Story and photos by Barbara Angelakis
Additional photos by Manos Angelakis

Madeira Mercado Central Vegetables

Madeira’s Cuisine

Farm-to-table is not a new concept on the Portuguese Island of Madeira. The tradition has long existed of vegetables presented at table picked fresh from a garden with their vibrant colors and flavors still intact;

Madeira Mercado Central 1

a visit to the vegetable section of Madeira’s Central Market (Mercado Central) is visual proof of the freshness of seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Madeira Grilled Fish over Fresh Salad

And fish and seafood sourced from the abundant waters surrounding the island, pause just long enough to slather themselves in garlic and olive oil, before landing on your plate. We found this to be true when we visited Madeira years earlier; and although the food presentation has since developed into the art form that is currently fashionable, the quality of the ingredients and their simple but delicious preparation has not changed.

Madeira Centre for Traditional Houses

We found a perfect example of this tradition at Quinta do Furão in the municipality of Santana. Before lunch we paid a visit to the “Centre for Traditional Houses”, a preservation area of traditional pointed thatched-roof houses. This now picturesque style of building was at one time seen all over the island of Madeira by farmers whose main crop was grain. Once the grains were thrashed and the kernels processed into flour for bread or pasta, the straw was used to cover the roofs of the living quarters in a sharp slope so rain could run freely down and not soak through. Community kitchens were held in separate buildings for obvious reasons. Santana has collected samples of these houses in an open area park where visitors can admire the islands heritage and purchase local products and crafts.

Madeira Quinta do Furão View

A short ride from Santana is the hotel and restaurant Quinta do Furão, in a location perched high above the sea with a spectacular view. We had lunch on the terrace to enjoy both the food and the view.

Madeira Flat Bread

Portuguese bread is world renowned and so too on Madeira you could make a meal out of their wood baked flatbreads dipped in high-quality olive oil sprinkled with herbs. Throw in several herbed olives, and you’re good to go.

Madeira Quinta do Furão Bakery

After lunch we toured the grounds taking pictures of this very picturesque property and then headed to the on-site bakery where Lúcia, who has been baking bread at Quinta do Furão since they opened, displayed her award winning techniques.

Madeira Funicular Ride Fajã dos Padres

Another fantastic meal was at Fajã dos Padres where we had a private wine tasting with owner/winemaker Mário Jardim Fernandes before lunch. It began with a precipitous funicular ride from Cabo Girão, down a vertical cliff to the sea some distance below; you can also reach the property by boat from the Funchal Marina. (see Madeira Sojourn) Hundreds of years ago the Jesuits established a farm on the rich soil bordering the black volcanic-rock beach and the intense blue sea, into an organic garden for growing fruits, vegetables, and of course, grapes for the famous Malvasia (one of the six varieties of Madeira) wine. How they settled the area is astonishing due to its location at the bottom of a 300 meter drop, obviously arriving on the island from the sea to make use of what nature had so generously provided. About 100 years ago the property was purchased by Mário’s wife’s family.

Madeira Mário Jardim Fernandes

Mário is a dedicated wine maker producing just a small amount of this grape, originally from the Greek Island of Crete, for his personal use and for sale at the restaurant to a few aficionados that appreciate the high quality of his wine. Mário treated us to his liquid gold after which we had lunch at his restaurant while he took his daily swim in the sea that beckoned so appealingly only a few yards from where we sat.

Madeira Nini Andrade Silva’s Design Centre

Outstanding also was the dinner we enjoyed at Nini Andrade Silva’s Design Centre. An elevator ride whisks you to the Design Centre of the internationally renowned designer where there are many rooms featuring her private collection. The building housing the collection and restaurant was once the harbor home of Gonçalves Zarco, a Portuguese sea navigator and Knight in the service of Henry the Navigator of Portugal, who is credited with the discovery and settlement of the Archipelago of Madeira.

Madeira Nini Andrade Silva’s Design Centre Fish

The food and wine were perfect as was the entertaining waiter who saw to our every need. This is just a sampling of the many opportunities that exist to experience Madeira’s cuisine but regardless of where you go you are guaranteed fresh, delicious food prepared with care and served with love.

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