Where to eat on Faial

Back in the 16th and 17th centuries, the tiny island of Faial was a highly valued resupply point for Portuguese ships trading in gold and spices. Ships laden with ginger, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg passed through the port of Horta, and this influx of exotic flavours is still reflected today in many of the island’s traditional recipes.

Fast forward to the 1800s and a new trans-Atlantic telegraph system was connecting Europe with the USA and Canada. The convergence of telegraph workers from both sides of the Atlantic saw a clash of tastes, as the incomers mixed recipes from home with those of their Faialense hosts.

Modern day Faial still celebrates it’s mid-Atlantic position and it’s maritime heritage, and the Faialense continue to keep a creative eye on the outside world – whilst embracing seasonality and good local produce to the full.

Here’s our handy guide on where to eat on Faial.

#01 – Overlooking the bay at Porto Pim, Genuino’s is friendly, laid-back restaurant owned by Azorean sailing legend Genuino Madruga. Setting sail in October 2000, he became the first Portuguese sailor to circumnavigate the globe solo, returning to Horta almost two years later in May 2002. He did it again in 2007, sailing east to west this time and returning in 2009.

The restaurant has a strong maritime theme – a museum celebrating Genino’s sailing achievements. As you’d expect, the menu includes some excellent fish dishes: Gambas Rosadas (prawns), Polvo a Lagareiro (octopus), Goraz (bream), Bife de Espadarte (swordfish steak) and their signature Almondegas de Atum (tuna meatballs with a sweet potato puree). Senhor Madruga is usually on-hand to greet you when you arrive.

#02 –  The Taberna de Pim is just next door.  It’s a good evening for tapas (with local Morro cheese) and beer, especially if you can snag a table on the terrace outside (inside is pretty snug). You can’t prebook, but like a taberna of old their turnaround is pretty quick. If you’re staying at the Porto Pim Apartments, you’ve got the Taberna and Genuino’s right on your doorstep.

#03 – A short walk along the Rua Nova brings to you the Restaurante Canto da Doca. I’ll confess to having a soft spot for Canto da Doca – it was first choice for dinner on the first evening of my very first visit to Horta. You’re the chef – you cook your food to your own taste on a hot lava stone in the centre of the table. Steak, chicken, swordfish, shrimps, squid – with accompanying sauces, salads and sides. I wouldn’t say it’s the best food in town, but it’s a fun for an evening with friends and there’s always an excellent selection of Pico wines: Frei Gigante, Terras do Lava and Faria’s.

#04 – Arguably the most famous eatery in the Azores is Peter’s Cafe Sport. Peter’s opened it’s doors in 1918 – current owner Jose Henrique Azevedo is the third generation of his family to manage the bar. His Grandfather named the bar ‘Café Sport’ and the ‘Peter’ was Jose’s father’s nickname during his war service on the RMS Lusitana.

The menu is fairly traditional Azorean – lapas (limpets), bife da terra (steak, with a whisky sauce or a rum sauce), polvo (octopus) and chicharros fritos (fried mackerel). A victim of it’s own popularity, it can be pretty cramped in the evenings (if you can get a table), and the outside terrace similarly busy during the day. I’d recommend popping in at the end of a hot afternoon for a glass of their house Gin do Mar.

#05 – The arrival of low-cost airlines in the Azores has allowed restaurateurs from across the islands to spend more time on the mainland. Taking inspiration from their fellow chefs in Lisbon and Porto, there’s a whole new generation of cooks turning the traditional Azorean cookbook on it’s head to create vibrant and exciting modern Faialense cuisine.

One such example is the Gastro Bar Principe. They’re mixing seasonal fish and locally-reared beef with aromatic rices, seaweed and laurel, whilst their thoughtfully presented vegetarian and vegan dishes embrace the best of the island’s home-grown produce. And their pineapple crumble is exceptional.

#06 – Cantinho das Provas have successfully introduced five-star Sushi to Horta – perfect for showcasing Azorean yellow fin tuna. Provas is the brainchild of local couple Mariana Silveira and Franz Hutschenreuter and I’d highly recommend booking a wine tasting workshop with them (via their Facebook page). Their fantastically-fresh sushi is carefully paired with the best wines from the neighouring island of Pico – and from the Adega do Vulcao vineyard right here on Faial.

#07 – If you’re looking for a more traditional Azorean dining experience, seek out the Restaurante A Arvore on Rua da Conceicao. They offer a self-service, all-you-can-eat daily buffet for 9€ and it’s unfussy, rustic food: pork, chicken, chourico, battered bacalhau, slow-cooked cozido, with sides of sweet potatoes, rice, salad and fresh bread. They also serve franjazinha on the main menu, which is often hard to resist. Our thanks to Judi Brooker for the recommendation.

 

#08 – The Oceanic Cafe is a popular edition to Horta’s cultural scene. Oceanic is a bar-cum-music venue providing a much-needed stage for Faial’s music community. Food-wise, if you’re looking for a bar with food (as opposed to a dinner venue) it’s perfect – steaks, burgers, excellent toasted sandwiches and one of our favourite Azorean staples: chourico bombeiro. Their Oceanic Store is a great place to pick-up wildlife and whale-related souvenirs.

#09 – A long-term favourite of ours is the Casa Cha e Bar tea house. It’s a great lunchtime option, perfect for a mid-afternoon cuppa and an indulgent sweet treat; even better for a G&T in the early evening. Homemade soups, lemon meringue pie, cherry cheesecake, nutritiously fresh fruit juices, and service is warm and friendly. There’s a relaxed ambience to the garden, and the fruits trees provide a welcome escape from the midday heat in the summer months.

#10 – If you’re self-catering during your stay on the island, Horta’s small Mercado Municipal is a great please to pick-up fresh produce (although you’ll need to be there early to pick up the best of the fish, veg and fruit). The market is also home to two excellent eateries – the first is a restaurant called Cantina da Praça: particularly popular for their fish soup and a killer chocolate desert, but it’s a good higher-end Azorean menu right across the board. Open for lunch and dinner.

#11 – The second is Ah! Boca Santa – more of a snack bar than a restaurant, but still highly recommended. They serve tasty homemade beef, pork and veggie burgers, sweet potato fries, chicken wraps, and freshly squeezed fruit juices, and the service is spot-on. They’re open Tuesdays & Wednesdays for lunch, Thursdays/Fridays/Saturdays for lunch and dinner (opening at 9:00 on Saturdays and I recommend their pancake breakfast). Look out for their takeaway van around the island.

#12 – Leaving Horta and heading over to the island’s east coast, you’ll come to the village of Praia do Almoxarife and the Restaurante Praya. It’s all-glass frontage has a wonderful view across the channel to Pico, and it’s a great lunch option if you’re spending time on Praia’s dark sandy beach or walking the Ribeirinha trail (PRC09 FAI). Lunch service is Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the restaurant is closed on Tuesdays, and menu is a nicely-concentrated selection of well-presented Portuguese staples.

#13 – Faial’s north coast is often overlooked by visitors to the island – it’s a less-populated, agricultural part of the island which has some nice, off-the-beaten track places to eat. Pasquinha and the Aldina Restaurant and Bar are both good locals’ spots for lunch. The Restaurante o Esconderijo deserves a special mention – with Rotas Ilha Verde on Sao Miguel, Esconderijo is the only other dedicated vegan/veggie restaurant on the islands.

In the words of owners Benjamin and Verena, ‘…we are offering a four-course menu with seasonal, regional, organic and daily fresh(ly) harvested vegetables, fruits and greens which we source from our garden, local neighbours and farmers. Trying to avoid packaged and processed food as much as possible, it will be a positively forward-looking experience for us and our guests…’.

#14 – One of unsung heroes of Faial’s walking trail network is the Rochas da Faja PRC02 FAI. This area suffered greatly during the famous Cabeco do Fogo eruption in 1672, which is commemorated by the Império dos Nobres shrine in downtown Horta. In modern times a container ship, the CP Valour, ran aground in the nearby Baia da Ribeira das Cabras in 2005 – and ultimately sank just off the coast after an unsuccessful salvage operation.

The start and end point for the trail is the Restaurante Rumar – a dyed-in-the-wool, Azorean family-run restaurant with typically-large Azorean portions. A good place to refuel after walking the Rochas da Faja.

#15 – Crossing back down to the south coast, the seawater pools at Varadouro are one of the most-popular swimming spots on the island. It’s also where you’ll find the Restaurante O Varadouro – it’s the natural go-to for lunch if you’re spending the day swimming and if you’re visiting Capelinhos it’s just a short drive away (although their closed on Mondays). For anyone staying at the lovely Casa do Nuno, the restaurant’s south-facing outdoor terrace is the perfect spot for dinner and cocktails at sunset.

 

#16 – Almost completing our circuit of the island, if you find yourself between flights on Faial with time for lunch the Restaurant Tipico Petisca Aki is a five-minute walk away. They usually offer an excellent lunchtime buffet for around 9€ per head and good value Bife a Regional.

Our Where to eat guides are based on our first-hand experience and our love of great Portuguese cuisine:

Where to eat in Ponta Delgada

Where to eat on Sao Miguel – Sete Cidades and the west

Where to eat on Sao Miguel – the north coast

Where to eat on Sao Miguel – Furnas and the east

Where to eat on Sao Miguel – the south coast

Where to eat in Angra

Where to eat on Terceira

Where to eat on Flores, Corvo and Santa Maria

Where to eat in Lisbon

Where to eat in Funchal

Where to eat on Madeira

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