Before we went to Portugal, I had pre-booked a large number of restaurants, but one of the days it was especially important that I succeed in finding a good restaurant. The day of the daughter's birthday. Of course, Portuguese cod in all its glory, but if my dear daughter gets to decide, it will always be a really pink piece of meat. So I googled and read and found a restaurant outside Óbidos that seemed to tick all the things we appreciate about a restaurant. It was a farm-to-table restaurant, with locally produced, seasonal and small-scale food that received rave reviews. So I booked Maria Batata, which turned out to be a real highlight!
We entered the address of the restaurant into Google maps. When it was only a few hundred meters to the restaurant, we began to wonder if we had really come to the right place. We were in the middle of an agricultural area outside Óbidos. What we hadn't understood was that the restaurant was in the hotel Rio Do Prado, a hotel whose philosophy is to be integrated into the surrounding landscape.
We crawled forward with the car on the dirt road until we found an entrance to the parking lot. The car park was almost completely full, this seemed to be a really popular place. The entrance to the restaurant was over a curving grass and stone path, surrounded by tall sticks. It almost felt like being part of a huge picking stick. The main building was built entirely in natural colored wood in a slightly Scandinavian style. The whole aesthetic was very appealing.
It was only now that I realized that this was probably not only a restaurant, but also a hotel. Soft music played in the garden outside the restaurant and by the main building there were small houses with terraces around the beautiful pool area. Many of the guests sat on their terraces in their deckchairs and drank wine in the sunset. The whole impression was so unbelievably beautiful and the atmosphere was so calming, that my whole being felt calm. This was simply the hotel I should have booked. Maybe not just for one night, but maybe for our whole Portugal vacation?
In the garden, guests sat and chatted a bit on the fabric-covered red wooden sofas. All the lanterns were lit and the sun colored the sky completely pink. The table in the restaurant called us. Could they deliver a dinner that matched the ambiance of the hotel?
The menu came to the table. The waiter apologized that they didn't have any clams today, the fishermen just hadn't caught enough today. The rest of the menu was there though and there was a certain pride in the waiter's voice when he told us that everything was produced from the local farmers in the area. Today's menu certainly did not disappoint us, it was rather a matter of how many dishes I should order.
We finally agreed to bring in pimientos de padron, bread and a warm goat cheese with pear marmalade and walnuts for starters. For the main course, the daughter had a fillet of beef with fries, and my husband and I each had a risotto with prawns. And every single dish delivered. The goat's cheese was perfectly warm and the marmalade really elevated the dish. The peppers were as good as they can only be in Spain and Portugal, but a really good olive oil too.
By this time the whole restaurant was fully booked. The sun had set and in the garden outside small lanterns shone in the night. Even though there were both families with children and celebrating couples in the restaurant, it was very calm and quiet and nice.
The main courses arrived. Daughter's cut of meat looked amazing, but it was a little too bloody for her taste. So we sent it out to the kitchen for a light fry to medium, which the kitchen quickly fixed. Mine and my husband's risotto was perfectly cooked and perfectly scented with coriander. To some of you it might sound like a nightmare, but to us it was a dream. Everything is better with cilantro! The prawns were grilled and salted and gilded the risotto. A really good combo.
All three of us were completely stuffed after all this food, so we simply had to skip dessert. Payment was made at the cash register at the door, so we collected our pick and pack and went to pay. The owner was sitting at the till. What did we think of the food, she wondered. I told them that we were all very happy, which had been extra fun as it was the daughter's birthday. But oh, why hadn't we said anything before! The owner flew up. Did we want cake? No thanks, we were way too full for that. But at least let me give your daughter a big kiss! The owner ran forward and hugged her daughter tightly. This is exactly what I love about Portugal. All this love.
We went to the car and drove to the hotel, thinking that next time, we will stay at the Rio Do Prado. Maybe even the whole holiday.