The Madeiran archipelago, located off the Northwest coast of Africa is a spectacular mix of rugged, mountainous landscape, sheer cliffs, lush greenery and the tremendous swell of the Atlantic. Known for its namesake wine and temperate subtropical climate, Madeira has always been a popular spot for holidayers looking to escape a little of the European winter. The main island of the archipelago is volcanic and the soil is incredible fertile; this has given way to an abundance of endemic flora as well as allowed the Madeiran farmers to grow pretty much every kind of crop imaginable, year-round with great success. For this reason, Madeira is becoming known more and more as a foodie hotspot, boasting 3 Michelin stars and a hell of a lot of locally sourced, fresh produce. Check out our pick of the top 8 must-see drinking and dining dens of Madeira!
Bar Maktub on the Southern side of the island is located in the surfer town of Paul Do Mar and is THE place to kickback with a mojito and watch the sun set over the horizon. After the sun goes down, head in for some of the freshest, tastiest food on the island. Choose between a land or sea meal and watch as wooden surfboards, stacked high with BBQ meat or salt-roasted fish, come streaming out to your table with a smattering of tasty sides. For this one – make sure that you book ahead as they only ever order what they need for the night.
Paixao Do Vinho is a lovely wine store that you’ll find sitting pretty by the side of a boulevard, opposite a park and close by to the Casino Da Madeira. The couple who own and run Paixao Do Vinho are particularly friendly and their concern for picking out the best glass or bottle to suit your palate and tapas accompaniments is touching. Be sure not to leave before ordering a Madeiran wine flight, which is both historically interesting and utterly delicious.
Uva, located within the slick design hotel, The Vine offers up contemporary cuisine with a strong concentration on fine wine. The impressive view from Uva at night-time is that of the sparkling Funchal harbour that looks as if to be mirroring the night’s sky.
Restaurante Riso – Risottoria Del Mundo is a funny little spot, that specialises in everything rice. On the front page of the menu, you’ll find out all about the historical relevance of rice and why the owners are so mad about the saintly grain. As eclectic as the idea may be, the food at Riso really is worth the trip; choose from a variety of different rice-based dishes and specialities from around the globe with an emphasis on locally sourced produce and fresh seafood. If you can, book a table for sunset as the restaurant is enviably positioned on the edge of a cliff, which offers unadulterated views over the Atlantic.
Il Gallo D’Oro is Madeira’s double Michelin-starred beauty, located in the luxury Cliff Bay Hotel just outside of Funchal. Come here for a night of decadence, fine wine, finer food and exciting flavour combinations. If you’re coming during the peak season, make sure that you book well in advance as Il Gallo D’Oro is in extremely high demand.
Harry’s Bar is a delightful throwback to the golden age of cocktails, flapper dresses and dinky bowties. Come for a pre-prandial martini and shoot the breeze with the affable bar staff before heading upstairs to the Madeiran restaurant, Casa Velha. When you’re ready for dinner, try snag a table out by the garden and try their fish of the day (so long as it’s not Sunday, as the local fisherman take the day off).
Hamburgueria de Bairro is a great shout for something a little more low key. Their burger menu is immense and there’s plenty of veggie and vegan options too!
Barreirinha Bar Cafe offers fantastic, cheap mojitos and G&Ts with a cliffside view over the ocean. Great for any time of day, but it’s particularly lovely at sunset. For something to munch on whilst you sip away the afternoon, order a few plates of olives and garlicky lupini beans.
Nini Design Centre easily wins the award for the most unique location in all of Funchal. Located high atop a rocky outcrop on Funchal’s main harbour, the Design Centre will spoil you for choice view-wise. Pretty much a 360o vantage point, pull up a chair that best suits your sensibilities and sit back with a cheeky glass of bubbly and a Portuguese tart (and maybe a pastry too)!
Melanie Chenoweth is a London based, freelance food writer and photographer. If you can eat it, she’ll snap it. Then eat it. Then write about it.
Photographs courtesy of Uva and Il Gallo D’Oro