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Vegan Abroad: Algarve, Portugal

Deciding to go to Portugal was not completely planned out before booking my ticket, considering that I was a vegan travelling to (what most people consider) a country that has a rich food culture, and is highly fish and meat based.

After booking the ticket at around midnight and having to go to bed to get up in the morning for work, my partner suddenly jumps up out of his sleep like when Kate from Home Alone, realised she forgot Kevin at home and says to me “What are we going to eat when we’re out there!?”. It then occurred to us that we might have rushed too quickly into this and didn’t plan it through. However, for the price of the holiday, I personally had no regrets and I knew Alex (my partner) had prior experience of eating beans on toast before he met me. So this shouldn’t really be a problem. Right?

Wrong-ish! – Yes, we found multiple vegan options on the ground, as you’ll see from the reviews below. However, the next morning, I set out to do my research properly as I was convinced I will definitely find something within walk able distance to our hotel, being that it was also within a tourist area and close to the beach (Albufeira). When searching for the vegan options in Algarve via Google, it presented us with several options that was labeled as vegan, but when investigating further and reading their menus, it was often only seafood options, or Fries being the only suitable option. So as you can imagine, we panicked before getting out there. We even went as far as renting a car, which my partner was not really up for – he was reluctant to driving on the other side of the road. But it meant that if we needed food we could travel further to find decent options. And so we did! We began our journey in the Algarve, being Vegans abroad!

We were there for five days and we went to at least 4 different restaurants, one of which you will know. Below I have done an individual review of each establishment and the food I ordered whilst being there. I will also indulge a little more about the other vegan options available on the menus and give any valuable advice.

First on the list is McDonalds, I went on their website whilst being in London and tried to translate the page as best as I possibly could to decipher what was suitable and what wasn’t. Again, I couldn’t determine this fully on the website so we decided to take a shot and go there to ask the questions directly. When we landed, we were both very hungry and didn’t want to think too hard about food, so McDonalds it was – even if it was just plain ol’ fries. When I got there, luckily the customer rep spoke perfect English and explained all the ingredients within their mains and assured me that it could be made vegan if eradicating some ingredients.


McDonald’s

https://www.mcdonalds.pt/mcdonalds/missao-valores/

Address: 1, Urbanização Quinta da Bellavista 1, Portugal

If you find yourself being a Vegan in Albufeira and unable to afford the fine, fresher and the wholesome vegan food we’re all used to, have no fear, because McDonald’s is here! Yes! McDonald’s, the glorious golden arches have shined their beacon of hope towards us and has miraculously saved the day. I often get asked the question, what the hell can you eat in McDonald’s apart from their fries!? This question, when asked in the UK usually gets a very short answer, but when asked in Algarve, Portugal, I say where do I start!? In fact, you can have a three-course meal from starter to main to dessert.

The McDonald’s here offered at least four Vegan options, in which you can indulge on with no compromise to your diet, however I can’t say the same for your morals. This of course (in true Vegan fashion), does not come without the hassle of having to ask the Customer rep to eradicate a non-vegan ingredient or making sure it wasn’t cooked in the same oil as other non–vegan ingredients.

First on the menu was the universal vegan option that almost every fast-food restaurant chain offers; French-fries. I know you’re thinking – that’s obvious! But it doesn’t stop there. I ordered this side to accompany the next item on the menu, but almost suffered from high blood pressure when eating this due to the large amounts of salt it was coated with. This part of Europe seemed to have a higher tolerance for salt as I found it too much for my liking.

Second on the menu was their Mc Veggie burger, a vegetable-based and quinoa combined burger with slices of tomato, lettuce and a garlic and coriander sauce. You’ll have to request this without their garlic/coriander sauce as it was an egg and milk based sauce. This was very filling and resembled the meaty texture of beef, proving to be an exceptional alternative to the real thing. It was very flavorsome and moist, considering the lack of sauces, however you can easily rectify this by either paying for a sweet & sour sauce at an extra cost of 30 cents or asking for a free packet of ketchup.

Thirdly, if you didn’t want a heavy meal or maybe a starter for your ‘Mc-Three-course-meal’, they offered two soups that were absolutely suitable for vegans; the Vegetable soup and Pea soup. There was even a third option, a light Salad that catered more to the health conscious or who I call, the “Rabbit Food” eaters. Now I know if you’re not a vegan, you’ll say that I can’t say that because I practically come under that consensus (just by being a vegan), however, I will prove you wrong throughout this blog that my eating habits shy far away from the likes of a rabbit.

I had the unfortunate pleasure of trying the vegetable soup that was absolutely plain and quite bland. However, I wasn’t expecting much, so it definitely lived up to expectations. It appears that they use so much salt on their fries that they either forget or can’t afford to add any to the items that need it most. This may not be a huge deal for others, but if you’re planning on only having soup, I’d recommend to have a side of fries to make up for the lack of basic flavour.

Lastly, for dessert, you have their famous Apple pies, which was the K.O of the Mc-three-course meal. It literally hit the spot and saved my taste buds with its sweet apple syrup countering against the large amounts of salt that I had just consumed. I found myself struggling to finish, but when you’re as greedy as I am, your ‘eyes are bigger than your tummy’. I don’t believe I have to say much about the apple pie, other than it was absolutely scrumptious. I will advise you that all McDonalds restaurants do not follow the same protocols, so please ask behind the counter to make sure it’s fried separate from all meat or non-vegan products.

Tell us about a popular franchise that you’ve visited abroad that has a vegan option!

A disclaimer: I personally asked the McDonalds manager about each option, to which he ensured me that the versions of having the items described above were suitable for vegans.


ZEST

http://www.pinecliffs.com/en/dining/

Address: Pine Cliffs Resort, Pinhal do Concelho, 8200-912 Albufeira, Portugal

Alex and I wanted to try something different and realised that we hadn’t visited any of the restaurants we found on Google before getting to Portugal. We were also becoming bored of McDonalds and wanted to splash out a little bit. One of the restaurants we found on Google that was labeled ‘Vegan’ was Zest – Mind, body, soul, which is a café/restaurant apart of a resort called Pine Cliffs. We wanted to visit this one because the pictures were very clean and different to everything else we had seen online. We were particularly attracted to it, as the décor seemed inviting and fresh and assumed the food would be as bad and bourgeois (boujie) as the look of the restaurant.

This restaurant was just as the pictures had shown, very clinical with white based features and small dosages of Colours. Nonetheless, it did the job, it exuded class and character and this was definitely reflected in the food. From the presentation to the taste, this dish was masterfully created. So simple, yet extraordinarily executed.

We both had the Tofu Poké (As what monkey see, monkey do…yes we’re one of those couples). This was a Hawaiian inspired dish, typically including raw marinated ahi tuna. However, ours was substituted with well pressed Tofu, marinated in a vegan friendly sauce. The Tofu sat on a bed of Pilau rice and was garnished with edemame beans and shredded seaweed. When the food was served, they both gave us a small potion of soy sauce to lace our food with, but me – not having any home training, poured it all in and mixed it like it was hot sauce on rice. Big mistake! It became too salty for my palate and I couldn’t finish it all, however luckily, I had already eaten half of it at this point. This was about 16 Euros, which is pricey for a half a bowl of rice and Tofu, but it was all for the experience. After all, at this point we saved so much money from only eating at McDonalds for the past couple of days – the change was needed.

We then again -in true monkey fashion, both ordered the Raspberry Panna cotta for dessert. This was made with Almond milk as opposed to dairy milk and was topped with a vegan jello of raspberries with pieces of whole raspberries. This wasn’t bad for a vegan dessert, as I haven’t had a dessert like this in a while since being vegan. However, I wasn’t too keen on it as the Raspberry seeds kept getting stuck in my teeth and the cream Panna cotta was a little bland. I believe if they had used homemade Almond milk, it would have been creamier and a little more palatable on a whole. I understand they may not have made it sweeter as the Raspberry would have been the substitute for this, but the texture could have been creamier (Hey, my mum’s a chef; I’m a big time critic!).

Overall, I would recommend this restaurant, as there were loads of other options for vegans (unfortunately the monkeys couldn’t afford to try the others, after they already bought the most expensive options on the menu). This entire meal cost us 68 Euros including our freshly pressed orange juice, main and dessert.

Let us know if you visited this restaurant and what you had!


EURASIA

https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/Restaurant_Review-g189112-d2154140-Reviews-Eurasia-Albufeira_Faro_District_Algarve.html

Address: R. Almeida Garrett 71, 8200 Albufeira, Portugal

If I hadn’t already mentioned, Alex and I originally booked this trip as a Birthday getaway for myself and for us to spend some time away together. This was the third time we’ve travelled now since being together, but second time being Vegan.

So, it was my birthday when we tried this restaurant and the weather was great until my actual birthday –typical. Alex had sprained his ankle when getting to the hotel on the first day, trying to run to the beach (he hadn’t seen a decent beach in a while, we live in London, so I can appreciate his excitement) But unfortunately on our first night we ended up in the hospital.

You may be wondering at this point, ‘what does this have to do with the restaurant?’, but I assure you, I’ll eventually get to the point. So we’re in a foreign country, the designated driver has sprained his right ankle, and we’re vegan and hungry. This meant we couldn’t travel too far and McDonalds was becoming a bore very quickly.

All of a sudden our hotel room rings and the lady on the other end pitched us this amazing offer of returning to any of their hotels (MGM Group) within a year for £39.99 Euros, which obviously seemed like a bargain. We booked a meeting to speak about it further and ended up spending the first half of my birthday being sold a totally different pitch for a deal costing £5000. After shutting down the salesman, I was a little annoyed my time was wasted and quite hungry, to which he suggested a vegetarian restaurant, Eurasia. It was the least he could do for wasting my time!

Alex & I set upon our journey by foot, as it was only a 10 minute walk from our hotel. We took our time and eventually found the restaurant. When hearing the name, I was reminded of the George Orwell book, 1984 and imagined the décor to reflect this. I would say the décor was very clean and simple and had a very local feel to it. They’re a vegetarian buffet restaurant, that serves vegan options, however, it’s advised that you call before going to find out what’s on their menu that day.

I tried a little of everything that they had vegan that day and although it was a lot of starch, I really enjoyed it. They had one dish in particular that was called Grão. This was a chickpea curry that was absolutely delicious. They also had a macaroni salad that was very fresh and full of flavour. There was enough to choose from and of course I had seconds. This was only 7 Euros each, which was a bargain seeing that I went back for more. We really enjoyed this restaurant and the people there and would definitely return if possible.

Know any vegetarian restaurants that have great vegan options also? Let us know!


CLAY OVEN

 Now, it’s still my birthday and I’ve had a dress that I’ve wanted to wear for ages, but never had the chance to. I didn’t know where we were going to go, but I knew I was going to dress to kill regardless.
Initially we couldn’t think of anywhere that had the accurate atmosphere for the occasion, however, we came across an Indian restaurant online called Clay Oven. I called the restaurant and to my surprise a British woman answered the phone and didn’t have to query with me as to what a vegan was. She instantly said yes ‘we have many vegan options’ and I was relieved!

The atmosphere and décor was perfect for the evening and best of all it wasn’t very far – in fact it was closer than McDonalds. I stepped in on Alex’s arm and definitely drew attention to myself. I didn’t care because this was my time! I finally found a restaurant I could eat at and look fabulous too – The struggles of a Veganista. I ordered Vegetable Somosas and a Vegetable Biryani, playing it safe as I was not up for being disappointed on my birthday, however Alex, broke the tradition and ordered something completely different this time. He ordered Jasmine rice with a Potato Bombay curry. It was all delicious and filling. I often find with Indian cuisine, it can be too oily or overwhelmed with spice, however, I felt that the balance was perfect here and the meals were very fresh and relatively light.

The food wasn’t the only thing that impressed me about this location, but also the service and décor. I ordered an alcoholic drink that was made from scratch in-house. It was called Tiki Taka – Grilled Pineapple Infused Rum Blend, Orange Curacoa Liqueur, Apricot Kernel Disaronno Liqueur, Lime Juice, Falernum Syrup (Cloves &other Spices), Bitter Jerry Thomas. I queried whether it was suitable for vegans and I also pulled out Google for the unknown ingredients to ensure it wasn’t honey or the alcohol used were not made using non vegan methods. – The pains of being a vegan!

Whilst having my drink, the bartender whom made it came over and gave me a brief run down of what it was made from and the inspiration behind this. I felt it was extra special and I ordered a second!

Do you have any suggestions for Vegan restaurants where you can dress up for grand occasions? Let us know in the comments below.




This post first appeared on Vegan Abroad, please read the originial post: here

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Vegan Abroad: Algarve, Portugal

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