The Madeiran archipelago is an autonomous region of Portugal that is comprised of four islands located off the northwest coast of Africa. Known for its eponymous wine and temperate, subtropical climate, the main island of Madeira is volcanic, covered with luscious vegetation and rugged cliffs that plunge down to the pebbly beaches of the cerulean waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Most people who live on Madeira claim that it’s home to one of the best climates in the world: It rains occasionally and never gets too hot. Due to its mountainous topography, the island is full of diverse microclimates, making it possible to find snow at the top of the mountains in winter and a sunny 23 degrees Celsius at sea level — or “below the banana line” as the locals would say.
This reliable weather coupled with the island’s fertile soil means that Madeira can grow just about anything year-round, from delicate vineyards to thousands of bananas to a variety of exotic fruits. Combined with the island’s easy access to a variety of fresh seafood and pasture-raised livestock, you have all the ingredients necessary to make a fine-dining chef’s dreams come true. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that over the past few years, more restaurants have cropped up on the Michelin Guide, and Madeira has been popping up on more foodies’ bucket lists as a must-see destination. With that in mind, here’s a guide to Madeira’s top fine dining restaurants.
Reach For the Stars Il Gallo D’oro is currently Madeira’s only restaurant to hold a two Michelin stars. Roughly translated to “The Golden Cockerel”, Il Gallo D’oro opened its doors in the Cliff Bay Hotel under the guidance of French chef Benoît Sinthon in 2004. In 2009, the restaurant earned its first Michelin star, which had been renewed yearly until early 2017 when it gained its second in what may soon turn out to be a constellation of stars. The menu is a sophisticated mixture of Iberian and Mediterranean cuisine that combines locally sourced products with high-quality ingredients from the Iberian Peninsula. The highly-distinguished wine list boasts more 300 types and was awarded second place in the National Wine Lists Competition in 2013. For a two-star restaurant, the atmosphere is refreshingly laid-back and approachable, and the affable staff makes you feel right at home with cheeky jokes and a gentle nature.
Address: Estrada Monumental 147, 9004-532 Funchal, Portugal
Treat Yourself To an Unforgettable Culinary Journey William Restaurant at Belmond Reid’s Palace Hotel is where you’ll find the only other Michelin star on the island. For more than a century, the hotel has been the go-to place on Madeira for royalty, Hollywood stars, writers and politicians (most famously Winston Churchill). The hotel, which opened in 1891, has undergone various refurbishments and expansions over the years but has managed to retain its timeless charm and elegance. To dine here is to enter a world of grace and luxury. Diners are expected to wear formal attire when sitting down to what will be a very refined dinner. William Restaurant brings together Madeira’s finest seasonal produce with an inventive and contemporary flair to produce a tantalizing gourmet menu that will surely please even the most discerning of palates.
Address: Estrada Monumental 139, 9000-098 Funchal, Portugal
Forget Rice-A-Roni Riso, Risottoria del Mundo, is dedicated to everything rice and provides an eclectic mix of rice-centric dishes from around the world. The restaurant’s menu tells the history of rice, stating that the Arabs believe that rice originated from a bead of Mohammed’s sweat, while Chinese legend dictates that during a time of famine, the inhabitants of the Sichuan province sent birds to the heavens begging for food and the gods sent back grains of rice to ease the people’s hunger. The founder of Riso, chef Fausto Airoldi, set about on a worldwide mission to investigate new ways of presenting and consuming this ancient and beloved grain. After completing his mission, Airoldi set up the first of his rice-alicious restaurants in a beautiful spot with unspoiled views of the Atlantic Ocean. Come here at sunset, and enjoy a novel dinner made with the finest of ingredients while looking out at one of the best views in the capital.
Address: Rua de Santa Maria 274, 9050-040 Funchal, Portugal
Combine Creativity with Passion The Design Centre’s Restaurant DC Atelier is a newcomer to the scene, but its prime location is quickly making it a favorite for special occasions among the Madeiran locals. Set atop a rocky outcrop on Funchal’s main harbor, the Design Centre enjoys the unique and enviable position of being able to take in not only the far-reaching horizon of the Atlantic and the rugged beauty of Madeira’s cliffs but also the entirety of Funchal’s cityscape. Do a 360° turn in this architectural beauty, and no one angle will look the same. Come at sunset, and watch the vivid reds, oranges and purples give way to a starry night. The menu combines haute cuisine with a passion for local traditions and a re-interpretation of both regional and Atlantic fare.
Address: Funchal Harbor, Portugal
So now that you know where to get your fancy food in Madeira, make sure to mark it down in your BUCKiTDREAM diary and share it on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to inspire others. You never know who shares your same dreams, and now you can help make them a reality. Bon appetite!