#01 – Pico’s largest municipality is the west coast harbour town of Madalena. Lajes was the first settlement on the island (established in 1460), but by the early 1700s Madalena had become the main trading post for the island – due to it’s proximity by sea to the busy ‘international’ port of Horta (on the neighbouring island of Faial).
Modern-day Madalena has a population of around 6.5k and they’re well-served with a wide selection of restaurants and café bars. O Ancoradouro is in the Areia Larga district at the southern end of town, surrounded by many of Madalena’s oldest buildings. The menu is higher-end, fresh and traditional Azorean and their cataplana a ancordouro is particularly coveted: polvo (octopus), lapas (limpets) and gambas (prawns) in a light tomato sauce. If you’re able, try to book a table on the terrace, overlooking the small harbour at Porto Areia Larga – an excellent spot to watch the sun set behind Faial in the evenings.
#02 – Follow the Avenida Padre Nunes da Rosa towards the centre of town and you’ll come to Tasca o Petisca. O Pestisca has a very family-run feel and a loyal, local clientele. They often have buffet-style set menu which is usually very good value (displayed on the board outside) and an excellent petiscos menu. Petiscos is often described as the Portuguese version of Spanish Tapas, which isn’t quite true: tapas are distinct dishes in their own right, whereas Petiscos are usually small, taster-versions of existing larger dishes.
#03 – The Taberna do Canal and the Restaurante O Luis are also on the same avenida – both are family run restaurants with traditional Pico menus. The Taberna is quite small inside (think ‘bar which serves food’) and has a nice courtyard at the rear, whereas O Luis has a larger interior with a more-modern feel to the decor. Note that it can be tricky getting a table at weekends as both venues are popular with local families.
#04 – Steve from our team has just returned from a visi to Pico – his top recommendation in the centre of Madalena is the Mercado Bio. Part health food shop, part restaurant, it’s small, modern and cosy and the menu isn’t particularly Azorean, which allows them to offer good veggie, vegan and gluten-free options. They’re also open on a Sunday evening when others close, although their closed-day is Tuesday.
#05 – Steve’s second recommendation is just across the road: O Cinco also offer some good veggie options but their menu is more in keeping with traditional Azorean or mainland Portugal: bife a regional, bife atum and francesinha. There are more table outside than inside and it can get very busy on a Saturday night.
#06 – Passing by the Igreja de Santa Maria Madalena, our next stop is the Garrafeira da Vila. It’s an unpretentious and stylish little restaurant; a bit more intimate than many place in Madalena, with an energetic team lead by owner Andre. There’s also a walled outer courtyard if you’d just like to sample some Pico wines matched to great pesticos.
#07 – Down on the seafront Rua da Barca you’ll find the Cella Bar. It was highly praised for its architecture when it first opened, and the view from the terrace across the channel to Faial is something special (particularly at sunset). Foodwise, it’s arguably the priciest place in town and we’ve not been blown away by the dishes we’ve tasted. That said, it’s an unmatched spot for a scenic glass of Pico wine.
#08 – Leaving Madalena and heading around the north coast, look out for Stones Pico. We’ve not had a chance to eat there but have heard great things. They’re usually seasonal, opening in June and for summer only. It’s rustic building with a laidback atmosphere and a small friendly team.
#09 – Following the rugged volcanic Cachorro coast, you’ll come to the HQ of the famed Azores Wine Company. HQ has three faces: a high-tech winery, a boutique ‘volcanic’ hotel and a highly-rated Restaurante Azores Wine Company Chefs Jose Costa and Angelina Pedra are creating some of most imaginative, high-end dishes anywhere in the Azores.The tasting menu offers six dishes, perfectly paired with four Pico wines, or there’s the a la carte menu and an unmatched Azorean wine cellar. Seating is around a long, sociable table or at the chef’s counter, and covers are kept to a minimum so reserving well-in advance is a must.
#10 – Another highly-rated restaurant offering contemporary Azorean cuisine is Casa Ancora. Overlooking the main harbour in the northeast town of Sao Roque, the décor is super-minimal and uncluttered to match the menu: local shrimp tempura, risotto from the catch of the day and one Portugal’s more unusual deserts: Pudim Abade de Prisco…a crème caramel pudding which often includes up to twenty-five egg yolks, cinnamon, lemon, port wine and smoked bacon. It’s much nicer than it sounds.
#11 – If you’re staying in or around the north coast town of Prainha, we highly recommend the Adega Açoriana – Tapas & Wine House. Overlooking the pools at Poca da Branca – if the weather’s good, snag a table outside as it can feel a little claustrophobic in the eaves of the main restaurant on a busy Saturday night, (and don’t be tempted to take the small balcony at the front, it’s tiny). The food’s fresh, well-made Pico comfort food – as with most restaurants on Pico, the wine selection is excellent.
#12 – Perched on a clifftop in the north coast village of Santo Amaro, Magma is a new-build restaurant with a fabulous view across the channel to the high Serra do Topo mountains of Sao Jorge. Inside, the interior is polished concrete and exposed Japanese cedar, and the north-facing wall is floor-to-ceiling windows to make the most of the views (if the weather’s good, try to snag a table outside on the small balcony).
Menu highlights include: atum com gengibre (tuna with fresh ginger), bife magma (steak with a creamy black pepper sauce) and bife queijo e mel (with a honey and cheese sauce). For a modern building with a young crew, the sides are surprisingly quite traditional Azorean – rice, fries and/or sweet potato and without a salad in sight – the panna cotta from the dessert menu is highly recommended. Note that parking can be tricky if you’re not staying locally.
#13 – The Restaurante Ponta da Ilha is at the far eastern tip of the island, close to the town of Piedade. The menu is Azores through and through – very well prepared lapas, polvo, and bacalhau – clams are a speciality if you’re visiting when they’re in season, and the staff and warm and welcoming.
#14 – Coming down onto the south coast and to the whale watching town of Lajes – if you’re a fisher lover, the Mar Sushi Terrace is a must-visit. There are a few exponents of sushi dotted across the island (Cantinho das Provas on Faial and Otaka on Sao Miguel immediately spring to mind) – a select band of foodies who know the freshness of Azorean seafood makes great sashimi, maki and nigiri. Their terrace also has a stunning view along the coast back to Piedade.
#15 – Espaco Talassa, the granddaddies of whale tourism, have their own bistro on the ground floor of their Whale’come au Pico hotel. On the surface, theirs is a very traditional Azorean menu (and a good one at that) – but the environmentally-conscious approach of Espaco’s founder Serge still permeates through every arm of the business. Breads, cakes and jams are made on-site – honey, ham, milk and cheeses are produced locally in nearby Silveira, and their cured meats, chorizo and morcela come from Piedade. Granted, they do import tea from Sao Miguel, but we’ll forgive them that indulgence.
#16 – The Aldeia da Fonte has been one of our favourite hotels for many years. Their Restaurante Fonte Cuisine is the natural choice if you’re staying at the hotel, and dining alfresco in the central courtyard, surrounded by laurisilva is one of life’s great pleasures.
The hotel has a second venue called the Fonte Tavern on the Rua Capitao Mor Garcia in the centre of Lajes. Their speciality is tasca-style pestiscos – bolo de milho frito (fried cornbread), camarao de alho (garlic prawns) and fava da festa (fava beans). There terrace is a lovely good spot for a post-whale watching lunch with a glass of Terras da Lava.
#17 – Continuing west along the coast, you’ll come to the Tacao Restaurante e Bar in the small hamlet of Sao Joao. The building was completed renovated in 2022 and the new décor is bright, white and contemporary – with high tables in the bar area if it’s a quick lunch and a more-cosy atmosphere in the restaurant for dinner (with a stunning sea view courtesy of new floor-to-ceiling windows). The staff are still thoroughly welcoming and friendly, and the menu is still thoroughly Azorean.
#18 – Coming almost full circle around the island, it would be easy to miss the Adega Vitivinicola Lucas Lopes Amaral on the outskirts of Candelaria, but it’s worth making the short detour off the main south coast road. (Excluding Sundays) this family-run winery offers daily tastings, paired with their own petiscos and local cheeses. Young winemaker Lucas Lopes Amaral began producing his Arinto dos Acores and Branco de Uvas Tintas in 2021, his mother Sandra is warm and welcoming host, and there’s no better way to learn the full history of Pico wine.
Our Where to eat guides are based on our first-hand experience and our love of great Portuguese cuisine:
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