At my mother’s house, on Sundays, it was also customary to boil chicken and make a chicken soup with the broth. The difference between that and the one we make here at O Espalha Brasas is that we shred ours instead of cooking it in one piece… Then we’d sauté the chicken to get that vinegar taste.
Before coming to work here, I worked at a doctor’s practice and I didn’t even know how to fry an egg! I came to help when Dinis, my husband, decided to take over the restaurant. At the time, Ms Teresa, one of the employees, helped me out. Today I’m in charge of the kitchen!
Amongst other things, this place was already famous for the tomato soup, and our tomato soup is really different from all others. We blend it in the end, but we still have the same sides like fried “morcela” (blood sausage), “linguíça” (a local sausage), and bacon, and a poached egg.
In our restaurant, like in the Alentejo cuisine in general, olive oil and herbs are essential. Pennyroyal and coriander and other local herbs are wildly used in dishes made with beans. We always source high-quality ingredients from local producers to our restaurant. I invite you to come and try our delicacies like roasted chicken and rabbit stew. You’ll have a wonderful day.
Even though I only learned to really cook when I came to O Espalha Brasas, these days I truly enjoy cooking. When we travel, I want to know the restaurants in the area, how they cook, and I even research in advance!
Our story and mission
O Espalha Brasas was already an established restaurant when my husband, Dinis, who’s from Alcaraviça, decided to take over the business when the original owners wanted out because of their old age. That was 12 years ago… A sort of joke that became very serious. When we started, all we had was the original building, with the grocery store. Then we began to expand. This was a popular traditional business. It began as a tavern and a grocery store, and this also used to be the place where mail was delivered. When we got a hold of it, it was already a restaurant but in urgent need of repairs and renovation. Dinis has done most of the work, renovating and decorating the space. Not only does he love antiques, but he also likes to create new pieces and restore the old ones.
On the walls of O Espalha Brasas, there’s a little of the Alcaraviça community and neighbouring places. Not only on the old photos that Dinis framed, but also in some of the old farming tools that local clients gifted us.
We grew the restaurant and the kitchen as we needed, but for now, we stopped because, although there are times when we could use more space, we reached a point we have to put it on hold otherwise it becomes too much for us to handle. We have a small vegetable garden next door that’s managed by my husband and my father-in-law. We have a bit of everything there: lettuces, onions, garlic, fava beans, peas, cabbages, strawberries. The laying hens we have in the garden provide us with most of the eggs we use in our desserts and the tomato soup. Above all, we want people to feel good here, and we want our dishes to be as tasty as possible.
I’m from Borba, but I always lived in the countryside. Growing up, my father was a shepherd, and my mother stayed at home taking care of me. At the time, we lived in an Alentejo “monte”, and I played a lot around. Maybe because I’ve always lived here, I don’t think I could live in Lisbon. It’s very stressful, and everyone is running around all the time. I’m always busy here, and everything is planned and scheduled. In Lisbon, I think life would be unbearable. I only like to travel there.
Wine is one of the best assets of this region, and the Adega de Borba is a must-visit place.
Usually, the restaurant is always open, and we don’t have much time off. But when we do take a Sunday off, we travel. Recently I visited Costa Alentejana. In Borba, there’s Montes Claros, an old battleground, and Fonte das Bicas. Furthermore, Elvas and Vila Viçosa are also close by, and they’re beautiful cities to visit.
Padrão dos Montes Claros is nearby, a landmark at the place where, in 1665, there was a battle stopping the Spanish troops from taking over Vila Viçosa.