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
Don’t be fooled by the name; Adega Nova (‘New Cellar’) is steeped in history. Set within a 19th century warehouse built on the site of an old chapel, the Adega has served hearty Portuguese dishes since 1986. Popular with residents and visitors alike, the restaurant has a lively, genial character matched by a traditional, tavern-like décor. Although it boasts an extensive menu, the real joys here are the regional specialties, some of which are difficult to find elsewhere in town. Try the feijoada de buzinas or the feijoada de chocos for an authentic taste of the local nature reserve, or else order bife na pedra and cook your own steak on a stone slab.
Adega Nova, Rua Francisco Baretto, 24, Faro, Portugal, +351 289 813 433
Restaurante Ria Formosa
Named for the lagoon that separates the city from the Atlantic, Ria Formosa is hidden inside the Hotel Faro, facing directly onto the marina. Whilst the hotel itself is unprepossessing, ascend to the fourth floor and marvel. With its panoramic glass walls, complemented by a roof terrace in the summer, this is the perfect position to survey both the Old Town’s towers and the islets of the lagoon. A favourite with local businessmen, the Ria Formosa offers a mixture of traditional fare and contemporary dishes. Favourites include thin slices of jamón ibérico, salt-cod risotto and honey-marinated duck confit.
Ria Formosa, Pç. Francisco Gomes, N2, Faro, Portugal, +351 289 830 830
Mesa Dos Mouros
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
Aqui d’el Rei
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
While the Restaurante Ria Formosa lets you contemplate Faro’s lagoon from above, this one allows you to observe it from within. The sole structure on the aptly named Ilha Deserta, Estaminé can only be reached by taking a boat from the marina. Surrounded by almost three hundred species of rare birds and with awesome views of the ocean, there can be few more sublime and tranquil places to dine. It’s almost impossible that you’ll ever find fresher seafood, too, as the restaurant sources most of its plates from the surrounding mudflats. Watch out for dishes,including clams and crab, sea bass and sea bream, marked de ilha, which denotes something caught on the islet itself. The building itself, constructed of wood with sliding glass doors, is almost entirely solar-powered and sustains itself independently.
Estamine, Ilha Deserta, Faro, Portugal, +351 917 811 856
Situated just north of Faro in the stables of a stately mansion, with a hilltop garden overlooking the bucolic countryside and homely period furnishings, Le Marquis is surely one of the most beautiful restaurants in Portugal. Miraculously, its food matches its aesthetics. The high quality of the food combined with the charm of its Dutch owners, Vincent and Helma, has encouraged an intense loyalty among Le Marquis’ customers, who return again and again to experience its wonders. Robust rustic classics, including calf cheeks and venison fillets, rub shoulders with innovative fusions like oxtail-stuffed squid. Visit on Sunday afternoon for the finest traditional roast in the Algarve.
Le Marquis, Monte da Palhagueira, Santa Barbara de Nexi, Portugal, +351 916 076 540