When I visit a restaurant most of the times I’m not looking just for the food, I’m searching for a journey of senses, for the whole experience, from the moment I go through the door up to the moment I leave the restaurant. The experience is equally important as the quality of the food itself.
I’ve found very good service but not memorable food or really nice food but poor service. It’s rare to find a place that deliver both, but fortunately for us, quite randomly we found one of those places.
Yap, that’s it, our favourite place so far is in the heart of Alentejo, Portugal. Alentejo is my favourite Portuguese wine region as well. It was actually voted for some international magazines as the best wine holidays in Europe.
It’s the perfect place for the perfect holidays including: gorgeous beaches, some of the most beautiful in the world (especially around Costa Vincentina)
Amazing food, relaxing villages where you can let your soul wonder and just enjoy the whole experience. It’s very tourist (yet!) so expect to enjoy raw beauty. If you’re searching a place to stay and enjoy please check “Casas Brancas” (White houses), as they offer really good agro-tourism.
A cadeia quinhentista, Estremoz, Portugal
Convinced about the region? A Cadeia Quinhentista is located in the heart of Estremoz, a lovely town know for the “castle”
A good plan would actually be to stay at “Pousada Rainha Santa Isabel“, which is part of the wider “Pousadas de Portugal”, historical buildings transformed into hotels. The experience is worth it! (Because I was living in Lisbon, I never had a night stay, but wish I did!)
During the ownership of Queen Santa Isabel, who died here in 1336, Estremoz became one of the main political centres of that reign, offering advice to important figures and being the private stage for royal politics during the end of the first dynasty. At the beginning of the twentieth century the grouping of the castle, the village walls, the so called Torre das Couraças (Towers of Armour) and the Queen Santa Chapel were classified as a National Monument since 1910.
A Cadeia, stays right in front of the Pousada. We discovered this place by chance because he was felling hungry. It was around 19h and the place was already 95% fully booked, only 2 tables where available, so we were lucky to get one of those. They only opening on the evenings and they are mostly fully booked every day so I would recommend a reservation.
In fact, A Cadeia (which means prison in portuguese) used to be a medieval prison from the XVI century, which was restored in the shape of the best restaurant I know. The decoration is really brilliant! I would recommend a stop by the bar on the upper floor while you wait for dinner.
Note: None of the photos is my own, as I was not publishing reviews at the times I’ve visited A Cadeia. Once I get back I will post new photos and a new review.
The terrace is quite new, I didn’t had the chance to visit it yet!
The decoration is brilliant from my point of view, as it keeps the historical lines but it adds a modern twist to it
Then in the main restaurant floor expect to be amazed. The service is excellent from the moment you get indoors. You will be explained the story of the restaurant, be served with different types of local bread and you will feel at home. They will also give you some mini starters made with local products. After all this is the concept of the restaurant, fusion modern “alentejo” cuisine made out with local sourced ingredients.
At this point you will be amazed already, at least I was! All the tableware is Portuguese made.
You can then select your own starters, I remember they had really good choices. We’ve tried different ones and all of them where amazing. And the bread, gosh the bread is so delicious!
For the mains, if you like meat then try any meat dish. I had wild boar once, and it was delicious, this is my photo below from 2010
I also had the mulled wine and it was delicious! Make sure you select a local wine, they will help you out with the choice depending on what your main is
Dessert…. I wish I had taken a photo, but after more than 5 years I still remember I had this delicious chocolate dessert (Marquise de chocolate). Other samples below:
Again the chef adds her own twist into classical portuguese desserts, and it’s all yummy! Also make sure you try the local liquors (if you like liquor) as they are really good.
Also please note, this is a place to enjoy your meal and savour every bite, so please don’t expect a quick service. I think both times we took roughly 2h. Not a good place to go if you are in a hurry.
At this point, and based on Lisbon prices I thought it was going to be roughly 100€ for the 2 of us, so I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the total bill at around 50€!
I won’t say it’s the most delicious food I ever had because it’s not. There are very cheap restaurants that serve really authentic good “alentejo” food, but! it’s all about the overall experience and to me this is the best restaurant. Using the Michelin definitions, it’s a place we are willing to make a detour of almost 2h driving just to have the please of having a meal and leaving with a smile on our faces. Both times we went there we had the same reaction. This is what food means to me, a journey of senses, something you will always remember with a smile. It’s the only way I can actually do such a review 5 years later of my latest visit.
What is your favourite restaurant and why? Any experience you would like to share?