Precious Porches

Portuguese history permeates the very walls at Porches Velho restaurant

One of the nicest things about the Algarve is the array of unassuming yet utterly charming places that you can find here. Take the village of Porches for example. While it’s vehicular namesake (more or less) is known worldwide, the same cannot be said of this small town. A few kilometers east of Carvoeiro, and overshadowed by the tourist hotspots of Albufeira and Praia da Rocha, Porches is that place you pass on the way to somewhere else.

Yet it is home to some top Algarve attractions, such as the very best pottery to be found in the Algarve, to a restaurant that holds 2 Michelin stars, and to one of the most romantic and picturesque chapels you will find anywhere, not to mention an award winning 5 star resort.

In the late 1960s the local artisan’s craft of pottery was dying out. Styles and tastes had changed, and skills were being lost. Until, that is, Irish artist Patrick Swift and his Portuguese counterpart Lima de Freitas decided to reverse the tide. They founded Porches Pottery in 1968 and set about reviving this centuries-old craft and turning it into a viable, international business, today run by Swift’s daughters.

A visit to the Porches Pottery workshop is fascinating – there is a real sense of history here, and the skill shown by the artisan’s hand painted pottery is amazing.

Part too of this area’s history is the wonderfully picturesque chapel at Nosso Senhora da Rocha. Perched atop cliffs that survey the vast Atlantic and southern skies, this tiny, whitewashed chapel, which dates from the XV century,  is evocative of a simpler life and simpler beliefs, and has been the romantic setting for many an Algarve wedding.

Portuguese history permeates the very walls at Porches Velho restaurant. Housed in what was once a wine cellar, the building is over 200 years old. The immensely thick white-washed walls and high ceilings add to the old-world charm, and when the Fado singers begin their mournful songs, accompanied by the traditional 12 string Portuguese guitar, it is easy to imagine yourself back in times gone by. And at the nearby O Leão de Porches, another tri-centenary building , the setting is old-world and the hospitality is timeless, but the techniques used in the kitchen are innovative, producing dishes that could easily grace the tables of the finest European restaurants.

Porches does not always look to the past though. One of Portugal’s very best hotel resorts is Vila Vita Parc, a 5 star luxury haven offering every comfort that the modern traveler could possibly desire. Set on acres of land dotted with gorgeous umbrella palms, and sweeping towards red cliffs and tiny cove beaches, Vila Vita Parc is also home to the wonderful Ocean Restaurant – proud holder of 2 Michelin stars. With Chef Hans Neuner at the helm, this intimate restaurant won its first star in 2009, gaining the second coveted star in 2011.

Porches may be small but it is also cosmopolitan. You can enjoy authentic Italian cuisine and old world charm and hospitality at Ristorante Belmondo, as well as magnificent views across the cliffs to Senhora da Rocha. And if you fancy some Bavarian bonhomie, Porches has its very own Biergarten, serving Paulaner beer straight from Munich.

A whole world in one little village!