. The well-curated menu – which changes twice a year – features local ingredients, whipped up into Instagram-worthy works of art. The shrimp cocktail, fillet steak and chocolate fondant are among the most highly praised picks.
Prepare for a spot of theatre at this trendy restaurant, where a marble-topped counter table sits next to the open-air kitchen. Kampo puts a creative twist on Portuguese food with celebrated chef, Júlio Pereira, at the helm. Tuck into colourful sharing plates to start: house favourites include the sardines with eggplant, or passionfruit and foie gras with seasonal jam. After an interval, get ready for the main act, with glazed ox belly and matured beef loin just two of a slew of standout dishes. White chocolate mousse, black olive and passionfruit might seem like an odd combination, but it’s one of the most popular desserts here for a reason.
Step back in time to this classically styled restaurant, inspired by writer Ernest Hemingway. Come nightfall, the venue has a wonderful atmosphere, with racing green-hued interiors, antique-style furnishings, soft lighting and a saxophone player on occasion. A literary theme runs throughout and all of the dishes are named after well-known authors. Start off with a little John Steinback (prawns with avocado), turn the page to F. Scott Fitzgerald (octopus à lagareiro) for the main before finishing with an Aldous Huxley (honey cake). Guests particularly rate the Edith Wharton (beef Wellington) with the meat and pastry perfectly cooked.
Casa Da Penha Funchal
Dripping with pink bougainvillaea, this traditional-style tavern is as pretty as a picture. The real draw here is the sun-drenched terrace, along with the delicious homemade food and friendly service. Some of the house favourites include the shrimp-loaded paella, the seafood spaghetti and the hulking Chateaubriand, ideal for two to share.
Turn up at this modern tavern and prepare to be wooed by its warm and intimate atmosphere. Taberna Madeira, which can seat 40, features straw-like runners on the walls and ceiling as well as woven chairs and naked lightbulbs which cast a golden glow across the rustic scene. Simple white crockery lets the food do the talking. The menu features a well-curated mix of traditional recipes, with the tuna belly, octopus and pan-fried calves’ liver among the must-tries.
Casa Velha Restaurant
Dine amid tropical plants at this charming restaurant, which has been welcoming guests for more than 25 years. Casa Velha – meaning “old house” – is home to a spacious terrace with lush palms, exotic flowers and ferns scattered throughout. Inside, smart bamboo seats fit with the garden theme. There’s a great selection of offerings to suit all tastes with fish, meat and pasta dishes. Regulars love the Chateaubriand for two or the steak Diane and – if you have room – a creme brulée to finish.
If you’re looking for a change of scenery, then this Cuban-themed spot is a must. Sunny tones run throughout, with exotic foliage and knickknacks transporting you to a Havana-style setting. During happy hour the mojitos are on tap whilst in terms of the food, main courses come served with beans and rice and the pulled pork is among the house favourites, along with the chocolate mousse to finish.
Step into a hip wonderland with foliage dripping from the ceiling and a cool Scandinavian-style vibe from the get-go. PrimaCaju, which is housed within a four-star hotel, has a fantastic vegan and vegetarian selection. Dishes are artfully presented, with glazed pottery and coconut shells put to use. This is a popular brunch spot, with bowls of fresh fruit, nuts and granola made to your liking. Their eggs, cooked every which way, are also an Instagram-friendly favourite.
Restaurante dos Combatentes
With a relaxed and friendly ambience, this restaurant is a firm favourite. Located in the centre of Funchal, next to the Municipal Gardens, Dos Combatentes is the perfect place to pop into midway through the day or after a stint of sightseeing. There’s an abundance of seafood and some great vegetarian selections. Some of the restaurant’s best dishes include the grilled squid, pork and fillet steaks. The Madeiran wines here are also well worth sampling.
Looking for more? Why not make a weekend of it with a stay at one of the best hotels in Funchal for every traveller – you can even book right here on Culture Trip. Then, you can set off to discover the best things to do in Funchal or explore the city’s best museums and art galleries. After a long day, enjoy an expertly crafted cocktail at one of the best bars in Funchal.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Lani Seelinger.
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