If we’d bothered to read the website of the Restaurante do Forte beforehand, we might have realised that the immaculately restored maroon and cream VW camper van waiting outside our hotel, was our transport. Instead, we all piled into the mini bus we’d been using all week, got belted up and was then told by Sandra our guide, that they’d been a problem. We all assumed a problem with our booking, only for her to say ‘surprise, you’ve going in the camper van’.
As a group we were one of the restaurants specially designed Golden Package which includes a pick-up in vintage transport. It’s a shame there was so many of us as we could have been in a 1959 iconic Rolls Royce Silver Could II. This would have been appropriate in that it was the year I was born, instead the camper van was called ‘old timer’. Perhaps even more apt!
Driving through the streets of Funchal we, or should I say the camper van, attracted lots of attention and by the time we arrived at the restaurant, a yellow fort high on a cliff, we felt quite the celebrity. Especially as we were escorted on to a huge, open-air São Tiago Fortress Terrace with terrific views of a menacing sky with a glass of madeira in hand.
Back in the restaurant, built in 1641, we had a specially selected menu and our table for eight was beautifully set with gleaming glassware and cutlery and adorned with fresh flowers.
We nibbled on white or brown olive bread with oil and balsamic vinegar whilst the Portuguese Verdicchio was poured. The starter of prawns marinated in citrus juice and pink pepper was served with roasted apple and a black olive crisp. Our main course, dourada fish roasted in thyme butter and stuffed with dehydrated crispy smoke sausages, was accompanied by steamed greens and crispy leek. Both were absolutely delicious but we still had room for the ‘trilogy of tropical flavours with ice cream before rounding the meal of with coffee and petit fours.
The regular Golden Package includes a 3 course meal from à la carte menu and house wines plus pick up in vintage Rolls Royce and drink on the São Tiago Fortress Terrace and is priced €75pp – if you celebrating a special birthday or anniversary, I suspect it’s just the right place.