Madeira, despite its size, has the best seafood products (including extraordinary seafood or fresh fish) but also with agricultural fields with good vegetables and fruit, pastures for raising calves and the most creative ingenuity for their sweets and desserts
Eat in Madeira: essential typical dishes
Soups (Madeira, caldeirada, wheat, ...)
As in all corners of Portugal, soups are one of the most common starters. They highlight the Madeira soup, composed of tomato, onion and egg; the wheat (or sometimes cabbage or green broth) of thick texture based on wheat, dried beans, potatoes, squash and corn; The tasty caldeirada like a fish soup or the Açordaof garlic and bread
More usual starters (perhaps less prominent) could be potatoes with beans and cobs or Madeira regional kebab (usually in traditional festivals)
The barnacles, looking very similar to clams but harder and larger, are one of the typical Madeira dishes that I liked most in my travels. The delicatessen is to try them dressed only with butter, garlic and grilled parsley as an entree ! Spectacular!
They are also called lapa grelhadas although they can be companion in certain stews (like swordfish with barnacles)
Bolo do Caco, the traditional plan
Although more than a recipe is a traditional product, you should not miss a good bolo do caco on your table. It's about a bread made with potato and spread with garlic butter, with some air to the Galician ball, ideal to accompany those barnacles or the main course itself
It is usually a flat circular bread and has historically been cooked in a basalt stone slab although today there are multiple variants in its preparation.
Meat stews (meat in vinhal d'alho, frango grelhado,…)
There is no lack of all kinds of meat to eat in Madeira for those travelers who throw in this type of products. As main course we will see chicken options of all kinds (including colonial Portuguese or the famous "frango grelhado" -to the grill-) but if we had to highlight a stew that will delight you that is the meat in vindhal d'alho
It is a elaborated pork meat marinated with garlic and accompanied by potatoes that is to lick your fingers
Waited in Pau de Lauro
Was it slow to appear? The Espetada in Pau de Lauro is possibly the most famous traditional traditional dish to eat in Madeira, as well as being very affordable for all budgets. Is aboutbeef cuts seasoned with garlic and bay leaf and presented in skewer form after going to the grill
Perhaps the most obvious peculiarity is that they are not wooden skewers but the bay leaves are used to prick the meat.
Fish stews (Preta sword, powder ...)
The star recipes of Madeira's cuisine due to the variety of species that exist (and that can be seen in the Funchal markets) are the fish stews. Tuna, cod in more than 300 forms of preparation, grouper, octopus (powder), lulas, sardines, mackerel, cattle, spiny ... Of all of them, it is the "Preda Sword" my recommendation and favorite
The Preda sword is a stew combined with fried banana and swordfish that nothing has to do with what we know in Spain since it occurs only in certain areas of the world such as Madeira and at depths between 200-700 m. Its meat is white and is usually served without bones.
Pudding or passion fruit mousse
If we enter the desserts we will find multiple options, largely based on tropical fruits such as papaya, pineapple, mango, ... It is the case of pudding or passion fruit mousse.
It can be presented in different ways but all of them using as main ingredient passion fruit
Mel bolus or honey cake
The other great dessert known in Madeira is the Bolo de Mel or honey cake, a Traditional recipe made from the combination of nuts, spices and sugar cane honey.
If you are a lover of desserts, you will find more sweets and delicacies in the queijadas (of cottage cheese, eggs and sugar), in the “Belém Cake” that also arrives here or in the keepers (biscuits in the form of a napkin)
Verdelho (and other wines)
Madeira also stands out for having its own wines and typical spirits, from green wines, red wines or white wines, even some rosé wines. Talking about everyone would be impossible so a particular recommendation… try the Verdelho!
It is a white grape wine grown throughout Portugal but mostly associated with the island of Madeira and has a dry taste more fruity than other varieties of the island.
Punch, better one than three
You can try other typical liquors in Madeira (like the Ginja made with bitter cherries, also worth tasting) but it is the elixir strikeout that you should ask to be able to say that you have tasted their most traditional drink
It is a drink obtained by mixing white rum, lemon juice and cane honey, all of them produced within the archipelago, resulting soft first. It is precisely this that will lead you to try three and we better talk about the hangover, right?
Restaurants where to eat in Madeira (very charming)
There are 2 restaurants in Madeira with Michelin Star that are the Il Galo d'Oro and, since this year, theWilliam Belmond Reid's Palace Hotel and there are for those who enjoy this type of corners.
Watch out for schedules if you come from Spain as they are governed by a much more Anglo-Saxon. The time of the food usually ranges between 12'00 or 12'30 and 14'30 (or 15'00 at most), while dinner varies between 19'00 to 22'00 or 22'30. It is very possible that if you choose to enter for dinner later you will find the kitchen closed, keep that in mind
However, we look for those charming restaurant that offer the most traditional recipes and for all budgets.
Quinta Do Furao in Santana
Next to the next restaurant on this list, the only one I have repeated on my two trips and for good reason ... is an experience! The Quinta Do Furao restaurant not only offers typical Madeira dishes (it also has gourmet cuisine options), tasting of the 4 different types of wine from here in its cellar and all in an elegant place with wooden furniture ...
... located on some cliffs with the most impressive views of the northeast coast of the island
Do not forget to try the Espetada in Pau de Lauro (you have our complete experience this day)
Two Fathers Girdle
Like the previous one, enjoying the restaurant located in Faja Dos Padres is more an experience in itself. It is located on the beach of the same name which you can only access via a vertical lift by the cliff, cable car or sea. A large terrace and its degree of isolation in a unique environment do the rest.
All the dishes on the menu are based on fresh seafood, its own organic garden located right there and in the most traditional kitchen (you have our complete experience this day)
Doca Do Cavacas in Funchal
In another privileged location at the foot of the Atlantic Ocean and located in the most western part of Funchal, this picturesque seafood restaurant that was going to bring us one of the best menus of all these days
Caldeirada of fish, prawns, all kinds of seafood and what triumphed the most !! (you have our complete experience this day)
Do Forte restaurant in Funchal
Are you looking for a restaurant for a special occasion? Can you imagine having dinner in a fortress in defense of the port dating from the seventeenth century? This is the case of the Do Forte Restaurant in Funchal, next to the old town and in a fantastic historical enclave
Obviously we talk about a different place, much more refined, with more elaborate typical dishes, extraordinary service and even violinist at night.
Sol Poente restaurant in Ponta do Sol
A great discovery of our last trip also in a unique enclave. We are literally on a balcony to the cantilever sea (It has an interior option for those who suffer from vertigo) where, for very affordable prices, you can have lunch or dinner overlooking the town of Ponta do Sol while the sun sets over the horizon.
Try here the Preta Sword (swordfish with fried banana), the Sol Poente steak or the cod croquettes! You will not regret it!
Palha's house in Sao Jorge
One of those most unknown options for those looking for menus of the day to "suck your fingers." It's about aFamily home cooking business that offers four first courses and four seconds, in a typical Maderian house with a thatched roof and with two terraces.
Recommendations? Bread stuffed with fish sauce, squid or prawns, baked octopus, kid's stew or any cod dish.
Restaurant Design Center Nini Andrade Silva in Funchal
If the previous ones have surprised you, this will leave you with your mouth open. We are in an emblematic building of the port of Funchal known as “Molhe” - Fortress of Nossa Lady of the Conception, which It was home to the navigator and colonizer of the Madeira Archipelago, Gonçalves Zarco
The views of the entire city, while enjoying a tasting menu or menu of more elaborate dishes in a unique atmosphere, are impressive
Adega da Quinta in Funchal
Attached to the inn "Quinta do Estreito", the restaurant Adega da Quinta is located high up in the city of Funchal in an absolutely spectacular environment with good panoramic views, an extraordinary cellar, all kinds of typical Madeira dishes and a magnificent atmosphere (even Fado shows).
If you don't want to travel to the Quinta Do Furao restaurant in Santana, this is your place to try the Espetada in Pau de Lauro. ! Exquisite!
If you are looking for more flavors of Madeiran cuisine you have a "Gastronomic Week" between the end of July and the beginning of August in the town of Machico that has been held since 1985, including sports tournaments or cocktail festivals. All the information in the Madeira official tourism website
Of course, any restaurant in the old town of Funchal will offer you that atmosphere of pedestrian streets, affordable prices and excellent food. Also, if you want to see many more plans, even if they are not properly gastronomic, do not miss "21 essentials to see, do (and eat) in Madeira"
Did you find these typical dishes and charming Madeira restaurants appealing enough that we have suggested? Would you dare to recommend other Portuguese recipes to eat in Madeira and that may be missing from this list? We await your comments!
Isaac, tasting Madeira (Portugal)