An insider’s tour around the taverns of Portimão

Tasty Taverns

Portimão was once a vibrant city, full of energy and the hustle and bustle that you’d expect from a town with a fishing port. Thankfully, with the hard work and foresight of a few, there are definitely signs that things are heading back in that direction.

A new wave of taverns is popping up all over Portimão city centre and luckily all within walking distance of each other. Although based on the old-style taverns of days gone by, the new taverns are sympathetically designed to incorporate the best from both new and old-world materials and ambience.

We took this opportunity to sample what they have to offer over a few visits.

Walking from the old bridge that takes you over Portimão harbour, the first tavern that you come across is the very popular, family-run Taberna da Maré. The downstairs area is actually more a restaurant than a tavern, but upstairs you’ll find Tasca Almaredo, a great bar setting, where you can kick back, enjoy the atmosphere and some live music.

Heading towards Portimão, Tasca Chique Dona Benta is just a stone’s throw away. Occupying a street corner, this small, modest eatery boasts a tasty homemade tapas menu, which includes a version of Oporto’s famous snack, the “Francesinha”.

Next along the route, we come to Velocity Café, located on a side street next to the new waterfront development. Very humble and discreet from the outside, inside is a treasure trove of historical artefacts, joined by an art gallery, an internal terrace, a steakhouse restaurant and bicycles galore.

Lovingly restored by Manuel Matos, who opened the doors in June 2014, Velocity Café is a fitting tribute to its previous tenant, English artist Michael Tannock, who still exhibits and maintains a small studio on site. History lovers will appreciate the attention to detail Manuel has employed when restoring this very important building. He even has the key to the original safe, which contains agricultural logbooks from the 1800s.

Our next stop is the more fashionable and most-recently opened “taberna” on our route – Casa da Tocha. Old and new are harmoniously paired in this grand old bar. The owners have painstakingly renovated the original tiles and every inch of the venue they could, to create a very welcoming atmosphere, which is complemented by a hand-crafted bar area (made by Alambre), retro seating and a great pop-up shop area, stocking Portuguese-made items ranging from lightshades to artisan beers. The house drink is vermouth, but they also have some excellent wines etc., and the tapas menu constantly changes, depending on the season.

The next stop is Taberna Cool 33, located on a side street between Rua Direita and the Praça da República. Adorned with a large bougainvillea, at the entrance, once inside you find an inner courtyard, surrounded by small, cosy rooms, with a bar area and a wine bar. Tiago has been running the bar for some time now and has a regular clientele, who enjoy his hospitality and varied menu, which now includes lunch. The famous Wednesday “after-work” DJ session is complemented by drink and food promotions to break up the week.

Just around the corner is Tasca Porta Velha. Owner Luís Coelho is always around, in fact he lives here. Originally meant to be his home, and nothing more, after friends insisted that the space would make a wonderful bar, he decided to take their advice and began collecting bric-a-brac and upcycling unwanted items to create this special, eclectic setting. Serving homemade Portuguese dishes, bear in mind that this “tasca” only opens at 10.00 pm.

Selling canned fish and much more besides, Maria do Mar, on the Rua Direita, has reintroduced canned fish to Portimão, once a hub of the canning industry. Benefitting from the recent image overhaul enjoyed by canned fish, Maria do Mar uses sardines etc. as a great tapas topping, serving them with liquid refreshment, or selling them in their delightful retro packaging.

The area around the Rua Dr. José Joaquim Nunes has witnessed the arrival of a number of new taverns, including Taberna de Portimão, Tasc’alado and TasCa, all adhering to the same winning formula, using local material to transform old buildings and local produce to whet our appetites.

Restaurante Lusana has been around for years, but has now opened a lovely little “wine bar” area at the end of the restaurant, where you can enjoy the specialities of the house with some beautiful Portuguese wines.

Our last stop on this very enjoyable trip around Portimão takes us back to the riverside and to a large, stone-clad tavern known as Tapa Latina. With a large central bar, tapas on display and a sunny terrace, it’s the perfect place to end our tour. There’s no better way to discover the city than sampling the tasty titbits it has to offer.

1 – Taberna da Maré (13h00-15h00; 19h00-23h00 – Closed on Monday) – Travessa da Barca, 9

2 – Tasca Almareado (20h00-02h00 – Closed on Monday) – Travessa da Barca, 18

3 – Tasca Chique Dona Benta (12h00-24h00) – Rua da Barca, 1

4 – Velocity Café (18h00-24h00 – Closed on Monday – Rua Stª Isabel, 5

5 – Casa da Tocha (12h00-24h00 – Closed on Sunday) – Rua Sr.ª da Tocha, 24

6– Taberna Cool 33 (Monday – Saturday 12-3 & 6-late) – Rua João Anes, 33

7– Tasca Porta Velha (Monday – Saturday 22 til 04) Travessa Manuel Dias Barão, 3

8– Maria do Mar (11h00-21h00 – Closed on Sunday) – Rua Direita, 89

9– Taberna de Portimão (12h00-02h00) – Rua Damião Faria e Castro, 6

10 – Tasc’alado (16h00-01h00 Closed on Monday) – Rua Dr. José Joaquim Nunes, 13

11- Lusana – Rua Dr. José Joaquim Nunes, n.º 6 (11.30 – 23.00 – Closed on Sunday)

12– TasCá (12h00-01h00) – Rua Júdice Biker, 24

13 – Tapa Latina (12h00-22h00 – Closed on Wednesday) – Largo do Dique, 16

Text Mia Wallace

Photos Sara Alves

Author: Inside Carvoeiro

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