I was born in Évora, where my mother’s side of the family is from. I grew up in Lisbon but spent all my holidays at my grandparents’ house. When it was time for me to go to University, I decided to come to Évora. On my first day here as a student, I remember going out to buy bread, butter, and milk for breakfast and that took me back to the flavours I recalled from my childhood.
The cuisine here is fragrant because of all the herbs we use that can transform any dish. At Café Alentejo we serve a fish soup, seasoned with mint, that is the most fragrant dish you’ll ever eat. Coriander rules most dishes and gives a unique touch to dogfish soup (sopa de cação).
To this day there are still dishes that taste differently here. The pork meat we eat here is different from the one we eat in Lisbon, and the same happens with other products. We know the producers personally, we know how they work, and everything is more authentic and genuine.
Furthermore, cuisine in Alentejo has unexpected mixes, like tomato soup with fresh figs, or banha corada (lard mixed with paprika paste) that tastes delicious when spread on toasted bread with brown sugar sprinkled on top.
I invite anyone coming to Évora to go into Café Alentejo and taste dishes made with local products and local expertise. For those who prefer laid-back meals of finger food and "petiscos", you must come to see Petiscaria Morcega and its esplanade, nearby.
On the walls of Café Alentejo, next to oil paintings by friends and family, there are posters and other details from the previous business that we decided to keep.
Our story and mission
Café Alentejo was an early 20th-century tavern where I went to when I was a student for drinks and nights out because it was affordable.
When we organised parties, I was always the cook - something I loved doing. Then I married and moved permanently to Évora. My husband always had lunch at Café Alentejo, and he used to tell the owner: “When you are fed up with this place Mrs Isabel, don't do anything without talking to me first.” And one day, Mrs Isabel got fed up! We opened in June 1999.
When I came to Évora to attend University, I had no idea that I would own this restaurant after graduating. But today, Café Alentejo is my life project.
Although I gave the space my personal touch, I wanted to keep a connection with the past. I kept the marble top counter that has been here since I came to Café Alentejo in my University years and I chose marble top tables like the ones the old tavern used to have.
We are famous for some of our dishes like the oxtail stew with Alentejo red wine or the roasted duck and rice, slightly toasted, that is different from any other similar dish.
A house with History
The thing I love the most about Alentejo is the light. The light in Alentejo’s sky is unique. And we have more time to enjoy life. There are extraordinary, hidden places worth discovering. And others, like Monsaraz, where the water brought another kind of beauty and where sunsets and sunrises are amazing. Recently, I went on a balloon ride that departed from there, and I loved it!
We are lucky that our land gives us so many herbs that transform any dish.
The fact that we live in the countryside makes our daily lives more comfortable. It’s easier to move and reach people. We have more time to enjoy life. The fact that it’s easier for my friends to visit me here than in Lisbon is proof of that.
I like to stroll along the fields in Alentejo. Everything is very tidy, clean, and white. People are proud of their whitewashed houses, and you’ll hardly find homes painted in other colours. Furthermore, there are many markets and fairs with local products worth visiting.
Café Alentejo is located in a building that’s been part of the history of Évora for centuries, the old inn Hospedaria Real de Estáus built in the 15th century.