Name of establishment
Estaminé, Ilha Deserta, Ria Formosa
Style and ambience
Modern, open-plan restaurant built almost entirely of wood - but this is barefoot luxury, and certainly no beach shack! Panoramic, eye-level windows run around three sides of the room, framing perfect views of the beach, sea, island and mainland.
The rest of the decor is minimalist, but you don’t really want anything to detract from the scenery.
It’s as relaxed and informal as you’d expect, but with an added buzz given that everybody is having a good time.
The menu makes the most of seasonal local produce, so the emphasis is naturally on fish and seafood, including bream, bass, grouper, tuna, prawns, clams, cockles and cuttlefish. You’re notified that some of the specials (such as seafood rice) can take up to an hour, but you can always order in advance, or enjoy a leisurely combination of drink/couvert/starter before your main course arrives.
Ask the waiter for recommendations if you’re not over-familiar with Algarve cuisine, and if you’re having fish, ask for the weight and price before you order - a good rule of thumb at any restaurant in the Algarve.
Portions are generous, so don’t be afraid to split/share dishes. It’s also a good way of trying something new.
A comprehensive selection of good quality Portuguese wines, plus beer, spirits, cocktails and soft drinks.
Why do you like it?
Superb food and wine, unique location and excellent staff - what’s not to like?
Ilha Deserta lives up to its name (deserted island) as it simply consists of Estaminé - and of course an incredible 11km beach, which also happens to be the southernmost part of Portugal.
We’d heard several comments that (due to the restaurant having to ship in all supplies and staff from the mainland) it was expensive by Algarve standards. It isn’t. There were four of us and we had couvert, 3 starters, 4 main courses, 3 desserts, 2 jugs of sangria, 4 large bottles of water and coffee, and the total bill came to €50 per person.
Compared to some of the rip-off beach restaurants in the Golden Triangle (who also can’t compete on the location front) we thought it was very good value for money. You get what you pay for.
Some of the ill-informed ‘reviews’ on TripAdvisor object to the pricing, saying the restaurant “runs a monopoly” or is “a tourist trap.” Don’t they do any research before they come here? Or look at a menu before ordering? Or have a tongue in their head to ask questions?
When to go?
It’s an idyllic lunch location, with the option of lazing on the beach either in the morning or afternoon (when you can sleep off those sangrias). It will also open in the evenings for private parties, weddings, etc, but your transport options are more limited - you’d need to charter a boat.
You’re obviously crossing water to get there, so there may be times when the weather is against you.
It also gets very busy at weekends, especially in the height of summer, so don’t go then if you’re averse to crowds.
If you’re looking for it on a map, Ilha Deserta is sometimes referred to by its official name of Ilha Barreta.
To the side of the restaurant (if you’re just there for the beach and not for dining) there’s also a small snack bar, toilets and showers.
Check return boat/ferry times carefully when you book - you won’t want to get stranded!
Seats 120 in the main restaurant, plus around 20 in the snack bar.
The main restaurant has individual tables around the outside, plus long bench-style seating in the middle.
It’s worth making a reservation at almost any time of the year just to make sure - there are no other dining options if it’s full when you arrive.
The only building on Ilha Deserta, so you really can’t miss it! It’s a short walk from the boat drop-off point.
The restaurant’s parent company Animaris offer a range of options for getting there from Faro, including a ferry, guided tours, and private boat transfers. See the company profile on the right.
Numerous other companies also offer boat trips and transfers to Ilha Deserta from Faro and Olhāo.
It can also be hired out-of-hours for private groups.