Each land, what am I saying, even each city/region has its own typical cuisine. You’d not go to Madrid and expect the freshest most delicious Paella you ever tried, maybe you’ll get lucky like us in Cuenca. Instead you’d go to Valencia for that! Anyhow, Madeira is no exception. With that in mind, we decided to make our trip (partly) a culinary exploration of the portuguese island. I mean we all got to eat right? These were our findings, a short list with the food in Madeira, and Madeira typical drinks you should to try in the Portuguese island according to the locals. I hope you are hungry, because it’s going to get juicy!
Let’s start with the entrée, for when you’re not yet ready for a full meal or just want a filling snack for your day exploring the beautiful island of Madeira. The Bolo do Caco is the right thing for you. A typical soft wheat flour bread toasted with butter, garlic and parsley. If those don’t tickle your fancy, you can also order one with cheese, ham, and many other alternative fillings. It’s super easy to eat on the go or at the beach – like we did. On top of that, it is also a cheap filling option you can find pretty much everywhere in Madeira! And there is no better partner in crime to the Bolo do Caco, than a freshly squeezed fruit juice. This won’t only refresh but won’t cost you a fortune. We highly recommend orange or maracuja!
When a Bolo do Caco and juice just don’t do the trick or you want to have a nice meal at a restaurant, keep on reading because there are plenty of other food in Madeira you should to try.
As we’ve realised after many a trips, the best restaurants aren’t always the best looking or the fanciest. Oftentimes, the rundown bar in the furthermost corner of that side street full of locals is. As it just happens, Madeira has plenty of those. All you have to do is to keep an eye out for them, especially in the touristy areas in places like the capital: Funchal. Once you’ve found one, you’ll never want to leave, believe me!
Most local places offer a “Lunch Menu” which usually includes: appetizer, main dish, and coffee or dessert for a set price (most places we found were on the 10-12€ range). If you are lucky (and you’ll probably be), one of the starters on offer as part of the lunch menu will be the locals’ favourite, sopa de tomate e cebola (tomato and onion soup). Perfect for the mild climate of Madeira, this soup is a must. Warm or cool will keep you full and hydrated, without feeling heavy.
As main dish, you’ll probably also have several options ranging from fish, sea food to meat and vegetarian options. Be it fish or meat you’re looking for, there’s something to make you happy, but our top three are:
The (grilled) tuna steak, which speaks for itself. Is a large fresh perfectly grilled (or otherwise cooked) tuna steak with a side of salad and salty boiled potatoes (similar to the Papas Arrugas from Lanzarote). To die for!
Alternatively and slightly more exotic, you can try the Espada with banana. Swordfish grilled (or otherwise cooked) with fried banana on top, and a similar side as the tuna steak. A perfect combination of sweet and savoury that will enchant even the pickiest eaters.
And last main dish (but definitely not least) on our list of Madeira food to try in the Garden Island will have to be the: Espetada. Which consists of large chunks of beef marinated in a salt and garlic mix in a skew and grilled over a wood fire. For the skew they usually use branches of bay leaves, which bring extra flavour to the meat from the inside.
Originally, the Espetada would be made of parrot meat. However, this practice has been long abandoned and replaced with other kind of meats. Primarily, as mentioned above, beef.
And for dessert, go on a Madeira wine tasting experience! This is the deliciously rounded and ever-improving port-like wine made in the island. You won’t regret it.
Besides their well-renowned wine, another drink typical in madeira is rum. This should come as no surprise, given the island’s cane growing history. But if it is too early for a drink, or two, the fresh fruit juices are a must.