Once, we came to Fernando Restaurant on May 1 only to see the front door shut with a friendly note on it, saying that it is closed for the one-day holiday, as per every year, but only that one day a year. It is true; the legendary Portuguese restaurant on Hac-Sá Beach has been operating with only one day off a year since 1986! Such dedication and consistency have earned it many patrons in Macau and a place on tourists’ wishlists. What else makes so many of us come back to Fernando? Keep reading to find out.
With a densely twined web of vines outside, the carved wooden sign that says “Restaurante Fernando” is not easy to see. So take note: if you are facing Hac-Sá beach, the restaurant will be on your left, right next to a small convenience store. Inside, friendly waitresses or even the owner himself will welcome you and escort you to a table. This dining destination is popular and doesn’t take reservations. In case you come to Fernando Restaurant during the busy hours and have to wait, kill some time by searching for your country’s banknote on the walls. There is a myriad of them from all over the world decorating the corridor. We bet you’ll find yours! If you get bored, play some kicker–table football–placed in between two dining areas.
Another waiting place is a charming patio with a bar surrounded by trees. Here you can have a drink of a chilled vino verde before getting your table.
The main dining area is spacious, yet almost always full of people. It is not uncommon to see groups as large as ten or more coming to dine here. The design is rustic and traditional and everything here reminds you of a Mediterranean vacation–checkered tablecloths cover wooden tables with simple tableware, white ceramic plates, and clay pots. Maritime elements such as buoy rings and seascape paintings decorate brown brick walls. The staff is friendly and laid-back, yet attentive to your needs.
Wine lovers will appreciate Fernando’s formidable collection of Portuguese wines, mainly from Douro and Alentejo regions. Thankfully, prices are affordable, so a romantic dinner for two or a celebration for many will not hurt your budget.
Some of the best tables are the ones with windows facing a lush garden. The large windows are usually wide open, and you can see that Fernando Restaurant is immersed in greenery. Notably, during the warmer seasons, the garden is where they grow vegetables and herbs to use in the kitchen. Thus, it would be a crime not to order their fresh garden salad! Lettuce, tomatoes, and white onion seasoned with salt and olive oil are a combination genius in its simplicity. The lettuce is fresh and crispy like it was picked from the garden five minutes ago. Organic deep red tomatoes are rich in taste and rare to find in the city.
Before serving your order, a waitress will bring a generous portion of fresh bread delivered from a local Portuguese bakery on the Macau side. That crunch you hear when breaking the bread in two is an especially comforting sound and a promise of a great dinner!
To have the full gastronomic experience at Fernando, we recommend coming in a group and ordering several dishes to share. Solo dining is just as satisfying as well but you will want to come back and try more of those tempting dishes. Portions are generous, so finishing more than a couple of dishes alone would be a challenging task.
Once you get ahold of the menu, take a look at the first option on the first page and order it right away. Fernando style clams are number one on the list for a reason–it’s a crowd-pleaser and one of the chef’s specials. The secret is in the sauce. Rich and fragrant, it is made with a lot of cilantro, garlic, some shallots, and tomato. Take a piece of the fluffy, freshly baked bread and dip it into the sauce and savor it–can’t beat this!
Other appetizers worth mentioning are choriço and bacalhau croquettes. Smoky and slightly sweet pork sausage is a traditional Portuguese ingredient that goes well as an ingredient or served on a plate without any other elements, just like at Fernando. Croquettes offer a winning combination of a gentle crisp on the outside and delicate fresh cod filling on the inside.
What’s the main course?
Mostly, Fernando Restaurant is known for its seafood and fish. So some of their specials to consider are charcoal grilled sardines, grilled cuttlefish, and stuffed squid. All these dishes have one thing in common–carefully selected, flawlessly fresh ingredients are the reason for their success. Sardines are perfectly seasoned and juicy on the inside, served with a side of whole boiled potatoes and vegetable salad. The potatoes go well with the cuttlefish too, along with the green sauce with herbs.
Stuffed squid is a flavorsome stew cooked in an iron pot with potatoes. Fancy presentation would be too extra for soul food like this, it is perfect as humble as it is.
Not fond of anything from the sea? Consider ordering Fernando’s grilled chicken with French fries and olives, one of the restaurant’s bestsellers.
In ever-changing and evolving Macau, Fernando Restaurant has been the anchor of stability and comfort food that we love coming back to. Hopefully, it will keep us and our stomachs happy for more years to come.
Fernando Restaurant 9 Praia de Hac Sa, Coloane, +853 2888 2264, www.fernando-restaurant.com