Inside, sitting at the head of one of the long, wooden tables, José Vila, one of the restaurant owners, is waiting for us. To the sound of Cante Alentejo coming from a small radio, we are welcomed like old friends. Vila’s physical presence – reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway or a deep-sea fisherman, solitary, with a sad look – gives us confidence, comfort. The walls are covered with his art, the smoke of his cigars, and all the surrounding scenario leads us into the artist’s very personal world.
Painting also started way back – he still has the first pictures he did aged nine -, much like his passion for food, which he began to acquire as a small boy, when his grandmother invited him to eat at her house. Her recalls meals sitting on his grandfather’s lap and, later, on top of fig boxes. At the time, there were, and still are, lots of figs in the Algarve, and people, through necessity, often ate this fruit.
The restaurant is a result of this passion and Lisa’s invitation to become part of the project. Returning to the region where he was born, Mexilhoeira Grande, was also inevitable and, as such, he accepted. When he had to prepare a menu, he searched the Algarve, recovered unfashionable recipes and sought out the flavours of his childhood, those that remain still so alive in him.