Hello! Hows a goin.
I was on holiday in the Algarve a couple of weeks ago and I thought I’d share some of the different meals and foods I ate while there to give you inspiration and ideas on how to eat vegan on holidays. Especially in countries like Portugal where the more traditional restaurants wouldn’t really entertain the idea…at all!
I stayed in Lagos which is one of the bigger Algarve towns. It is less commercialised by tourism and is popular with Aussie surfers and travellers. It is jam-packed-full-to-the-brim with seafood restaurants!! More than half of the restaurants probably specialise in fish, there’s also a load of meaty/steak restaurants, but thankfully, there’s a few Italian restaurants too.
As well as eating out we also did our own food-shop in the local supermarket Pingo Doce, which is quite amazing. It has the best fruit and veg. There’s also a Saturday veg market that is extremely rustic and traditional. There is some amazing product for sale at it and nearly all of it is grown in the local area. I would highly recommend visiting this market if you’re here on a Saturday. It’s so cheap too – you won’t believe it.
Let’s start with our market haul from the first day (I arrived Saturday morning). We invested in loads of fruit because me and my mum decided we would attempt to eat Raw Till 4 for the duration of the holiday. This basically means eating as much fruit and raw salads for breakfast and lunch, or until 4 o’clock. So, we stocked up on melons, watermelons, cherries, dried figs, peaches, mangoes, strawberries, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, courgettes, onions and corn on the cob. The reason the fruit is so good here is that: A it’s local – pretty much everything is grown here from figs to melons to strawberries to oranges to passion fruits. And B, because it’s local, it spends less time in transit and therefore is picked when ripe, or nearly ripe, because it’s not as if it’s going to have to be on a boat for 36 hours. This means it’s sweeter and tastier. The riper a fruit is the more the nutrients and minerals are developed and the more sugary and sweet it is, ie. tasty.
What we had for breakfast…
Here is a typical example of a fruit platter we made for breakfast. The far plate is mine and has a small melon cut into slices, a peach or two, a mango, and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
Mum had the same but with some cherry tomatoes instead of the mango. (Personally, I despise raw tomatoes)
MELON MONO MEALS
A monomeal is a meal comprised of one food, usually raw fruits or vegetables. Melon is perfect as a mono-meal at breakfast. This is because it’s so full of water (around 97%) and this hydrates us and gets the system going. Also, melons are best eaten alone because they are the fastest digesting of all foods – they can digest in 15 minutes! So you definitely want to make sure you eat them on an empty stomach. Therefore, melons for breakfast = perfect. And no, eating a full melon for breakfast does not make you a glutton. A melon is only around 300-500 calories which is very little for breakfast considering it is the meal designed to set you up for the day. (A full-Irish can be up to 1500 calories….mainly coming from fat! vomit!)
Realistically, we should be eating 2 melons a day! While I was in Portugal for 7 days I enjoyed a full melon for breakfast on a number of days. Some days it was a smallish watermelon and other days it was a cantaloupe melon.
There’s a lovely little café in Lagos town centre called Bora Café. It does juices and smoothies and granola, and so, that makes it vegan friendly! This was a mango, strawberry and banana smoothie and it was to-die-for. Amazing flavour – I downed it in about 15 seconds. If you’re in Lagos go here for a morning smoothie. But, for an a proper filling breakfast, maybe order 3…! I would have if I had the money!
Lunches were usually a mixture of cherries or peaches that I would have been grazing on from morning to afternoon. Plus, a big salad made from our fresh market ingredients such as lettuce, radishes, cucumber, onions and olives.
This salad had nectarines and shaved mini green and yellow courgettes.
On my last full day I broke Raw Till 4..shock horror. But it turned out that Pingo Doce had soya hot dogs! And Mum brought them home one day so I thought why not. It’s not something I ever tried at home. I put them in a roll with mustard and salad and it did the trick. The only difference between those and real hot dog was that they didn’t taste slimy and chewy. They were delicious and I’d definitely have them again. We just put them on a tray under the grill for 10 minutes.
On my last day I decided to overload on fruit, seeing as I wouldn’t have access to such ripe, delicious fruit in a long time. Mammy dearest went to Pingo Doce and picked up a selection of mangoes and papayas and it was the best treat ever! The mangoes were like sugar! And the papaya was so smooth and creamy. I just ate it with a spoon on the terrace until I could fit no more in my belly. It was so satisfying. Even writing this is making me crave fruit!
As I said, Lagos is renowned for its fish. So I was worried that eating out would be an issue. Worrying was actually unnecessary.
Potatoes and Veg/Salad
Our very first night we went to the fishiest restaurant in Lagos. I knew there would be nothing on the menu for me. But, in the fish restaurants they always serve veg and potatoes as a side, so that’s what I asked for.
And they didn’t even have vegetables. I wasn’t expecting much – but this was slightly ridiculous! They did have salad though, so, I got a big salad and plate of potatoes for myself. It ended up being delicious. The potatoes were so sweet and creamy, and the salad was so fresh. The white onions in Portugal are a million times better than the ones at home. They’re sweeter and can be tolerated very well eaten raw. I know potatoes and salad may seem dull but the quality of the ingredients here is just too good not to appreciate. There was a lemon on top too which, as anyone who reads my blog or Instagram will know, makes everything better in my opinion.
And one other thing that surprised me about this place was that the waiter knew what a vegan was without any explanation. Which I found impressive in a small, traditional Portuguese restaurant!
Pizza is very easy to make vegan – and quite healthy too. Obviously just ask for no cheese and order the veggie pizza, or choose your own toppings. On my pizza here I have black olives, artichokes, mushrooms, and onions. The base was the perfect thickness and was definitely freshly made – you could tell. It was so Italian.
We also got some garlic bread because…fortunately, in southern European countries they tend to use olive oil anywhere we would use butter! Southern Europe 1 – 0 Northern Europe. That’s a win for the cows! Everyone at the table was happy with the meal so I can tell you that I would highly recommend Pizzeria Mamma Mia.
Chicca’s is what it’s all about! Probably my favourite restaurant in the world – isn’t that a dramatic statement! Haha OK here is why:
- 2 years ago I went to Lagos and it was my first time being in Portugal as a vegan. So, I was quite apprehensive about eating out and didn’t know if I’d get anything at all. But lo and behold in the monthly Lagos/Luz Newsletter there was an ad for Chicca’s Restauran in Praia da Luz, the neighbouing town of Lagos. And on that ad it said “Vegans and Coeliacs catered for”. At this time Mum was a coeliac (she still is but she is now a pescy veggie) and I was a vegan so we were over the moon to find somewhere that knew exactly what we required from a meal.
- We made our way to Luz and found Chiccas sitting at the top of a steep enough hill leading to the beach – ideal location. Plus, the decor was all my favourite things – rustic, quaint, recycled sea-side artefacts dotted around the place, dried herbs etc hanging from the ceiling, wine on the walls, fairy lights…etc. It’s small and cosy but not cramped, and not too dark either. It’s just right in every way! Like the Mary Poppins of restaurants.
- That year, and this year, there was some advertisement for animal charities and the option to donate towards the local animal charities. Chicca’s has now partnered up with the local dog shelters and raises money constantly for them! How can you raise money for animal shelters through your restaurant?! Chicca knows! Great cause and great way of infiltrating it into the restaurant and making your diners aware. 🙂 Applause!
- 2 years ago there wasn’t many veggie options on the very cool looking blackboard menu, but, when we asked Chicca what the story was she was able to rhyme off a number of amazing dishes that she could put together. I agreed to it all and just hoped for the best. I was amazed at the food. I got white bean pate to start, a myriad of salads for the main and the dessert was some sort of sugared nut creation with fruit salad. This meal made me write this review on Trip Advisor.
- This year things only improved. How? CHICCA IS NOW VEGAN. As in her herself. The restaurant menu is now nearly half vegan with way more options plus even a chocolate cake! It couldn’t have gotten any better. But it did. Dinner was sublime, a trio of paté’s to start with some warm crusty bread (with gluten-free bread for Mum), a pumpkin pie with their famous 7 salad combo on the side, and chocolate cake for dessert. It is amazing.
Major fail!!! I made a big BBQ feast for my family and family friends who were there with us and I have no photographic evidence except this!
The BBQ consisted of barbequed aubergine and courgette with mixed herbs and oregano, a quinoa salad, a green salad, some garlic bread and a dessert of barbeques bananas with dark chocolate! YUM. But you don’t know that because you can’t see it….
More Than Fries
Moving on…on the Tuesday I met up with another Irish vegan YouTuber, the beautiful Catherine Shanahan, who is living and working in the Algarve (life goals). She took me to an actual vegetarian restaurant, a real place that only serves veggie stuff! The delight and shock I felt when I heard there was such a place in Lagos! I was overjoyed. High five to you Lagos! More Than Fries is a casual eatery serving very simple but whole, unprocessed, plant-based food. You have a choice of a base (pasta/rice etc.), a vegetable mix (mushrooms, cabbage etc.) and a sauce (spicy tomato, coconut etc.) and a topping of nuts (or cheese for the udder suckers).
I enjoyed a mix of brown rice, all the veggies, a spicy kale and tomato sauce with flaked almonds on top. It was amazing! So full of flavour. Better than anything I could make at home, plus, the veggies wern’t over done. They were al dente and so fresh. If you are in Lagos and want to try some fast and tasty veggie food check this place out. They were just closing when we called in but we got it to take away and sat down in the nearby square. 🙂 Perfect afternoon.
A typical Portuguese restaurant down near the Golden Church in Lagos. I wasn’t expecting to be able to get anything other than vegetables here…but, again, I was wrong! There was a Mediterranean salad to start which I ordered without the dressing. It was quite bland but I did remove every single cherry tomato from the dish…so I suppose I deserved that.
The main, however, was delicious. Like something you would expect from Italy. It was a hearty spaghetti dish with sweet roasted vegetables. I asked the waiter if there was any dairy or egg in the sauce before I ordered it and he assured me there wasn’t so the sauce must have been a basil oil or something along those lines. The staff in Portuguese restaurants are usually superb. They have fantastic English and know the menu off by heart – so don’t be afraid to ask!
You will not starve if you decide to go on holidays to the Algarve as a vegan. Your choices will be limited, but, the actual quality of ingredients is so high out there that the most simple dish will blow your taste buds’ minds. Do your shopping in advance and stock up on the amazing fruit and veg for your breakfasts and lunches. For dinner be prepared for potatoes, veggies, and pasta, or pizza. Unless, that is, you pay a visit to Chicca’s or More Than Fries – they know the craic!
Thank you all for reading and if you have any questions about Lagos or the Algarve please don’t hesitate to ask me. I’ve been going there for around 16 years now (oh my god) so I feel like it’s my second home in a a way!