I am lucky enough to have an other half of Portuguese-South African descent. He also happens to be a hardcore foodie like myself, which inevitably means a dark and sticky end as the poster-couple on a freaky Panorama docu-tragedy on “feeders”. Every once in a while we jaunt off to Portugal – Quarteira to be exact, in the Algarve – to be fattened up by his mother and make offerings to the Gods of boozy, gluttonous holidays at Bem Bom. Meaning “Very Good” (tongue-in-cheek understatement?) Bem Bom is a family-run rodizio and picanha restaurant doubling as a gushingly saliva-inducing Barbarian temple to skewered meats.
There is apparently a menu at Bom Bem, but so far I have ignored it in favour of others ordering for me, the hallowed rodizio. For those unfamiliar with the concept, it is a eat-all-you-can procession of grilled meats on skewers, carved in slivers directly onto your plate, with accompanying sides. The meat at Bom Bem seems produced in a silk butter factory; beef from Argentina, Portuguese chicken, fatty and velvety Porco preto (black pig).
For rodizio in London you’ll pay an eye-watering price for a lame approximation involving tough meat cuts and a “divided by body-type” pub wine menu. In debt-ridden, recession crippled Portugal, rodizio means €15 a head for a veritable “Carnival des Animaux”: Pork “breast” – maminha, picanha (rump cap of beef), tiny chicken hearts – salty, metalic and sublimely chewy, delicate ribs, fiery piri-piri sausages, plump, oozing fillet the colour of claret… on and on until you weep for the motherland… Plonk is rich, at once jammy and acidic and made by someone’s uncle on a Algarve hillside, served in a carafe and better than you dreamt.
Sides to the fatty, mouth-watering meats are char-grilled pineapple, fluffy rice, grilled plantain and farofa – a toasted manioc floury mixture that you sprinkle over my favourite : feijão preto of pungeant black beans stew.
If you suffer from the disease of “medium rare” – don’t come here. The entire affair is red, raw, bloody and carnal. And I must be nearing some kind of Valentine’s Day 50-shades of media overdose to even come up with crap like that, but trust me, Bem Bom is a vegetarian’s Hades.
For digestion, copious Cardhu single malt can be obtained. A rarity in an area where William Lawson is treated with the same sort of reverence eye-linerered Egyptian slaves once accorded Tutankhamun.
Expect a proper Portuguese vibe, with nary a tourist bar the odd, bewildered golf-player lost on their way to Quinta do Lago resort. Meat lovers. Get thee to Quarteira.
Bem Bom is 10 minutes drive from Vilamoura, Algarve, Portugal.