Food & Cuisine in Madeira
Madeirans love to eat out and there are a vast number of high quality restaurants to choose from. Visitors constantly compliment the quality of the local cuisine, and there are many local dishes on offer to preserve the local heritage and satisfy the curiosity of its visitors. However, international food is also easily available and the British influence is especially still a part of Madeira where one can have a local ‘pastel de nata’ (custard tart) or a scone with jam and cream!
In Madeira and Porto Santo there are restaurants for everyone – from new and classy ones serving international fare to local eateries and friendly traditional pubs.
A flavoursome local meal at a Madeira restaurant is the ideal way to end a busy day touring or shopping in Madeira. Take a look at our Madeira Restaurant Guide below to find the best places to eat at, as well as some local specialities. Our Portugal Restaurant Guide tells you more about the food and cuisine found throughout the country.
Food & Cuisine in Madeira
Madeiran food is akin to Portuguese food. There are plenty of seafood and fish dishes — tuna, clams, swordfish, oysters, mussels and cod. Typical Madeiran specialities include: bolo do caco – local bread which is scrumptious when served hot with parsley and garlic butter. Another favourite is sopa de tomate e cebola which is tomato and onion soup.
There are several excellent restaurants in Funchal and others scattered over the rest of Madeira as well. Fish dishes such as escabeche tuna, tuna steak and scabbard fillet and meat dishes like marinated meat and the traditional espetada (beef seasoned with spices, garlic and laurel leaves, then cut into cubes and grilled on an open fire), served with the usual fried corn and delicious bolo do caco bread are must haves for visitors to Madeira.
There are many restaurants and snack bars spread all over Madeira. Burgers and steak sandwiches are available in the snack bars and fast food restaurants. Some serve international fare such as Japanese, Italian, Chinese and Indian. There are some fine seafood places as well.
Meat lovers will enjoy the large variety of meat dishes on offer. These include the traditional ‘picado’, 'espetada', 'carne de vinho e alhos' and other tasty meat courses which are mainly beef steaks, pork chops and chicken. To make ‘espetada’ rub large pieces of beef in salt and garlic, skewer it on a bay leaf stick and finally grill it over smouldering wooden chips. The ‘picado’ comes in various sizes depending on the number of people to be fed. It is usually made from small pieces of beef, fried in a pan with garlic and sometimes red peppers. It is served in a large dish with French Fries.
Deep fried corn meal cubes or ‘Milho frito' is a favourite and delicious side dish served along with the main meat course. The vegetable side dishes offered in the local cuisine are what is usually grown in Madeira such as green beans, carrots, ‘abobrinha’ (kind of pumpkin), peas and 'pimpinela'. These are usually cooked in a simple manner. Salads consist of mainly sliced onions, tomatoes, grated carrots, and lettuce.
A large range of sweets, cakes and desserts are found in all snack bars, cafes and restaurants all over the island. The local tropical fruit is also widely used in puddings, with banana, maracuja (passion fruit) and pawpaw especially popular. There is a lot to choose from but the local favourites include 'queijadas' – cupcakes made of eggs, sugar and cottage cheese (requeijão). The honey cake (bolo de mel) and the honey cookies are well liked too.
‘Bolo de mel’ is the island's oldest sweet and goes back to the times when Madeira was an important producer of sugar. The sweet is traditionally associated with Christmas, and can be bought packaged in a box ready to take home for those that wish to do so and in many shops and supermarkets (customs permitting). The cake is reputed to last a year maintaining its freshness due to all the honey ingredients.
Both imported and Madeiran wines and drinks are available. The local company ‘empresa de cerveja da madeira’ has two products which are ‘coral’ and ‘brisa’. There is also a wide range of international alcoholic and soft drink brands such as Coke and Fanta to name a few. Madeirans also make their own local table wine, which is also a popular choice among visitors. Apart from the world famous Madeira wine, the locals also make their own wine from different grapes called the 'vinho seco' which is a dry wine as well as other varieties. ‘Nikita’, a refreshing sweet drink made from ice cream, 7up and tiny pineapple pieces is sold as a non-alcoholic drink or alcoholic drink with the addition of vodka or gin, depending on the place making it.