Nestled inconspicuously on a pleasant square just north of the commercial centre, 2 Irmãos is both Faro’s oldest restaurant and one of oldest in Portugal. Established in 1925 in an old welder’s shop, the ‘Two Brothers’ was originally a tavern, popular among bartering merchants. By the 1960s, its bar snacks had become famed across the Algarve, and the wine bar became a full-fledged restaurant. Today, the 2 Irmãos juxtaposes arresting azulejo tiles with a beamed wooden ceiling for an airy, open feel. Come here to sample the same simple pleasures that delighted earlier travelers, such as steamed clams, percebes and mackerel alimados, and stay for the finely grilled catch of the day.
2 Irmaos, Pç. Ferreira de Almeida 15, Faro, Portugal, +351 289 823 337
When Alfonso II conquered Faro in 1249, the Moors had ruled it since the eighth century. ‘The Moor’s Table’, situated in the heart of the Cidade Velha (‘Old Town’), keeps their legacy alive. Facing Faro’s enchanting cathedral across an expansive square, here you can sample Moorish delicacies while spying the stork’s nests that stud the surrounding roofs. Alongside medieval treats including chestnut-stuffed rabbits and wild boar in a mango sauce, this is a perfect place to try bacalhau (dried, salted cod), Portugal’s most iconic ingredient. The cataplana – a stew named after the Moorish copper dish it is cooked in – is amongst the best in town, whether with pork and clams or fresh fish and cockles.
Mesa dos Mouros, Largo da Sé, 10, Faro, Portugal, +351 289 878 873
Tucked away on a tiny cobbled alley in the Old Town, Faz Gostos is perhaps the finest eatery in Faro, and certainly one of the most luxurious. Originating in the neighbouring village of Olhão, the venue has become something of a national sensation; the chef, Duval Pestana, has opened a second branch in Lisbon, whilst the Faro branch has repeatedly moved to larger premises. Despite this success, however, Faz Gostos is still owned and staffed by a local family, and its dining room retains a regal elegance. The wine selection is unmatched in town, and the food, which ties traditional ingredients into novel combinations, is sumptuous, with a focus on game and select cuts of meat.
Faz Gostos, Rua do Castelo, 13, Faro, Portugal, +351 289 878 422
Adjoining the seventeenth-century Arco de Repouso and minute chapel, this is a cosy spot with a casual, friendly atmosphere. Aqui d’el Rei’s specialty is cooking from Angola, a country whose long colonial connection to Portugal has blurred the boundaries of their cuisines. The moamba de galinha, chicken with palm paste, okra and garlic, accompanied with flour porridge, is a genuine Angolese feast. On Sundays, Aqui D’El Rei becomes the ideal setting for live fado, the melancholic strain of Portuguese folk music that emerged from the nineteenth-century working classes.
Aqui d’el Rei, Rua do Repouso, 6-8, Faro, Portugal, +351 289 801 451
Once home to one of the most dignified dining rooms in Faro, the unassuming townhouse that now houses the Belle Époque was derelict for over a decade until its revival in 2012. Decorated plainly but with a hint of the extravagant art nouveau of the early twentieth century, this is one of Faro’s most welcoming restaurants, with extremely attentive staff and a diverse clientele. The star here is the Argentinean beef, which has quickly gained a reputation as the finest steak in town.
Belle Epoque, Av. da República, 88, Faro, Portugal, +351 289 829 416
Possibly Faro’s cosiest restaurant, the Repüblica only seats 24 diners and is run by a single couple. Passing through a set of red wooden doors, you will find an alluringly cluttered room overstuffed with posters, photographs and painted tiles. Its unpretentious regional food with a distinct trace of home cooking makes it an excellent place from which to gain a sense of the local community. The tartlets here, stuffed with duck or prawn, are exquisite, but the dishes that will have you coming back are the simplest, such as the mighty caldeirada stew, a cornucopia of fish and seafood.
Republica, Av. da República, 40, Faro, Portugal, +351 289 807 312