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Retiro dos Arcos Restaurant

Authentic Portuguese Restaurant in the Market Town of Loule

This is one of those tiny places you might well walk past thinking it’s a bit spit and sawdust, not overly impressive.  But, you know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!  The restaurant is just off the main avenue by the fountain in the centre of Loule.  The small frontage has a few tables under a huge ancient tree which I think is a kumquat but after a litre of vino verde who knows.  We sat outside, under the tree, were greeted by a happy, smiley chap called Ze who actually never stops smiling. 

Immediately we sat down, bread, cheese and honey, carrots and olives were placed on the table,  Sara took our order for wine, beer and water and gave us the menu to look at.  When she reappeared very quickly with the drinks she explained the extra dishes offered that day and the choice was rather overwhelming.  I was very pleasantly surprised to find so much choice, especially of fresh fish.  Then there were more decisions – rice, chips, potatoes, veg, salad, so we had a little bit of everything just to make sure!

After a pleasant 15 minutes sitting in the warm evening air, dinner arrived.  Mine was a huge sole and my guest chose the espetada.  Mine was cooked to perfection.  Moist but thoroughly cooked, perfect real chips, (I’m such a philistine) and a tomato and onion salad.  How do they make those huge beef tomatoes taste so amazing?  The steak of the espadata, with cooked exactly as ordered and because I’m the reviewer I had to have a taste just to make sure and ooooooooooh my! Rice was fluffy, potatoes hot with a little melted butter and parmesan. 

After a suitable break, dessert was suggested and, being the trooper that I am, ordered the caramel roulade and the cheesecake just for the sake of doing things thoroughly, obviously. Delicious, enormous portions!

So, after all that food, we had coffee and the lovely, smiley Ze came out with two shots of something which he insisted we drink and I was in heaven! Positively orgasmic nectar of the gods!  It was a local liqueur called Brandymel which is basically brandy flavoured with honey and local herbs which I am now addicted to! 

Whilst we absolutely loved this place because the quality of the food was wonderful, it’s very informal so expect people in casual dress and families too. Personally, I loved the simplicity but the table cloths are paper and the crockery is functional.  Shorts and t-shirts, jeans and trainers are welcome so you may feel it’s not dressy enough for a special occasion.

Now for the serious stuff – all marks are out of five. 

Ambience              5

Friendliness                          5

Value for Money                    5

Ease of Parking                    4

Choice of Menu                     5

Vegetarian alternative           3

Formality                             2

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