The women in the kitchen are Vermelhudo’s secret: my mother Maria Fernanda, Zezinha, and Verónica. Zezinha follows her mother’s recipes and my mother has always been a skilled cook. They both bring the old-time influences into the present, and that’s the highlight of their well-seasoned food, cooked with love. Verónica learned from them and is excellent at sweets and desserts.
I’m from Pedrógão do Alentejo and Guadiana marks my life story. In the old days, people lived off fishing, women would go down to the river to do the laundry, and I remember tagging along with my mother to help her and play on the river bank. I also associate the river with hot summers because it was the only place where we could cool off.
On top of that, the river is connected to a famous local dish, Caldo de Peixe do Rio Guadiana (soup with fish from Guadiana River). This dish is cooked with bass and barbel. It’s mostly the barbel that gives the dish flavour, but the essence is in the soaked bread seasoned with onions, tomatoes, pennyroyal, and mint that grows near the water. Herbs, fish from Guadiana River, lamb, and black pork are the star ingredients of Vernelhudo’s cuisine.
When in Moura, if you’re walking in the street and overhear someone singing a local song (“moda”), stop and head inside, because these songs are Alentejo’s people souls. Furthermore, of course, you have to know Vermelhudo: a restaurant with soul, History, and typical Alentejo food, where we take our mission to preserve the taste and the knowledge of Alentejo very seriously.
Our story began at Pedrógão do Alentejo, at a time I didn’t dream of running a restaurant. Nowadays, I know that is my mission.
Our story and mission
The first Vermelhudo restaurant opened in Pedrógão do Alentejo and belonged to my parents. At the time, after they built the Pedrógão dam, my parents started to have more customers, and I went there to help them, but I wasn’t planning on making a living in the restaurant business. Then in 2008, my father passed unexpectedly, and me, my mother, and my sisters decided to rent out the restaurant. When I became unemployed in 2010, I decided to take back the restaurant but with an entirely different concept. I came to visit the current location in 2013, and I thought it was the perfect place for a nice restaurant, so we reopened the Vermelhudo here in Moura.
Guadiana is always present: in the dishes we serve, in the herbs we use as a seasoning, and in the many photographs that tell our story and our region’s.
The establishment is a way to honour my father, Joaquim Vermelhudo. The poems you can find everywhere at the restaurant tell the restaurant's story and our family’s. The photographs are of people that were very important to me: my father, my grandmother, my great-uncle who was a fisherman in the river… Every day I walk in here I feel I’m part of this place. I feel good, and I know there’s always something to be done. Our clients connect with the place because they know they’ll eat well here. It’s important to me that our clients feel welcomed, that they see a bit of our story and allow us to know a bit of theirs too.
Guardian of knowledge and flavours
You can’t talk about Moura without talking about Barca. Barca was a place on the Guadiana River, three kilometres from here, with water mills. Moura’s locals went there a lot to fish or swim when it was hot. It was probably one of the few places where people could have fun in their free time and escape the monotony of their daily routines. Now that the river is a spot for extreme sports, things are different. Moura and Pedrógão do Alentejo have grown a lot in the past ten years, primarily because of the dam.
Nearby, just a few streets away, you can visit Moura’s Moorish quarters. It’s the oldest part of the city and the biggest and best preserved Moorish quarters in the country.
Some things remain the same, though, and I’m glad! Herbs, fish from the Guadiana River, lamb, and black pork are Vermelhudo’s cuisine star ingredients, and they’re all sourced in the area. We also source the free-range chicken here to make “cabidela” (a stew made with chicken organs and blood) which, according to the tradition in Moura, is made with potatoes.
Typical Alentejo songs are still a tradition in Moura. They begin spontaneously every time a group of friends gets together. To me, it’s one of the most beautiful things in our hometown, and that’s why I always say that if you overhear them, you should stop to listen and enjoy the moment.