Davis finds a restaurant with a killer view and even better food at Praia da Luz…
The sun was shining, and it was 22 degrees. The perfect spring day! With an appetite, I took the #203 bus from Praca do Marques about 20 minutes to the Mercado da Foz bus stop and walked down Rua Diu 5 minutes until I hit the ocean. The views are spectacular cutting through this little section of Porto with the trees just starting to bloom and the street stacked with 19th century townhomes and shops. No two facades are alike. When you dead end into the beach, you’re immediately introduced to the “boardwalk” or Passadiço with hikers, runners and bicycles in abundance enjoying the boulder lined sand, the pier and lighthouse which leads you back to the Douro river and downtown. I learned later that this is actually part of the Porto leg of the Caminho de Santiago trek as it passes along this section of Portugal.
Following the boardwalk down toward the sea about 50 meters north of Rua Diu, I randomly came upon Praia da Luz restaurant and beach bar. It’s not visible from above, but just below street level the world changes. The vibe reminded me of St. Tropez for just a minute, but it’s more welcoming, down to earth, real and relaxed. At this point I was starving and walked inside the long narrow restaurant to white linen table clothes and the mirrored rear wall that brings the ocean inside…all directly on the beach. Fresh baked breads, homemade butter, tuna spread, tomato dip and Portuguese olives were accompanied by an amuse bouche. I didn’t ask, but it was fabulous and something from the sea. The menu is diverse though leans toward fish, so I ordered the seabass baked in sea salt and rosemary along with the fresh spinach and boiled potatoes…everything swimming in garlic and butter. Half a bottle of Portuguese Douro Valley white wine later and my planets were aligned. The service was flawless and the total bill, on the pricey side for Porto, including wine was about €25.
From inside the main restaurant with its wall of windows I could see the outdoor, more casual bar/restaurant which is part of the Praia da Luz facility and private beach. The main building also has a roof top section and outdoor bar to take in the spectacular ocean view. Outside, there are tables and white umbrellas as far as the eye can see along a large terraced wood deck with chaise lounge chairs beyond spilling into the sand. The outdoor menu is less expensive and more expansive with Portuguese tapas, ceviche, carpaccio, burgers, salads, pastas, various other local dishes, desserts and the like.
I followed the live music outside, ordered my first Porto Tonico and settled into a sofa under the gigantic “sail” that shades the rear section of the outdoor bar. For context, the Portuguese Porto Tonico is white port wine, tonic water, a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint. One glass alone is not possible. The man on a guitar was local and the music was chill. As the afternoon wore on and the drinks kicked in a “DJ” appeared. A barefoot, 60 something gentleman in white tee shirt and faded jeans looking like he literally lived on the beach with his dark tan and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. The music changed to something more from the Hotel Costes in Paris suitable for dancing and the eclectic people watching.
Under normal circumstances I’d be embarrassed to say that I was now in my sixth hour at Praia da Luz. Did I nap at some point? I do recall multiple conversations throughout the day. The sun was lowering, the crowd now growing with an ever-changing mix of locals, tourists and those just passing through on the Camino. A dessert was in order. I asked for something that wasn’t heavy and fit with the beach. They brought their “cream of the universe”: lime mousse, lemon curd and merengue…you do the math! For some unexplained yet completely obvious reason they also brought me a shot of “cachaça” which is a Brazilian liqueur made from fermented sugarcane juice. Good, yet evil. To me it sort of tastes like a cross between Turkish raki and maybe tequila…it’s aggressive on the way down!
I grabbed an Uber and headed back downtown for home. The bus, the Metro or even walking were all completely inappropriate at this point. Praia da Luz is yet another example of what Porto has to offer with a unique setting on the beach, excellent food and service. Highly recommended.