We love Portugal, but there is one specific thing we love beyond all else: grilled fish! Something magical happens when you give a Portuguese chef a freshly caught fish, a hot fire, some olive oil and a pot of salt. Personally, I think the salt might be infused with pixie dust, or some other magical concoction; but whatever the reason, the fish is heightened to a euphoric state of sea infused decadence.
I’m happy to say that I am not exaggerating. And the best part of experiencing this luxury is that it will neither break the bank, nor take a year sitting idly on a waiting list to get a reservation. Nope, just a little patience and a strong stomach as you wind your way around curvy seaside cliffs in search of your most memorable meal. I’m talking of a quick day trip from Lisbon to a place called Cabo da Roca, in the town of Azóia.
Cabo da Roca is famous for being the most westward point in mainland Europe. Known as “Onde a terra acaba e o mar começa” (where the land ends and the sea begins), by the Portuguese poet,Â Luís de Camões, it is now considered a tourist destination where people from across Europe go to say they have gone where they can go no farther. In truth, it’s a 5 minute detour from the shore line freeway, worth taking, if only to stand at the tall monument for your obligatory photo op. The view is breathtaking, the wind fierce, and the fresh air can clear your head after the whirlwind tour through stomach churning windy roads. Gabriella is one who does not take well to anything other than a straight line in her vehicular adventures and blessed the brief respite before heading back up the road to Azóia for a feast of seafood fit for a king.
From what I can tell, there are only a handful of restaurants in Azóia. And I believe most, if not all, would be fine choices for your pescatarian culinary adventure. The main criteria in choosing one is that they have an open table and menu on the door.
Being accustomed to tourists, the restaurants in Azóia tend to have menus in multiple languages and are more than adept at hand gestures and broken English. This, combined with the fact that your chosen fish is often times brought forth for you to inspect before making your final decision. Mind you, fish are served whole, and when they show you a seabass that looks like it will feed a small army, you’ll be receiving the entire fish, with or without the army.
So here are 3 rules to keep in mind when ordering fish in Azóia:
- Read Andrea’s post on fish and styles of fish in Portugal. Print it out and take it with you! You won’t regret it.
- The suggested fish are typically EXCELLENT and you rarely need to worry about servers pushing something old or tired.
- Take your time and enjoy every last morsel. Sometimes we rush as foreigners to finish in a timely manner. Don’t worry! Linger, nibble, and enjoy what may be the best fish you’ve ever tasted.
So that’s it. Order a bottle or two of wine, but make sure the driver goes light, as the roads are not to messed with. Last thing you want is for your greatest fish feast to be your last. As for suggestions, the whites of the neighboring region of Colares, and even some of the reds with richer fish choices, are perfect pairings. Though I will admit that I often order the house wine, most likely locally sourced, or maybe a Vinho Verde like Muralhas de Monção, a personal favorite.
On our most recent trip, we toted my parents along who thoroughly enjoyed the experience – I’m sure they’ll share their thoughts below. The restaurant we chose was a new one for us called, “Refúgio da Roca”, which I will highly recommend. However, knowing our pattern, we’ll most likely hit a new one on our next trip. That’s just me, I like to explore. Like the ships that set out past Cabo da Roca searching for new worlds, I find that every visit requires a new fish and setting to eat it in.
Tell us about your greatest Portuguese grilled fished adventures in the comments below!