Located in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Portugal, Madeira Island is renowned for its abundance of tropical fruits and captivating seafood delicacies. Trying Madeiran food is a key part of experiencing the beauty of this amazing island.
Continue reading to discover must-try Madeira dishes and restaurant recommendations that will enrich your visit to the island!
Passionfruit, known as "Maracujá" in Portuguese, is a tropical fruit derived from the passionflower plant. It is widely utilized in Madeira cuisine for various delicacies, including jams, sauces, liqueurs, ice creams, and desserts. Among the different passionfruit varieties found on the island, the most popular choice is the regional purple fruit known for its vibrant color and tangy yet subtly acidic taste.
Indulge in the heavenly Passionfruit Cheesecake, a luscious and velvety treat covered with a delectable passionfruit jelly. This exquisite dessert tantalizes the taste buds with its perfect blend of tartness, tanginess, and creaminess. Encounter this mouthwatering dessert frequently featured on restaurant menus, and it's an absolute must-try.
Brisa Maracujá, created in Madeira, holds the distinction of being the world's first soft drink solely crafted from pure passion fruit juice. This uniquely carbonated beverage boasts a delightful tropical flavor that is both sweet and refreshingly invigorating. It's no wonder that I found myself enjoying a Brisa Maracujá on a daily basis!
Banana plantations dot the landscape of Madeira, making it no wonder that they have become an integral part of the island's culinary offerings. One unique dish that caught my attention was the shrimp and banana pizza. While it may sound unconventional, I must admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it. In a way, it reminded me of the classic debate surrounding pineapple on pizza, which, in my opinion, unquestionably belongs there!
Espada com banana e maracujá (black scabbard fish with banana and passionfruit)
Espada, also known as black scabbard fish, is an eel-like species that holds a significant presence in Madeira's cuisine, culture, and economy, comprising 50% of all catches. The traditional Madeiran dish consists of battered and fried espada, accompanied by caramelized banana and passionfruit sauce. Although the combination of fruit and fish may seem unusual, I guarantee that it creates a surprisingly tasty flavor.
Bolo do caco
Bolo do caco, a round flatbread from Madeira, is crafted from a blend of sweet potato, flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. The dough is traditionally cooked on a hot, flat basalt stone slab called a "caco," resulting in a unique texture and flavor. It is commonly served warm as an appetizer with garlic butter. I strongly urge you to savor every bite, as it is a unique bread that cannot be easily found elsewhere.
The "prego" is a delectable sandwich consisting of bolo do caco bread generously slathered with garlic butter and layered with a thin beef steak. It is often accompanied by toppings such as lettuce, tomato, cheese, and ham, or even crowned with a fried egg atop the steak. Pregos are commonly found in snack bars and offered at an affordable price, making it the perfect lunch option to quickly grab before resuming your adventurous explorations.
Pastéis de Nata (Custard Tarts)
When exploring Madeira, one simply cannot resist the famous egg custard tarts. These tarts feature a flaky crust, a custard filling, and a caramelized top. Pastéis de nata are readily available all across the island, whether you visit a café, pastry shop, or even a supermarket. I wholeheartedly recommend taking a well-deserved afternoon break to treat yourself to a cup of coffee alongside one of these satisfying tarts.
Lapas (Grilled Limpets)
Lapas Madeira-style, a genuine delicacy of Madeira, are grilled and served with a flavorful combination of butter, garlic, and a squeeze of lemon. These lapas, resembling a fusion of a mussel and a clam, are cooked upright in a frying pan. When enjoying this dish, it is customary to consume them like oysters, allowing you to taste the sauce and succulent limpet in one satisfying bite. In my opinion, a fantastic lunch option would consist of a serving of limpets alongside a side of bolo de caco bread!
Espetada (Meat Skewers)
Espetada, a traditional Portuguese dish and a specialty of Madeira, showcases large pieces of beef skewered with garlic, rock salt, and bay leaf, then cooked over hot coals. Beyond its exquisite flavors, this Madeiran delicacy offers a unique dining experience. Often, the espetada is served with the skewer hanging vertically from a hook, allowing the succulent juices to drip down onto your plate.
Recommended Restaurants in Funchal, Madeira
While exploring the vibrant city of Funchal, we had the pleasure of dining at several restaurants that left a lasting impression. Here are a few noteworthy establishments from our trip that I highly recommend!
Restaurante do Forto
Address: Rua do Portão de Sao Tiago, Forte de Sao Tiago, 9060-250, Funchal
Nestled within the Historical Fortress of São Tiago, dating back to the 17th century, lies the renowned Restaurante do Forto. We immersed ourselves in their "special concept" experience, which included a selection of courses including bread, starters, main courses, and desserts. Choosing this comprehensive option proved to be a better value than ordering individual items from the à la carte menu. Additionally, it provided us with the chance to try a variety of dishes.
I relished a shrimp cake appetizer followed by a seafood risotto that truly tantalized my taste buds. As expected, the desserts were nothing short of heavenly.
The dining experience at Restaurante do Forto offers a blend of exceptional cuisine and an extraordinary ambiance. For those seeking a remarkable dinner in a truly one-of-a-kind setting, I recommend booking a reservation during your visit.
Restaurante Cidade Velha
Address: R. Portão de São Tiago 21, 9060-250 Funchal, Portugal
Situated just outside the fortress walls, Restaurante Cidade Velha is an outstanding dining establishment. We were pleasantly taken aback by the exquisite presentation of our dishes, which included a delectable Espada fish stuffed with shrimp and wrapped with bacon, as well as a mouthwatering seafood tagliatelle for our main courses. To conclude our meal, we had a hazelnut chocolate dessert reminiscent of a Ferrero Rocher. The restaurant's outdoor patio also provided a picturesque view of the ocean, adding to the overall dining experience.
O.Giro Churros & Paninis
Address: Rua da Carreira 77, 9000-042 Funchal, Portugal
O.Giro, located in Funchal, is a cafe renowned for its generous portions of delicious paninis and churros. However, the real star of the show is their spiral churros. It was impossible to resist the temptation of a warm churro accompanied by a sauce of your preference. We opted for the creamy "Kinder" sauce, an Italian chocolate.
Address: R. Dom Carlos I 36, 9060-051 Funchal, Portugal
Realmar truly impressed us with their excellent cuisine, featuring beautifully fresh and skillfully cooked dishes (as evident in the image of their fresh fish of the day meal below!).
The staff went above and beyond, offering a welcoming atmosphere while assisting us in selecting our dishes and providing helpful recommendations. A standout dessert for us was the passionfruit cheesecake, which featured a unique twist with its zesty lime-infused cheesecake base.
To access a comprehensive Madeira Island Guide, feel free to explore the detailed blog post available here!
Thanks for reading!
- The Maine Chick