Those who have heard that the Portuguese village of Comporta is the cognoscenti’s summer destination of choice may, perhaps, be surprised to learn that one of the seaside hotspot’s best restaurants is housed in a stable. That such a humble setting is attracting Comporta’s increasingly chic set is testament to the standard of Cavalariça’s cuisine, which, having had dinner there the other week, I can confirm is not to be missed if you’re in town. Indeed, I am still thinking about the absurdly plump oysters (€14 for six) and delicious Ibérico pork (€14), served with crispy kale and red pepper.
Set in a low-lying, whitewashed stable building, Cavalariça retains original beams, cobbled floor and the horses’ loose boxes, which have been transformed into booth seating bedecked in blue and white stripes. It’s a fitting scheme for a corner of Portugal that has made its name around simplicity and authenticity – and the same goes for the food from chef Bruno Caseiro, who worked for Nuno Mendes at his London restaurants before being lured back home by the considerable charms of Cavalariça.
I started with the crudités (€6.50), which I recommend for the sublime, smoked white-bean dip; then those oysters – indigenous varieties from a nearby farm. Generous in flavour, they needed nothing more than a squeeze of lemon. The brioche-encased chicken parfait (€7.50) is a signature dish, wickedly indulgent and melt-in-the-mouth delicious, while the pea gazpacho (€9.50), flavoured with mint, was the perfect precursor to a main of oh-so-tender pork. One tip: don’t stint on the side of house chips (€6.50). They are triple cooked, à la Heston Blumenthal, but come into their Cavalariça own when still-hot, home-cured bacon fat is grated onto them. This is home-style cooking, but very originally done – and perfectly in tune with what Comporta is all about. After dinner here, all that remains to get the full flavour of the place is a gallop along the white-sand beaches atop a Lusitano horse.