A 15 to 20 minute drive from the centre of Villamoura, Oliveira Dourada is contained in what feels like a friend's house in the quiet serenity of the countryside. Decorated creatively and softly lit by candles, it was a unique dining experience. We arrived on a Tuesday night only to be told that they were fully booked - so remember to book in advance. We made a reservation for the following night and before we left, the chef and owner José gave us a menu to take with us and marked off which menu items would be available. He mentioned that if we wanted to have something else listed on the menu to ring him in the morning and that he would go and get it for us. Many of the items were influenced by the cooking of former Portuguese colonies in Africa which made for an interesting and welcome change. Having experienced the relaxed atmosphere of the restaurant and how personable and passionate José was about his menu and the sourcing of his ingredients, we knew we would be in for a real treat. When we arrived for our reservation, José appeared at our table and talked us slowly through the menu and paid great attention to the details of his dishes. We decided on the Cataplanas and were advised that one order of this dish would be sufficient for us both as a main course. We asked to see a wine menu and were informed that there was a single choice for both red and white. We chose a bottle of the white and were very impressed. You can agree to spend a small sum of money on a selection of starters which are chosen at José's discretion - the variety and quality of these delicious little bites which were delivered consistently to our table was excellent with the surprise element making the experience all the more enjoyable. Our main course was indeed enough for us both and like the starters before it, it was also excellent and lovingly prepared with the freshest of ingredients. Dessert was complementary and consisted of fresh fruit and a lemon scented whipped cream - it was heavenly. We were kindly offered a digestif by José and as the evening had by then winded down for the staff, we had a lovely chat with him and his partner. It was a truly memorable experience and everything we would have wanted for a special evening meal - great food served at a reasonable price by friendly and passionate people in beautiful and relaxed surroundings.
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