But, come on folks, just admit it. You too must have hit that dreaded culinary wall at some point or other? You must have surely hankered for a bit of plain, home-cooked British grub (like your Mother used to make). Of course, it's cool to have gone all “continental” and cafe-cultured but (as they say in Ireland) you can take a person out of the bog but you can't take the bog out of the person.

Lusophiles might like to wax-lyrical about how “amaaaazzzing” Portuguese food is. And it really is pretty amazing but there's only so much grilled fish, broccoli, carrots, boiled spuds and olive oil I can eat. For me, porco preto Alentejano, frango piri-piri and all that great Portuguese fayre started off as quirky holiday food. Bacalhau is great when I'm on my hollybobbs but as a regular staple? Not for me.

There comes a time when I really need to go for a properly tasty Chinese take-away or a damn good vindaloo. No harm in that? Being abroad doesn’t always mean I need to forsake all I've left behind in good old Blighty!

After all is said and done, all that Oriental or Asian “foreign muck” is about as British as a roast dinner these days. Good as all that kind of food is, I still sometimes find myself hankering for a bit of beans on toast with a good dollop of HP sauce from time to time. Baked beans are as readily available in Portugal as Asian and Oriental foods are in the UK! Happy days!

I've known a number of expat foodies over the years. Many like to eat as much local Portuguese fayre as humanly possible. Many times I've been lambasted and told, in no uncertain terms: “Doug, If you just want to eat British foods, go home and don't bother coming to Portugal. Harsh! But, I wonder, what do such die-hard individuals chow out on behind those closed bifold doors? I bet there's a few naughty culinary secrets hiding away in those IKEA kitchen cabinets?

Okay! Keep your hair on. I was only surmising! I know, Portugal isn't exactly Benidorm; even here on the glorious Algarve. But if we go looking, we might just stumble across the odd British foodie surprise? I'm sure there's going to be one or two of you who will earnestly declare that there’s a really good chippy lurking down in old-town Albufeira or somewhere in darkest Praia da Luz. Your favourite “British” might even hold a candle to any chippy in Rhyl or Whitby.

I must confess, I'm yet to find such an establishment, even when I'm agreeably fed-up on Super Bock or Sagres. But hey-ho, perhaps I'm just an old die-hard fuss pot! A British culinary connoisseur. Oy! Don't laugh!

Anyway. What about decent Chinese or Indian restaurants in Portugal? Let me tell you, I've fallen foul of the quality mark quite a few times over the years. But bravery and sheer old-fashioned dogged perseverance has actually led me to a gem or two.

I can't tell you where I've found the most ghastly examples of Chinese and Indian cookery in Portugal. That would be pretty unfair and potentially defamatory. After all, I firmly believe that “good” food (and wine) is a subjective matter. One person’s meat is another person’s poison and all that sort of thing. But I can point out a couple of goodies for you. As an ardent beans on toast kind of fellow, my food critic tendencies do stack up. Honestly.

During my most recent trip over to the Algarve, I once again visited my favourite Indian restaurant. It’s the always busy Natraj in Vilamoura. To avoid disappointment, it's well worth booking a table (+351 289 114 666).

Natraj quite simply serves very nice Indian food and there's invariably a great atmosphere. An extensive selection of beverages from their very well stocked bar helps things along rather nicely. This little Algarvian gem has become my go-to restaurante Indiano whenever I'm over this way. I’m sure there's plenty of other equally great Indian restaurants along the Algarve but, personally, I'm yet to find a better one.

I must confess to have been rather fortunate when it comes to sussing out some good Chinese eateries too. The first couple of places I tried in Portugal were pretty dire but now, I've sniffed out some goodies.

My most recent find, and by far the best so far, is the TAI TAI Chinese Restaurant on the Vilamoura marina complex. On an extremely stormy evening in January I paid a visit and met the current manageress, Momo Sun, who has worked there for the last six years. The restaurant itself has been going for 25 years, so they know a thing or three when it comes to serving good Chinese food.

A big hello to the two Nepalese waiters (brothers Anup and Anurag) who not only talked me through the restaurant’s extensive menu but also enthusiastically told me all about their amazing home country. The Nepalese landscape photos they showed me on their phones were awesome. Guys, I wonder if I can buy Heinz beans in Nepal?

Credits: Supplied Image;

Again, the TAI TAI restaurant is often full to capacity, so booking is definitely advised (+351 289 389 991). Because I was dining alone I ordered my wine by the glass, although they do have half bottle sizes on their wine list should you elect to go down that route. But I'm glad I didn't because the house red was pretty decent (Só Pias Tinto).

Credits: Supplied Image;

Just as a by-the-by, I was roaming around Lagos one sunny Algarvian lunchtime and I got to feel a tad on the peckish side, as one tends to at lunchtime. Sorry, Portuguese food lovers but I'm afraid that I was all tosta mista’d out, so was very easily tempted by a 6.75€ “lunchtime specials” board outside the Dynasty Chinese Restaurant on Rua 25 de Abril.

The restaurant is located up a flight of stairs leading off the street. There's a small rooftop dining area with great views towards the marina and way beyond over the bay. After a few minutes listening to the pleasing crash, bang, scratch and roar of wok and gas burners - luncheon was promptly served.

I'd happily say that my 6.75€ was very well spent that day. I thoroughly enjoyed the delicious chicken satay, served with a generous portion of jasmine rice as well as a crispy pancake roll. Suffice to say that only a very light evening meal was required after all that.

A bit of impromptu cabaret was provided courtesy of a couple of HUGE seagulls which also dropped by to eye up the lunchtime menu. If you do end up sitting on the (optional) roof terrace, magnificent as those creatures are, some fellow diners did find them to be slightly intimidating. But I thought the gulls were quite entertaining, or was it the scaredy-cat fellow diners that amused me the most? Jury’s out on that one!

I will be back in the UK by the time this piece sees any ink. I might further broaden my horizons and go Italian for a change. Heinz Spaghetti hoops anyone?


Douglas Hughes is a UK-based writer producing general interest articles ranging from travel pieces to classic motoring. 

Douglas Hughes