The next day, the weather was bad and I was pretty sick, so we took advantage of our luxurious surroundings and lounged around Vilacampina. I can’t imagine a better place to be stuck inside. We did manage to check out two other restaurants while we were in the eastern Algarve, both for dinner: Casa do Abade in Santa Luzia and Abstracto, in Tavira.
I wrote a TripAdvisor review of Casa do Abade and I forgot to take any pictures while I was there, so I won’t go into too much detail. I will say: EAT THERE! We would have returned the following night, but they are closed on Tuesdays. Tito, the owner and server, runs around, making sure everyone is happy, while his wife prepares amazing food in the kitchen (a typical Portuguese arrangement). They really care about the food and the quality of the ingredients (something so standard in Portugal, but so rare in the states). Tito drives to Spain each week to get Iberian pork from a butcher he trusts and has a long history with. He used to raise and butcher the pigs himself, but he got too busy. The pork is then prepared using traditional methods by his MIL. Serious love goes into that restaurant and you can feel it when you are there.
We went to Abstracto on our last night in Tavira. It is located in the same alley as Aquasul. The decor is really fun and funky- felt almost like Alice in Wonderland. It is kind of a French take on Portuguese food. The service and food were good, but my overall impression was it was a little pricey (for Portugal). If I were to return to Tavira, I think I would rather go to Casa do Abade or Aquasul, although there certainly was nothing wrong with our experience at Abstracto. It just wasn’t very memorable for the price.
Next up, we head to the wild and scenic country that is the western Algarve.
As an aside, I thought it may be useful to include a couple notes on eating in Portugal (if I think of more to add, I will do so):
First: things you will be charged for that are noteworthy. 1. Water. I saw people upset about being charged for water on a couple restaurant reviews, so I wanted to mention it here. To me, it’s not such a big deal, or very surprising, since bottled mineral water is what is being served. The options are sparkling or still. “Natural” means it is room temperature. 2. The couvert. I admit, we were 2/3 of the way through our trip before I knew what this word meant. Couvert = the bread/olives/cheese/other stuff that is brought out first. Sometimes they ask you if you want it, most of the time it is just there. In smaller towns, if they charge you for it, it is minimal (1-2 euro). Lisboa and Oporto were the only places that I remember being charged a noticeable amount for the couvert. If you don’t want the couvert, just tell them. For the most part, you are really taken care of when you eat out in Portugal. We really only had one experience, in Lisboa, (I’ll write about it in more detail later) where we felt taken advantage of. No big deal, learning is part of traveling.
Tipping: we asked many people about this, including restaurant owners. Everyone said it is not expected; up to 10% is great, but they do not expect it or make a big deal about it. This is such a hard concept for my American brain to grasp but I love it. I have spent most of my life dependent on people’s tips, and I hate all the feelings and guilt that come along with a tip culture. Honestly, after eating out in Portugal, with such reasonable prices, excellent, quality food, and genuinely good service, I really have lost my desire to eat out in the US. (And my wallet thanks me.)
Don’t want to eat out every meal? Grocery stores in Portugal are great. Markets are better. One amazing item we found at the grocery store was a precooked, packaged Spanish tortilla. It tasted great cold, right out of the package and the ingredients were really good- onions, potatoes, eggs, milk, spices.