Arte Náutica - The styliest of beach restaurants
At the eastern end of Armação de Pêra beach stands a wooden restaurant by the sea. There, the sea breeze has been scented by an aromatic and legendary prawn curry for more than 13 years. I can't be sure if it is the velvety coconut milk, the texture of the sauce thickened with finely chopped onions and other vegetables, the pink firmness of the prawns, the vibrant freshness of the coriander or the blend of fragrant spices that lend a unique personality to this speciality.
Certainly, more than any ingredient, the secret lies in the trained hands of Dona Ofélia, the chef who adds emotion and a pinch of tradition of her Goan and Mozambican roots to prepare the curry.
To the naked eye, it would look like we're walking into a simple beach restaurant. The building is the same as so many others, decked out in wood at the end of a wooden boardwalk that encircles the beach. However, the interior décor, which blends typical sea-related elements and the refinement of the glassed terrace, indicates that we are in fact in a chic beach restaurant.
Here you will find no plastic chairs or paper tablecloths. We are in a pseudo-cabana with crystal glasses, porcelain crockery, ironed serviettes, and hands and eyes that have been trained by the five stars of the luxury VILA VITA Parc resort.
At Arte Náutica, as is to be expected, Atlantic culinary specialities dominate the menu: wild fish, shellfish and stews that are rich in flavour. Amongst the starters you can choose from the clams “Bulhão Pato” style, Provençal-style lingueirão (razor clams), or the grilled carabineiros (scarlet prawns) or tiger prawns, among other delicacies.
Options for the main course include the freshest line-caught fish, and specialities such as monkfish rice, the traditional Portuguese cataplana stew, the massa de peixe (a fish pasta dish), açorda (a traditional bread-based soup) and, of course, the legendary prawn curry. The wine department is well stocked, considering we are at a beach restaurant.
Alongside the excellent labels from north to south of Portugal we can also find a variety of wines from the VILA VITA group's own country estates: from the Alentejo wines of Herdade dos Grous to the refreshing German Riesling from Am Nil.