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 and drinks to try in Madeira 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 seat on 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 the best partner in crime to the Bolo do Caco, a freshly squeezed fruit juice, which won’t only refresh but won’t cost you a fortune. We highly recommend orange or maracuja!
When a Bolo do Caco and juice don’t do the trick or you just want to have a nice meal at a restaurant, keep on reading because there are plenty of other food and drinks to try in Madeira.
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. And in Madeira there’s plenty of those, you just have to keep an eye out for them, specially in the most 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€). 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 have several 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 most picky eaters.
And last main dish (but definitely not least) on our list of food and drinks to try in Madeira 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.
And for dessert, go on a Madeira wine tasting experience! You won’t regret it. But more about that next time!