We don’t mean to underestimate the value of a dining experience, but some dining experiences go a little beyond that, growing into a whole cultural experience as if one was able to travel without ever leaving the place. That’s what our experience at Albergue 1601 was like: a sublime journey through Portugal.
The beautiful colonial-style heritage comprises an over a century-old building, flanked by a huge camphor tree that provides some shade. Outside, all we could hear was the joyful sound of singing birds. Inside the building, it was carefully decorated in a classic Portuguese style, and fado, listed as intangible cultural heritage of humanity by UNESCO, was playing. The property, spread over several floors connected by a beautifully aged wooden staircase, is split into several small dining rooms, each with a few tables, creating an intimate and cozy atmosphere for guests. The room we dined in had the walls beautifully decorated with illustrations by local architect and artist Carlos Marreiros, displaying excerpts of Camilo Pessanha’s poetry. The food was an ode to Portuguese authentic flavors. Only high-quality ingredients are allowed in the kitchen led by young talented Chef Pedro Almeida and everything is cooked with much dedication and love for the country’s cuisine.
Comforting Caldo Verde
One of the most well-loved Portuguese soups and a comfort food staple, caldo verde is a rich potato-based soup cooked with shredded cabbage and a slice of chorizo, which invariably feels like a treat, as if suddenly one forgot it is supposed to be hidden within the warm soup. This traditional fare is simple yet deeply satisfying, especially when enjoyed during colder winter days, and it is one to make any Portuguese person reminisce about family Sunday meetups at grandmas. We had it together with deliciously warm bread because there’s no such thing as too many carbs if you’re having Portuguese cuisine.
Perfectly made Duck Rice
It’s hard to highlight a favorite dish, however, this duck rice (pictured above) has garnered a special place in our hearts. Chef Pedro Almeida presents an utterly indulgent yet balanced version of this delicacy. First of all, it was prepared in a way that kept the meat moist, which is probably the main challenge while cooking duck rice. Plus, the chef has a little secret to it too, but that is to remain kitchen confidential. The meats were packed with flavor, had a soft texture and the cured meats displayed a little crispy outline from their time spent at the oven (the final step of preparing duck rice), which brought up a delicious fattiness, but not overly greasy. We were surprised to find that the rice to meat ratio was even, which felt very generous.
Saucy Guilho style prawns
Guilho style prawns is a classic when it comes to Portuguese cuisine. Coated in a hearty sauce, these prawns were absolutely delightful. The sauce tasted very much like the sea, enhanced by the flavors of garlic, lemon, and herbs, all combined in pleasurable harmony. We were happy to devour prawns and all of the sauce, with the help of the warm bread, naturally.
Unbelievably tender Octopus
Another highlight of Portuguese cuisine is this oven braised octopus served alongside roasted potatoes with their skin unpeeled–something one can only come to appreciate after a certain age–and vegetables, all coated in high-quality olive oil and garlic. The dishes’ tasteful elements came together in a beautiful, rightful match to elevate each others’ flavors. The octopus was flavorsome and cooked to perfection while remaining unbelievably tender.
By now, you most likely know we’re not the kind to ever pass on serradura. The traditional dessert is plated with a pretty customized logo made out of powdery chocolate which reads “Albergue 1601”. It has the perfect level of sweetness and served cold, making it a wonderfully sweet ending to our journey. We must also add that the serradura is marvelously paired with an espresso.
It’s relatively easy to find places in Macau with a Portuguese feel, but our time spent at Albergue 1601 felt special, almost as if we were in Portugal. We found out later on that this was, in fact, the owner’s goal. Mission accomplished!
If you’re planning a family lunch or perhaps a romantic dinner Albergue 1601 Macau is a must-visit. The wine list is carefully curated with the best of Portuguese wines, comprising a spread of highly rated wines by wine advocate Robert Parker. From this month on, alfresco dining is available for lunchtime at the courtyard, so consider heading over and enjoy a slow lunch surrounded by the picturesque colonial setting. After your meal, do not skip a visit to the charming shop across the yard, Mercearia Portuguesa, to stock up on some traditional Portuguese products such as jams, canned foods, liquors. soaps and much more.
For reservations, call +853 2836 1601
Opening hours: Daily, 12:00pm–3:00pm, 6:00pm–10:30pm; closed on selected holidays
Albergue 1601, 8 Calcada da Igreja de Sao Lazaro, Macau, +853 2836 1601, www.albergue1601.com