Brazilian spirit in the Alentejo

on Aug 1, 2015 in Automatic Pilot | No Comments

In Estremoz, there’s a restaurant that also doubles as a grocer’s and wine shop. Young and bold, this is a breath of fresh air on the Alentejo plain.

Michele Marques por/by Paulo Barata

When Michele Marques moved to Lisbon in 2005, after dropping out of a journalism degree in Brazil, she could have hardly imagined that she would find herself in Estremoz running a successful restaurant just ten years later. Occasional work led her to the Alentejo and affairs of the heart saw her marry and make the region her home. In 2009, with a partner and her husband, she decided to open a grocer’s, which distributed foodstuffs and had various people at the warehouse interested in its gourmet wares.

“We won people over with a polite and friendly approach”, says Michele, referring to the way she was welcomed in the region. She eventually started serving petiscos in the shop, however, this woman from Petrópolis, who had always enjoyed cooking, felt she needed to know more about the profession. First, she went to Italy to learn certain techniques. When she returned, she realised that it wasn’t enough and signed up at the Portalegre Hotel and TourismCollege. In 2013, after completing her course, she decided to open the restaurant part of the business, creating employment not only for herself, but for two classmates, Alberto and Helena, who embarked on the adventure with her. Together, they made up the core of the young and dynamic team of Mercearia Gadanha, which, in addition to the shop selling gourmet produce and wines, is one of the region’s top restaurants.

Prawn and spinach gratin, farinheira sausage with eggs and pureed greens, partridge pastry and cod and cured ham mille-feuille are just some of Michele Marques’ dishes, well-presented comfort food inspired by the Alentejo but also a starting point for discovering the world. “I try to do something different, because it’s not worth just doing the same”, confesses Michele, aware of making an impression in a region with many top-drawer eateries. We talk in a dining room decorated with rustic and modern furniture. Michele has finished lunch service and is visibly tired. However, before we leave, she lets slip a wish for the near future: “to do some training in the Basque Country”. This new Alentejana certainly doesn’t lack ambition.

Largo Dragões de Olivença 84, Estremoz \\\ +351 268 333 262

texto Miguel Pires foto Paulo Barata

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