Portugal, Which is its future?

Something is changing in Portugal. Several gastronomic restaurants have opened in recent years, giving one the notion that this country is about to embark on a flourishing culinary period. But we must remember, development can bring varied results, and it has yet to be seen how far they are capable of going.
Traditional Portuguese cuisine is a dignified affair with a distinct identity but for many reasons it has not gained recognition outside of its borders. The traditional cache of recipes is neither varied nor all that praiseworthy, and there are only but a few famous establishments which for some reason or another have been incapable of propelling the finer local chefs to international stardom as has been the case with other countries. However, the food itself has history, personality and wonderful products, not to mention a generation of emerging chefs who are reinventing the cuisine which, deservedly, we must keep a close eye on.
This recent change in the gastronomic panorama has been largely influenced by foreigners. There are two areas in Portugal now where one can find numerous posh eateries. First, the Algarve, with its immense concentration of tourism and high levels of German and British visitors. There you can find the “Villa Joya”, in Albufeira, presided over by Austrian chef Dieter Koschina; “Sao Gabriel”, in Almancil, run by the German Jens Rittmeyer; “Enrique Leis”, also in Almancil, headed by a Brazil-born Portuguese who received his training in France and who also lends his name to the establishment; “Amadeus”, again in Almancil, with Austrian Siegfried Danler-Heinemann, and very close by, in Quarteira, right next to Faro, “Willie’s”, owned by German chef Willie Wurger.
The other area that stands out for its culinary institutions is Lisbon and the touristic zones that surround it. “Fortaleza do Guincho” is found in Cascais, directed by the Frenchman Antoine Westermann who also runs the famous “Buerehiesel” in Strasbourg. The restaurant “Eleven” was inaugurated in the capital in November under the supervision of Joaquim Koerper who used to run the Girasol in Moraira (Alicante, Spain). The other mentionable establishments of great prestige both pertain to deluxe hotels: “Varanda”, at the Four Seasons H. Ritz Lisbon, with Stéphane Hestin and “Valle Flôr”, at the Pestana Palace, with Aimé Barroyer. A special mention is reserved for the “Terreiro do Paço” which, although run by a Relais&Châteaux restaurant holding (Quinta Das Lagrimas), is given life by a native chef with immense personality - Vitor Sobral. He doesn’t have the schooling, training or knowledge of many of his foreign colleagues mentioned here, but he surpasses them all in his sense of modernity and personal style. What’s more, he offers very competitive prices (tasting menus of 41 and 56 €) and the charm of the premises, located in the monumental Praça do Comercio, is the most emblematic of Lisbon.
From these points we might then conclude that Portuguese haute cuisine is not as strictly Lusitanian as it should be – neither in the ownership of the establishments nor the chefs that inspire it. Because of this, they will never be capable of developing a truly personal identity. It will always be subject to international designs conceived for a tourist public that has a taste for modern conventionalism. And even more serious, something which is utterly incompatible with the flourishing of aromas, flavors and regional spirit, is the fact that the ownership, save a few exceptions, is in the hands of investors. The chefs are not the owners here. At the best of times, and this is rare, they have a minor role in the business. How can one inspire creative, modern haute cuisine while doing the bidding for a foreign investor? It is possible, of course, but it’s certainly not the easiest sardine to grill.
For a new situation to arise, goals must be set to implant a new generation of young chefs whose mission is to develop creative, modern cuisine that is imminently Portuguese and aimed at a chiefly Portuguese clientele. For now, they are advancing at a good speed.

Apart from the Algarve area and Lisbon there are other restaurants to consider in other cities and regions of the country.

Oporto. Av. Boavista, 3431. (351)226107669

Sessenta Setenta
Oporto. Rua de Sobre-o-Douro, 1-A. (351)223406093

Casa da Çalçada
Amarante. Largo do Paço. (351)255410830

Pragma Fausto Airoldi
Lisboa. Alameda dos Océanos, Parque das Naçoes, Casino Lisboa. (351)218929040 .

Quinta de Catralvos.
Setúbal. Azeitao. E.N. 379, Quinta de Catralvos. (351)212197610

Arcadas da Capela
Coimbra. Santa Clara. (351)239802380