In downtown Lagos, Travia focuses on sustainable ingredients, natural wines, and connecting small producers with the local community

‘Travia – Natural Wines & Food’ has become much more than a tapas restaurant

– December 2, 2023 | Text Alexandra Stilwell

Sustainable establishments are no longer a trend; they are essential. Using local resources to help the local economy whilst consuming wholesome products is undoubtedly the way forward. It brings the community together and allows it to thrive in every way.

Travia – Natural Wines & Food is the perfect example of this. Since opening its doors in September 2021 in downtown Lagos, it has become much more than a tapas restaurant. Today, it is a meeting point where diners discover the Algarve, its culture, flavours and small producers.

In the Algarve, ‘Travia’ means “the leftovers given to farm animals”, explains Maria Loureiro de Lemos, who founded the project with Lee Moulton, a Welshman with whom she shares a passion for travel, adventure and a good challenge.

It is a curious choice of name for a restaurant, which suddenly makes sense once we discover the project’s philosophy. Travia is a provocation, a statement, a way to create awareness.

The cosy restaurant, located on the corner of the Rua Marreiros Netto and Rua Cândido dos Reis, was a city symbol long before Travia came along. “It was one of the first cafés to open in Lagos and was known as the place to get together and mingle”, explains Maria, who fell in love with it and adds, “it is one of the most beautiful buildings in town”.

Despite never wanting to open a restaurant, her impulsive nature led her to rent the place. With Lee, who had also sworn he would never go into the restaurant business, she transformed it into the new place to get together, adding a cosy street-side terrace.

Travia clearly focuses on local gastronomy, wine, culture and art. Its whitewashed walls are dotted with shelves covered in natural wine bottles and books on sustainability, while a large mural on the back wall, painted by Portimão artist Inês Barracha, and a large bar covered in mosaics add colour to the room furnished with wooden tables and chairs.

Travia tells Maria’s story. Born in Lisbon, raised in Macau, and having lived right across the globe, she is a dynamic and down-to-earth entrepreneur. Although she has a corporate background, Travia is not her first gastronomic project. Following years abroad, Maria returned to Portugal, settled in Lagos and created various ambitious food-led projects, such as the Rota do Petisco – promoted by the Teia D’Impulsos association – and the Lagos Food Fest, now one of the largest street food festivals in the country.

She even set up her own food tourism company. “I like to eat and drink,” exclaims the entrepreneur with a smile. And this is how she discovered the local food community and created countless connections. Having all the pieces of the puzzle, she enjoys connecting them to create new business opportunities, such as a hop-on hop-off wine tour using the Algarve’s idle Vamus electric buses to take people wine tasting at the weekend.

With an impressive academic track record – a postgraduate degree in Consumer Behaviour and Behavioural Economics, a master’s degree in Marketing and an MBA in Management – she built solid foundations to deepen her knowledge of consumer perceptions, strategic thinking and business management. Incredible baggage that, together with her passion for food, enabled her to work with Turismo de Portugal to promote sustainable gastronomic tourism online during the pandemic.

It was around this time that she began to “think a lot about sustainability linked to gastronomy in the Algarve”, says Maria. And that is how Travia was born and how she proved that opening a sustainable restaurant without a cooking background is possible.

However, she does admit that she does not have the time, knowledge or availability to have a zero-waste project. She believes it is unsustainable. “Here, our perspective is to do our best. I buy all the vegetables from local farmers, and the wines are from small producers. I know the money I give to local producers is spent on local businesses, which has a major economic impact,” explains the restaurateur, who is also an astute boss. Her staff work seven hours a day, no more, and are well paid. She believes that, “a person who doesn’t have money concerns is 30% more efficient at their job”.

As for Lee Moulton, Maria’s client-facing business and life partner, he is “the only barman who doesn’t drink”, reveals Maria, “he’s the perfect host”.

With a background in electrical engineering, Lee is a free spirit, moved by new challenges. Following a stint in Australia, where he took a diving instructor course, followed by time in Thailand, he moved to Portugal, where he soon accepted Maria’s latest gastronomic challenge.

The menu at Travia reflects Maria’s taste and flavourful international experience. From India, she brought the Panipuri (€3.50) with tuna and chutneys served with goat cheese (€7.90) or potato pavé with mango (€3.50) and labneh from the Middle East. However, most of the ingredients are local or regional. Her oysters (€12.50 for four), served with passion fruit, come from the Ria de Alvor; the spicy medronho honey that accompanies the fried chicken (€4.50) is from Monchique, and fresh fruit and vegetables come from the local market.

The idea is to look for new producers, give them visibility and work with their products. “We work with small Lagos producers,” says Maria, who explains that she plans ahead with them. “They let me know what products they will have in three months, which gives me a couple of months to decide what we will make with each ingredient.”

The tapas and snacks change according to the seasons and product availability. Sometimes, it can change every three to four days. However, some dishes remain longer, like the smoked mackerel from Vila Real de Santo António with coriander and mint piso (€4.50) or the roasted carrots with labneh and pistachio (€9.50).

To pair with the tapas and snacks, the wine list features around 50 national natural and organic wine references – which can be ordered by the glass from €4 – and a special selection of small production labels.

Follow Travia – Natural Wines & Food on Instagram.

Author: Inside Magazines

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