It was our first Christmas in Portugal and it seemed a little inappropriate to try and find a restaurant serving a traditional British Christmas lunch on Christmas Day. Eating roast turkey with all the trimmings in 20°C heat didn’t seem quite right, but we wanted to have a special meal to mark the day, so chose to book a table at Taste, one of our favourite restaurants in Carvoeiro. The restaurant is in a striking yellow and purple building which straddles Rua dos Pescadores and Rua do Barranco*, a short walk from the centre of Carvoeiro. The interior is stylishly decorated with light touches of Moroccan and Thai design features. We booked in November to ensure a table in this very popular restaurant and as very few restaurants were open in Carvoeiro on Christmas Day I am glad we did, as the restaurant was full when we arrived.
For Christmas Day they were offering a set lunch or evening menu comprising of six courses for €46 per head. All the courses sounded lovely. The important thing was to bring an appetite to the restaurant and pace ourselves. On arrival we were warmly greeted by the owners Nicola and Ciprian Silvasan and shown to a lovely table for two next to the roaring log fire. While we looked at the wine menu we were brought a champagne flute containing a Holiday Bellini, which was a variation of the traditional Bellini cocktail, containing sparkling wine, an attractive layer of cranberry syrup at the bottom and a sprig of rosemary floating on the top. It looked very festive. We ordered a bottle of Herdade dos Coteis from the Alentejo region (at €19.30 a bottle) from the list of suggested wines on the Christmas menu. It was a wonderfully dark, full-bodied red wine, perfect for a cold night. We were then presented with the first course of bread, olives and dips. The poppy seed rolls and ciabatta rolls were warm and soft and the homemade tuna pâté, herb butter and aioli were so delicious that our resolution to pace ourselves went out the window. Alongside the bread, olives and dips was an amuse-bouche comprising a puff pastry shell with a tasty prawn cocktail filling. This was followed by the second course of a wonderful parsnip soup with a prawn served on the side; an unusual pairing, which really worked. The next course was a fillet of corvina garnished with the burgundy leaves of the unusual herb micro red amaranth, served on a bed of spinach and pumpkin, with duchess potatoes. This was the first time I had eaten corvina, which is a meaty fish reminiscent of sea bass. The portion was generous and, remembering to pace myself, I didn’t eat it all, but this is no reflection on the quality of the food. Course number four was a palate cleanser of orange sorbet with campari and gave us a chance to rest our stomachs. I am not a huge fan of liqueurs like campari and I felt it overwhelmed the subtle flavour of the sorbet, but that is a personal taste. The fifth course was roast turkey, both dark and white meat, served with gravy, carrots, brussels sprouts, cherry tomatoes, sweet potato and stuffing. The meat was tender and the dish was an interesting variation of the traditional British roast turkey Christmas dinner. After a welcome long pause the final dessert was served: a crepe filled with apple and served with cinnamon ice cream and cream. As well as tasting good, the crepe was aesthetically pleasing, with a cocoa powder star and gold and white sugar balls on it.
The service throughout the evening was excellent. The waiters were friendly and professional without being overly attentive. We didn’t have to wait too long between courses, but neither did we feel rushed. A nice touch was when we were asked if we would like to pause before having our dessert; our answer was ‘yes!’. We had an excellent evening and almost rolled home through the deserted streets of Carvoeiro with big smiles on our faces.
Taste Restaurant, Rua do Barranco, Carvoeiro
*Please note that since writing this review, Taste Restaurant has moved to a new building a few metres further up the Rua do Barranco.