Name of establishment
A Charette, Monchique
Style and ambience
Old fashioned, rustic and completely stuck in a comforting time warp. This is the type of restaurant you just don’t think exists anymore in the Algarve, but it perfectly sums up the allure of Monchique. A mix of rustic charm and your Grandmother’s house, it has old plates on the walls, antique glasses and carafes adorn small shelves, and cosy corners and small dining areas are full of the most delicious aromas of proper mountain food. We love it! Even the name translates, roughly, as The Chariot, or more precisely an old-fashioned type of Portuguese horse-drawn carriage.
What to eat?
As we have said before, you really need to understand at least a little Portuguese to go to a great locals’ restaurant. As is often the case, the 6-8 daily specials here only appear on the Portuguese menu: there is no translation on the English section of menu, presumably on the assumption that ‘us foreigners’ will not eat local food! In this case, you would have missed out on such delights as ensopado de borrego (lamb stew) - just one of the specialities of the house from an array of Monchique recipes.
And so to the main menu. Starters include assadura (grilled pork seasoned with olive oil, garlic, parsley and vinegar) for €4 and farinheira (local sausages stuffed with corn flour) for €3, whilst main fish dishes include lulas recheadas a Monchique (stuffed squid), a real treat at just €12.50. But it is the large sharing dishes that entice and demand a group of friends to share and enjoy: milhos com fejao, the famous corn meal with beans and pork at €11, or grao com arroz, a steaming bowl of chick peas, rice with boiled pork and Monchique chorizo sausages and black pudding. Grilled meat is also hugely popular, with every cut of the local black pork on offer. The meat lovers’ dish for two of grilled black pork and beef Mirandesa for just €20 is superb.
What to drink?
They make it so easy for you. A bottle of a great wine is already on your table when you sit down. We had the Barranco Longo Alicante Bouschet on ours, and decided that was what we would drink. Strong berry flavours, rich and dark, it was the perfect accompaniment for our rustic, hearty mountain fare. There is however, of course, an extensive wine list if you prefer.
Why do you love it?
This is where you really know you are in a different ‘country’ to the Algarve of the coast. Not a sign of commercialisation in sight, the place is packed with locals and the odd stray visitor who has ventured off the tourist trail. It is very reminiscent of the great restaurants to be found in the Alentejo and beyond. It sums up the real Portugal to a tee.
What could be improved?
Absolutely nothing. It was like this 20 years ago, and we want it to be like it in 20 years time.
When to go?
In all honesty the food is hearty and wintery, but if you go hungry even on a hot day, it is well worth it, as the food is so good and authentic. But do go hungry!
Don’t play safe - have something you would never have had before. Most of the staff speak some English, and are keen to give you the benefit of their knowledge. Mix and match - these are large portions, and you can have a grill alongside one of the stews to balance the experience. You wouldn’t want two steaming bowls as it would be too much, but the chick pea and pork stew with, say, secretos black pork is a good balance. Try the sausages - they are the real stars of the region, coarser and more fatty than ones you may be used to but with bags of flavour, and if you don’t like it, you will have plenty more food to fill you up on. And try to save some space for the fabulous chocolate mousse.
Indoor only, with a large dining room with 50 covers and a small annex off the side seating another 30 or so.
Get your walking boots on. Park in the main square of Monchique near the unusual water fountain and look towards the bus station at the back end of the square. On the right hand side of the station (as you look at it) you will see a small pedestrian walkway that goes up into the higher part of the town, a place where very few tourists venture. Walk up this narrow street and then as you see a fork in the road take the left fork and keep walking for about two minutes. A Charette is on the right hand side. Address: Rua Dr. Samora Gil, 30-34.
See some of the prices above, but a three course meal with a good bottle of wine costs around €25 per head.
Lunch & dinner. Closed Wednesday.