Every year since I was a child, I have been lucky enough to visit Portugal at least once a year. The Algarve to be precise and Alvor to be exact. I believe in each to their own and not everybody enjoys revisiting the same holiday destination but I love the inviting feeling of returning to a place that warms your heart and gives you peace. I have never heard anybody say they have not enjoyed a visit to the Algarve and Alvor is one of the jewels, I believe, on the coast.
Like previously stated, I have been visiting since I was a teenager so I have experienced this sun trap pre and post ibs. Pre ibs, I divulged in my favourite pastel de nata, a true tragedy of being diary free. Walking past the little Custard tarts, knowing how amazing they are but unattainable to yourself. Tasting the delights, carefree in all the wonderful restaurants that cater for every taste bud and fancy. Enjoying endless ice creams by the pool and drinking my way through the cocktail menu to my hearts content. Unfortunately, Post ibs, eating and drinking on my annual holiday has been different but I am not going to state the obvious or repeat my previous moans.
The one food type I adore is fish, I would eat fish morning, noon and night, if I could. Every type of shellfish and fish is not safe in that big wide ocean. Luckily, that is what Portugal does best – fish. The great news that I have learnt about fish too, is that it is perfect for sensitive stomachs and compliments my staple foods perfectly rice and potato. So as long as I don’t dice with something that is red on the fodmap (see my post about the FODMAP app). I am winning. Most restaurants in Alvor serve amazing dishes of fish and there isn’t really a restaurant that I have left feeling disappointed or reluctant to return. Don’t get me wrong, they’re lots of beautiful meat dishes out there but I am a fisherman’s friend when I visit my beloved Portugal.
When you visit Portugal you MUST divulge in sardines among the other fresh fish on offer. Sardines are one of Portugal’s national dishes and in my opinion you won’t find better else where. Now my father in his younger years travelled around the world on boats so I have been lucky enough to have his guidance on fish and how to debone. Most people are put off by the bones in sardines but please don’t be. Once the head is off, cut down the middle to take the gut out and pull from the tail the bones fall off the fish in one swoop. If you are still dubious then just ask the friendly waiters to show or support you and off you go- you won’t be disappointed.
For me though, there is one restaurant in Alvor that stands above the rest and my holiday isn’t complete till I have been.A Lota , it is at the bottom of the main strip of bars and restaurants in Alvor and the ocean is literally 10 steps from the front door so you know the fish is fresh. The welcome is warm here and service is of high quality which is hard to acquire in a busy restaurant. The menu here isn’t pages and pages ( which I prefer) but every item on the two page menu is delicious. Every meal that I have had in A Lota, I have loved. My key dishes that o would recommend is the octopus coconut curry, seafood rice or literally any of the grilled fish that is on the menu. The waiter will come and show you the catches of the day and you can see how fresh the fish is. There is a warning though – the food is so delicious there may not be much conversation at the table between your family and friends. Apart from the odd mmm or phrase to persuade you to share a taste of your dish as everything just smells and looks so delicious.
One advantage A Lota has, for the ibs fans out there, is the famous covert that is offered in many Portuguese restaurants. Unfortunately I have to turn down this starter ( which is painful when your hungry) when my table eagerly orders this popular starter. In this instance, I can join in- whoop. The bread is accompanied with rye bread – tick. Then the most beautiful olive paste, Pate and the most exquisite sardines, anchovies and tuna. Oh my, druel has literally just emerged from the side of my mouth as I write. It literally is the best covert and I know your saying, how would she know? She just said she is left out of eating coverts but everyone on my dinner table agrees and trust me, my brother and Dad are the prince and king of coverts. Heavenly starters do not stop there, the muscles, tuna tartar and the prawns (the best I have ever tasted) are a must to try.
If you travel to Portugal, then you must hit Alvor and if you are lucky enough you must visit A Lota.
Tip – Fish, potatoes and rice are an amazing staple diet for avoiding upset stomachs.
Lesson – Pastry and custard are a no go for IBS.