Well hello, there fellow foodies!
I’ve been asked by the lovely folk at Ericeira Living to give my take on a simple question. What’s going on with the food scene in Ericeira?
I’ll start by saying that since coming here as a teenager on my first-ever surf trip with friends many years ago, a lot has changed in this picturesque fishing town. My friends and I found some info on this particular town in Stormrider Surf Guide Europe. We loaded up the van and made the drive from Cornwall, UK.
If you want to understand today, let’s look at yesterday
But even before we and a handful of others started venturing here to surf all those years ago, Ericeira was already welcoming a loyal and longstanding fanbase. Fans who visited regularly to enjoy a spot of sunbathing on one of the many stunning beaches, which happened to include Royalty, with the Queen, Maria Pia of Savoy and the Royal Family swinging in regularly during the 1800s.
However, it wasn’t always wealthy Lisobonites populating the area, escaping the bustling city in exchange for golden sands between their toes and salty sea air on their brows. This little hot spot has been thriving since (bare with me, I’ll get to the point) Dom Frei Fernão Rodrigues Monteiro instituted Ericeira as a county with records showing its history going back to around 1000 BC. In 1229, Dom grated the first charter from the port and this charter is where we see the first recorded glimpse of the towns longest-standing backbone. The fishermen.
Ericeira’s food scene is entwined with the ocean
It’s these fishermen, and the abundant fresh seafood they brought to shore each day, that created the first real ‘foodie’ scene on these shores. The town became popular with the wealthy flocking here, wanting a taste of the good stuff. One ‘speciality’ item that hit the spot then and continues to be very popular today is a delicacy called Ouriço (sea urchin). This spiky little critter is in abundance along the rugged coastline and has been described as foie gras of the sea. I would certainly agree!
Fresh fish and seafood are still very much the beating heart of the local food scene
Fast forward to the present day, and for those wanting an authentic taste of Ericeiras traditional foodie offering, I’m happy to say it is still as popular as ever!
There’s certainly no lack of places to eat, that’s for sure. Ericeira has a wealth of reputable restaurants, quaint cafes and bustling bars sprayed from the golden sands of Sao Juliao to the south up to beautiful Ribamar just north of the scenic seaside town.
As you’d expect from a fishing port that has been held in such high regard for so long, seafood is still being championed on menus throughout the Ericeira. There are several spots in town, popular with both locals and visitors, that deliver stunning fresh seafood day after day. A personal favourite of mine is Brisa, give it a go if you have the chance!
The new wave of foodies brings diversity to town
Ok, let’s talk about the new kids on the block. Popular as the classic ‘taste of Portugal’ is, and always will be, Ericeira has begun to show signs of new food and drink offerings, that have gradually begun to pop up here and there and everyhere. And it’s a rather exciting thing to behold!
As you probably know, the coastline here is famed for an unimaginable array of world-class surf spots. Anyone whos ever looked into the best surfing locations in the world will have heard of Ericeira. This span is of coastline and its waves are so extraordinary it’s been given protection by the World Surf Reserve Program. The program proactively identifies, designates and enshrines international waves, surf zones and surrounding environments, protecting them from the threat of development. Read our blog post on The Guardian of the Surf Reserve.
All the positive starlight being sprinkled over Ericeira and its pumping waves has shed a huge amount of limelight on the town in recent years. Naturally, this has grabbed the attention of a new wave of foodies who arrive in abundance year after year. Who are they? well, of course, it’s wave-hungry, scraggly-haired surfing fanatics, travelling from all corners of the globe, eager to taste Ericeira’s honey pot and bringing with it, a market for variety.
Veggie, Vegan, and diet-friendly food incoming!
This influx of surfers has brought with it the lifestyle we all love! A massive part of the lifestyle associated with the surfing scene is health and well-being. This means that as more and more visitors from far away places landed in Ericeira, a natural expansion of food and drink offerings began to appear, stemming from a demand for international tastes, consuming healthier foods, offering a broader variety and a currently exploding gastronomy scene across Portugal.
One interesting shift in food here is the emphasis on a healthy way to eat which tends to come with any sports culture. Vegan and veggie options are now a little more the norm, which is great, because, in my experience, this way of eating in Portugal isn’t as well-versed as in some other countries.
Diversifying the food scene? International flavours and experimental foods have come to stay
Not only are more specific diet-friendly food choices being offered, but an excellent selection of International cuisines has made Ericeira home. Taking advantage of the new crowd in town you’ll find all sorts, including pizza and pasta, Mexican, tapas, Argentinian and Indian alternatives, keeping people’s bellies happy and full! Then there are places like Capsule and Costa Fria which are taking it up a notch and showcasing unique fusion food concepts, pop-up events and incredible beverages to match. Talking of drinks, craft beer is also making moves in town. We have a couple of amazing artisan beer makers in town with Mean Sardine being my absolute favourite!
Too many cooks DO NOT spoil a broth!
It’s also worth mentioning the talent this newly developed scene has welcomed. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and becoming friends with many like-minded food fanatics while living here. All with their own taste for bringing people together using the medium of food. It’s magic! Private cooking, wild feasts, pop-ups, parties, food markets, cooking workshops, collaborations, speciality coffee and incredible wine muse this community together. It’s a truly remarkable thing that’s happening!
“All this exciting culinary activity going on got me hungry to do something too”
There seems to be no sign of the food scene shift slowing down, with new ideas and concepts appearing on the regular. All this exciting culinary activity going on got me hungry to do something myself. Two close friends and I had talked (more like groaned) for some time about a particular cuisine we truly missed and that we thought would definitely take off in Ericeira. That cuisine was a taste of Asia on a street food level. We decided to join forces and go for it!
Oh hello there Beer n Bao!
Why Beer n Bao?
Why Beer n Bao? Well, it’s simple really. As a keen cook, over the years I’ve grown a deep passion for exploring and eating delicious Asian food. For me, the powerful flavour combinations, simplicity and variety of unique ingredients keep Asian cooking fresh and exciting. We wanted to explore a business model where the food was street food simple with maximum flavour explosion! Bao buns matched the brief so well and were a perfect fit for our street food style concept.
Then there’s craft beer. Being an Englishman (don’t hold it against me), I’ve grown up socialising the only way we Brits know how. In the pub. From as soon as I could get served in the local brew house, I’ve been staying true to my cultural roots and quenching my thirst, sipping tasty craft beers and each time with varying wobbly outcomes.
These two things seem to be hard to come by in and around Ericeira! Over the three years living here, too often I’ve craved something of Asian influence when hungry and longed to enjoy some unique beer with ZANG! And trust me… I am not the only one!
The aim is very simple. Bring the two together and give the people what they want! Portugal has truly amazing craft beer producers which I want to bring to the table here in Ericeira and showcase alongside a truly tasty Asian ‘grab and go’ foodie option in the form of mouth-watering bao buns stuffed with flavour and texture!
It’s a match made in heaven, and I know you will all think so too!
Bear n Bao will be back in business in March and we look forward to seeing you there.
Follow us @beernbao
Follow me @jamie_osborne