My father, a sculptor, was in love with this olive oil press that still operated at the time he saw it for the first time. As a kid, I used to come here to play hide-and-seek when the building was abandoned. Later my father bought it and turned it into a restaurant, keeping the machinery and making it look like a museum, and he opened an art gallery.
I took over the restaurant 12 years ago. I call Sem-Fim a living sculpture. In addition to a great atmosphere and food, we also offer culture: painting, sculpture, concerts… I love cooking and, here, the menu changes according to the products available at the market. It’s impossible to come here two days in a row and eat the same thing.
Alentejo cuisine is one of the best in the world when it comes to flavour and seasoning, and the products are excellent. That’s how we get that “wow” reaction that makes me want to cook. We have olive oil tastings, guided tours to the press, wine tastings, and looking at the night sky experiences. The boat, an old Dutch cargo ship that survived two world wars, is on the water all year round and we organise trips and picnics aboard.
In addition to the invitation to come to Sem-Fim, I suggest travellers discover Monsaraz and our region. Monsaraz has the largest artificial lake and the darkest sky in Europe, and it’s the Portuguese capital city of wines, has the biggest pottery centre in Europe, and is part of Portugal’s seven wonders. There are lots to do. You just need to be creative.
In addition to being an olive oil press, this building also doubled as a grain milling in the Summer. We’re renovating the mill to turn it into a flour museum.
Our story and mission
Portuguese say I’m Dutch, and the Dutch think I’m Portuguese, but I call myself “holentejano” (a play with words “Holandês”, Dutch in Portuguese, and “Alentejano”, a local of Alentejo). My parents are Dutch, they met in Portugal, fell in love, and I was born. I was raised in Monsaraz, and I still remember the vegetable gardens, the river, the horseback rides, and the school, inside the castle. There were nine students in the whole school and because we were so few, we were like siblings. I was always a part of the Sem-Fim project, from construction work to waiting tables. But then the restaurant was rented to someone else when I lived abroad. First in France, studying horsemanship, then in Catalonia, and, later, in Andalusia where I was an equestrian guide. When the person running the restaurant dropped the project, the Alqueva lake was starting. We bought the first boat for tours and later I took over managing the restaurant.
Sem-Fim is the name of the screw that, at the press, carries the olives to the churner where they become olive oil. That room is now our art gallery.
I always liked parties, having fun, being around people and, furthermore, I love cooking and hearing “wow that was really good!” That’s the fascinating part of this job. I try to always source products from local producers because I believe the secret to a good cuisine is in the ingredients and the skills of the cook. In our case, one of the cooks is experienced, and the other one has what I call the old knowledge. That’s something you feel. It’s not robot-like. The menu changes according to what’s available at the market and the seasons. After all, our bodies ask for seasonal products, like gazpachos in the Summer and baked beans in the Winter…
A romantic trip, a break from the daily stress to relax, or wanting to know the lake of Alqueva and its shore from a different perspective and rhythm. There is more than one reason for a trip aboard the Sem-Fim. And they’re all good reasons!
A travelled Alentejo
In addition to peace, tranquillity, and quiet, Monsaraz has the biggest artificial lake and the darkest sky in Europe, perfect for gazing at the stars. It’s not a coincidence that it was chosen as a Dark Sky Reservation.
Alqueva is now the largest artificial lake in Europe. You can explore it with us on the boat, on trips that can last from 45 minutes to two-day expeditions.
It’s a region with a lot to explore. Those who visit us can give a try at pottery in São Pedro do Corval, and you can even come and help make wine! At Sem-Fim we’ve organised cooking workshops before and, in addition to the towns and the villages, there are megalithic landmarks linked with the stars and the planets. You’ll have a hard time choosing.
When travelling in Monsaraz, if you look closely you’ll find several traces of Muslim influence in the peninsula. Like the old tank that people say used to be a mosque or the Moorish-influenced cubic shape of the São João Batista chapel.