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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Portugal > Madeira

Madeira Food and Drink

A few restaurants offer fine dining, but for the most part Madeiran food is simple and plentiful; even a lunch of parrot fish will come with potatoes, chips, tomatoes, yams and salad – bear that in mind if you're used to light lunches. At the start of a meal you may well be served with a basket of home-made bread, whether you order it or not – it's a delicious accompaniment to an aperitif while you take in the menu.

Specialities

• Caldeirada (fish soup)
• Bife de atum e milho frito (tuna steak and fried maize)
• Espada (black scabbard fish, often served with a baked banana)
• Bolo de mel (Madeira honey cake)
• Estefada (stew, usually lamb or beef)
• Espetada (skewered chunks of beef grilled over a charcoal fire)

Things to know

The water around Madeira is very deep so, with a few exceptions, seafood such as crabs, langoustines and lobsters have to be imported and are therefore correspondingly expensive. Fish is plentiful and delicious.

Tipping

Tipping is not generally expected since most hotels and restaurants include a service charge. A small tip for good service can be left at your discretion.

Drinking age

18

Regional drinks

Madeira, like port, is a fortified wine. Here it's made from one of four different grape varieties, labelled as Reserve (aged 5 years), Special Reserve (aged 10 years) and Extra Reserve (aged 15 years).

The dry wines such as Sercial and Verdelho are delicious as chilled aperitifs. Bual, a sweeter wine, is often served with dessert, while the richest wine, Malvasia (Malmsey), is an excellent after-dinner drink.

Other popular drinks include poncha, which combines rum, honey and lemon juice; nikita, which blends white wine, ice cream, pineapple and sugar, and sangria, which blends red wine, lemonade, orange juice, sugar and assorted fruit and peppermint leaves.

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