The Spanish may have tapas, but the Portuguese have petiscos, their rendition of bite-size snacks that are perfect for sharing. If you want to explore the building blocks of the Portuguese kitchen, there is no better place to start. Most restaurants will serve a few petiscos while you browse the menu—typically, sliced carrots tossed in olive oil and heavily flecked with fresh coriander; the thick, strong presunto (dry-cured ham from acorn-fed black pigs); and local, fruity green olives—but to experience a more extensive variety of the flavor-packed dishes, head to Paixa, no more than five minutes from the Conrad. Here you can graze to your heart’s content on their comprehensive petiscos menu and make the most of their excellent Portuguese wines by the glass: a huge wine cellar dominates the entrance and there are over 200 bottles on their wine list. At lunch, opt for tables in a small garden outside. Come evening, the open-plan interior is illuminated with chandeliers and hundreds of flickering candles. Try traditional dishes such as patanisca de bacalhau (cod fritters) or smoked sheep’s cheese with honey and almonds—or throw caution to the wind and have pig’s ears with coriander, the Algarve kitchen’s ubiquitous herb, or xerem, an utterly delicious type of local polenta studded with prawns and clams.
Just north of the Conrad Algarve, this dining experience is on Estrada Vale Formoso. Just go to where it intersects with Avenida 5 de Outubro, and you’ll see the restaurant. It’s only a five minute trip from the hotel.
PAIXA: 52 Quadradhinhos Lote, Vale do Lobo, Almancil; +351-289-394-699; paixarestaurante.com