Utah Bites

POSTCARDS FROM PORTUGAL, PART 2 Sublime Beach Clubs, Algarve, & a Day in Spain

We explore beautiful beach clubs, Algarve in the south of Portugal where we spent the second half of our grand vacation, a day trip to Spain, and then back to Lisbon.


In October, my wife and I did something we hadn’t done since pre-pandemic days: we left the country. We took a couple of weeks off to visit Portugal, with a brief side jaunt to Spain for a day. Needless to say, it didn’t suck. 

Last week I shared our dining and drinking experiences in Lisbon and in Setúbal, just south of Lisbon. This week, we’ll explore beautiful beach clubs, Algarve in the south of Portugal where we spent the second half of our grand vacation, a day trip to Spain, and then back to Lisbon. 


One thing to beware of when visiting Portugal is that almost every restaurant there offers what are called couverts, which sort of means “cover charge.” It’s essentially bread served with butter and sometimes additional spreads, relishes and such. Or olives, ham, nuts and the like. These – usually bread – will be brought to your table when you sit down whether you ask for them or not and you will be charged accordingly. So unless you want bread with every meal, and want to pay for it, simply learn to say “Não queremos pão obrigado.” (We don’t want bread, thank you.) Or, “Não queremos couverts, obrigado.”

Sublime Comporto Beach Club – Grandola

After a week in Lisbon and Setúbal (see last week’s Utah Bites), Faith and I set sail for Algarve, in the southernmost part of Portugal, but with a detour for lunch to the stunning Sublime Comporta Beach Club in the town of Grandola. 

We drove to Grandola in a gully washing downpour which, thankfully, passed by the time we arrived at Sublime Comporta Beach Club. The open air Sem Porta restaurant at the Beach Club is gorgeous, with cuisine that features sustainable fish and seafood, pasture-fed cattle, herbs from their organic garden, and organic produce whenever possible. 

Sem Porta Paella

The menu at Sem Porta is chock full of tempting dishes like grilled sea bass with xerém (a Portuguese porridge); grilled turbot with coriander rice; crayfish and scallops in lime oil; octopus & squid carpaccio; Presa Iberian pork; and much more, including a number of vegetarian dishes. We decided to share a big pan of paella with bomba rice, shrimp, squid, and clams and I’m glad we did. It was deliciously spiked with saffron and finished by our server tableside. 

Grand House – Algarve

And then after that paella perfection, we were off to Algarve, more specifically to the town of Vila Real de Santo António where we stayed at a wonderful boutique hotel called Grand House. It’s a beautiful Belle Époque style hotel that originally opened as the Hotel Guadiana in 1926, eventually fell into disrepair, and was revived a couple years ago to become the Grand Dame that it is today. 

Our Grand House Breakfast Nook

We began each morning in Algarve with an opulent breakfast which was included with our room at Grand House. Unlike most Continental breakfasts in Europe, this one featured American-style breakfasts cooked to order with omelets, eggs Benedict, waffles, pancakes, pasteis de nata, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, pastries, bread, cereal, fresh juices, and much more. 

Grand House Granola with Fruit & Yogurt

We enjoyed our private breakfast nook, which overlooked the marina, in the dining room at Grand house each morning. Even the granola with yogurt and fruit that my wife ate in the mornings was above par. 

Grand House Daiquiri Trilogy Cocktail

On Monday evenings at Grand House they host special events on the rooftop terrace featuring guest winemakers, bartenders, and other experts in the adult beverage field. On the Monday night that we were there renown Portuguese mixologist João Eusébio was on hand to mix specialty cocktails for the guests. I enjoyed a scrumptious “Daiquiri Trilogy” cocktail made with white rum, lime juice, sugar, and a choice of White, Rosé, or Red wine – the Trilogy referred to the three wine choices. I opted for Rosé in my daiquiri and it was excellent. 

Pasteis de Nata

One of the foods you see everywhere in Portugal is the ubiquitous pastel de nata (pasteis is plural), a very popular egg custard tart pastry that is a common breakfast item but can be eaten anytime. You’ll find them everywhere from pastry shops to the equivalent of 7-11 stores, and I enjoyed a pastel de nata each morning during breakfast at Grand House.  

Restaurante O Pescado – Algarve

In Algarve there is no shortage of terrific fish/seafood restaurants and we loved one called Restaurante O Pescado, which was recommended to us by hotel staff at Grand House. This was one of those funky fish places where you pick out a fish that’s in a cooler chilling on ice, and then the kitchen cooks it up for you. 

Restaurante O Pescado – Black Scabbard Fish

Faith picked out a fish called black scabbard fish, which was prepared very simply with butter and lemon and served with boiled Yukon Gold-style potatoes. Simple, yet sensational. Faith said, “I could eat this every night.” 

Grand House Beach Club – Algarve

One of the bonuses of staying at Grand House in Algarve is access to their off-site Grand House Beach Club – they provide free transportation. It’s a perfect spot to relax by the water and, if you’re in the mood, enjoy outstanding food and drink from your chaise lounge or in the bright, airy restaurant. 

Grand House Beach Club Cured Tuna Loin with Citrus

When we were in Algarve the Grand House Beach Club was featuring, for the month, a “Grand Tuna Journey,” with a special menu brimming with fresh tuna dishes. Did you know that in the 1950s the town of Vila Real de Santo António in Algarve was home to more than 50 Atlantic bluefin tuna and sardine processing factories?

Grand House Beach Club Tuna Carpaccio

So during the Grand Tuna Journey the Grand House Beach Club featured dishes such as tuna tartare, tuna tapas, cured tuna loin with citrus, smoked tuna belly, tuna carpaccio, bruschetta with wild tuna loin, tuna poke, tuna cheeks, a tuna burger, and more tuna yet. 

El Costalero Tapas Bar – Ayamonte, Spain

The town of Ayamonte, Spain is just a short 20-minute or so ferry ride from Algarve so we spent a day shopping, sightseeing, eating and drinking in Spain during our vacation. The highlight was settling into sidewalk seats at a popular locals’ tapas bar called El Costalero.

El Costalero Tuna in Adobo

There was a gaggle of old guys – locals, obviously – who had probably been sipping cerveza since morning and provided lots of boisterous entertainment throughout lunch. The tapas at el Costalero – all of which came with French fries, for some reason – were criminally cheap, mostly $3 or $3.50. A generous portion of tuna in adobo sauce with fries and bread was a mere 3 Euros. 

El Costalero Tortilla de Patatas

A classic Spanish tortilla – tortilla de patatas – made with potatoes at El Costalero was only 3 Euros and, while the presentation left a lot to be desired, the food was excellent and inexpensive. To wit, four tapas plates, a roasted pork & Iberian ham sandwich, three glasses of wine, and two bottled waters came to a total of 21 Euros.

For anyone visiting Algarve looking for cutting edge cuisine, I’d send them to a restaurant called 3 Marias, which features what they call “a young, modern and relaxed cuisine.” 

3 Marias Foie Gras & Red Wine Risotto

I have to admit that 3 Marias wasn’t my favorite Portuguese restaurant. Maybe because I didn’t really understand the red wine risotto with foie gras, mushrooms, and crispy leeks, which Faith wound up eating although I had ordered it. The desserts at 3 Marias were phenomenal, however. 

A canceled flight back to the U.S. afforded us the unplanned opportunity to spend another night in our favorite Libson hotel: Mama Shelter. The hip hotel is located in the heart of Libson’s French Quarter, between the Botanical Garden and Parque Eduardo VII. The staff is English-speaking and very helpful. Mama Shelter is a truly unique boutique hotel with an outstanding staff led by Front Office Manager Fábio Passos, who was so kind to upgrade our room after our flight was canceled. 

Yours Truly – Mama Shelter Lisbon Rooftop Bar

One of the attractions at Mama Shelter in Lisbon – aside from the excellent ground floor restaurant and bar – is the rooftop bar with views of Lisbon and the Tagus River. It’s a busy and bustling spot when the weather is warm and dry and it was the perfect place for us to enjoy our final cocktails and wine in Portugal. We were sad to leave that wonderful country, but I’m certain we’ll be back. 

Photos by Ted Scheffler 

Culinary quote of the week: “Portugal has amazing seafood with all the eyeballs staring back at you.” – Annie Wersching




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Food writer Ted SchefflerOriginally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.

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