Brisa Do Rio Tavira Restaurant Review
We may have found a new favourite restaurant in Tavira.
Brisa Do Rio is situated on the north side of the Roman bridge, in a narrow street that also contains the popular Rive Gauche and Aquasol restaurants.
We were one of the first few diners on Friday night, but the place was quickly filled to capacity with both Portuguese and English people waiting outside to get in. This was a good sign, particularly on a chilly January evening when a lot of Tavira’s establishments seemed to be struggling to get anyone through the door.
Service was attentive, friendly and polite. Towards the end of the evening, when the two waiters had more than enough to do, it did start to take longer to gain their attention, but this is quite usual in Portuguese restaurants, and they did an admirable job of keeping everyone happy.
Couvert (the small snacks served in most traditional restaurants before, or in place of, a starter) was the standard bread and sardine pate, with the addition of some marinated carrots, mixed with olives, and a small dollop of pink fishy goo, which I suspect may have been made with fish sticks!
We fancied a rosé and the choices consisted of a “house” at €5, the usual Lancers or Mateus options or an interesting looking Barranco Longo from the Algarve. Although we were tempted by the cheap house option, which is rarely unpleasant in Portugal, we fancied the idea of trying something from the Algarve itself, so went for the last option. This turned out to be a good choice. The Barranco Longo was a real fruity mouthful, and very rich and unique in flavour. We found it impossible to work out whether it was the sweet side of dry or the dry side of sweet! I appreciate that probably makes no sense at all, but anyone who tries this wine is likely to know what I mean! This is definitely a wine on my “buy as soon as I see it” list. It’s definitely a wine to savour in small quantities and not a barbecue glugger.
Things got interesting with the arrival of our starters. My wife’s serving of fat piri-piri prawns was tasty and mouth-burningly hot, just as it should be. A lot of piri-piri is disappointingly tame so these were fantastic, and the subtleties of the flavour were not overpowered by the heat.
I would have been in danger of “plate-envy” had it not been for my portion of baby squid. The second the knife cut through it was clear it was cooked to perfection, in a delicious, slightly spicy sauce. Squid should never be chewy, and this really wasn’t. I would go as far as saying it was probably the best I have had in the Algarve. I must mention that both starters were only priced at €5!
Main courses consisted of a steak diane for me and a rack of lamb for the wife. My steak was in a very rich sauce, with generous quantities of mushrooms and ham, and served with a typical jumble of veg and a crunchy hybrid of potato crisps and sautéed potatoes which were well flavoured and a great companion to the diane sauce.
The steak itself suffered slightly from the toughness that afflicts a lot of Portuguese beef, but the sauce caused this to not be a serious problem. However, if I had been served the same steak unadorned with liquid, I’m not sure I would have been quite so pleased.
My wife’s lamb was some of the tastiest we have had in Portugal. The rack was broken into about 9 cutlets – a hugely generous portion, and one that not a lot of profit can have been made on when priced at just €10. Requested medium rare, the lamb was pinky-red to the extent some people may have found it too underdone, and it was clear that the rush of people into the restaurant had resulted in one side being cooked for a lot longer than the other. The same was the case with the steak.
I should make clear that these are really minor criticisms, and ones which we had to work hard to come up with. They are not criticisms which prevented the meal being acceptable—they are criticisms which prevented the meal being TOTAL PERFECTION, which is very different!
Desserts consisted of a mango mousse, sent over flambéed with a very generous amount of vodka – something I hadn’t seen before that worked extremely well. My wife’s crème brulee was text-book, with a creamy filling and a satisfying solid sugar coating.
I always tend to judge a restaurant badly if I am served food that I know I could cook better myself at home. At Brisa Do Rio, this wasn’t the case. The chef has the kind of flair that competent home cooks like me can only dream about, which makes eating out here a great experience. We will be back very soon.