Extraordinary food in Estremoz

Composit Gadanha Mercerearia.jpg

As soon as we entered, we felt that there was something special about Gadanha, a small restaurant in downtown Estremoz. The back wall is decorated with a chocolate cake recipe hand written by Michele Marques, the Brazilian chef who runs the restaurant. The dining room is furnished with old chairs and tables that give the place a cozy feeling.

We asked our waitress whether it was possible to sample a few items from the menu. Our culinary feast began with a plate of goat cheese, pears, walnuts and honey, accompanied by a thyme ice cream. This ethereal combination of flavors from Greece made us feel like gods dining on Mount Olympus.

A plate of delicious lamb croquettes paired with a roasted garlic aioli brought us back to earth. They were followed by one of the restaurant’s signature dishes: an ingenious “mille feuilles” constructed with thin slices of Alentejo bread, codfish and black pork prosciutto. The flavors of Alentejo shined on the next plate: a sausage called “farinheira” toped with fried quail eggs and accompanied by apple purée. The savory part of the meal ended with another signature dish: a delicious slow-cooked codfish topped with a crust made from cornbread, rosemary and thyme.

An extravagant combination of hazelnut and chocolate brought us to the realm of sweetness. It was followed by graceful “îles flottantes” covered with an orange crust, served with strawberries and a basil-infused crème anglaise.

We asked our waitress whether we could compliment the chef on our extraordinary meal. Michele came to our table with a radiant smile. We asked her an indiscreet question: “How does a Brazilian chef open a restaurant in the middle of Alentejo? “I fell in love with someone from Alentejo,” she told us. “That love waned but I liked Alentejo so much that I stayed.” We asked Michele where she gets her inspiration. “I did not grow up with the traditional recipes of Alentejo, I have a different culinary background.” she answered. “But I am inspired by the amazing products that the region has to offer.”

Michele introduced us to her business partner, Mário Vieira, her close collaborators, sous chef Alberto Muralha and pastry chef Gonçalo Carvalho, and all the dining room staff. “The restaurant is a team effort,” she stressed. “We’re all essential to the quality of the food and service. I have to pick the right people to make sure that everything we do, we do with love.“

It is clear that someday soon stars will shine on this restaurant in Alentejo. But we don’t need official accolades to know that Gadanha serves extraordinary food prepared with love.

Gadanha is located at Largo Dragões de Olivença, 84 A in Estremoz, tel. 268 333 262. Click here for their website.


8 thoughts on “Extraordinary food in Estremoz

  1. Caro Sérgio
    Bom Ano!

    Como apreciador que é das boas coisas de Portugal, venho sugerir que visite o restaurante onde a minha filha é cozinheira.
    Um abraço amigo
    António Moura

    Ana Moura
    Cave 23 (Torel Palace, Rua Câmara Pestana,23, Lisboa. http://cave23.pt/)

    O que fez em 2016?
    Há-de ter feito, pelo menos, boa parte do caminho que a pode tornar a primeira mulher portuguesa a ganhar uma estrela Michelin. Começou discreta, na sua cave luminosa — parece um contra-senso mas não é –, junto ao Campo Mártires da Pátria, mas depressa foi amadurecendo, desenvolvendo novas ideias e pratos, a ponto de, no final do ano, não ser qualquer favor colocá-la entre os chefs em ascensão na cena nacional. E se 2016 foi bom, 2017 promete ser ainda melhor.

  2. Great article. I have been coming to Gadanha since it first opened and have watched it expand over the years. The was a “risk” business to open in Alentejo as it was far ahead of its time. I’m happy to say that the risk paid off and it’s been a tremendous success from day one. Well done everybody and a place I would recommend!

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