Il Gallo D’Oro
Set in the five-star Cliff Bay Hotel, this is possibly Funchal’s – if not Madeira’s – best-known splashy-chic restaurant (be warned: there’s a dress code). It's largely thanks to chef Benoît Sinthon’s modern riffs on Madeiran cooking, which have earned Il Gallo D'Oro two Michelin stars. The changing menu might include sea-bream ceviche with passion fruit or king-crab gazpacho, elevated to high art on the plates. Not cheap, but you’d pay way more for this in a big city.
Estrada Monumental 147, Funchal
For some of the best seafood in Funchal, this dependably pleasing pillar of the capital’s restaurant scene is pretty hard to beat. Expect warm, arms-out-wide service as well as generous portions of consistently well-cooked frutos do mar, like traditional shrimp-clam cataplana or the house special, hot-stone steak or fish served a la sizzle at the table. Book ahead for the outdoor tables.
Rua Ponta da Cruz 18, Funchal
Restaurante Do Forte
If the tiny tweezer food of Il Gallo D’Oro isn’t your thing but you still want something fancy-ish, this reassuringly popular seasider set in a 17th-century fortress comes with pleasing coastal views and is still worth one of your better outfits. Expect well-presented but still weighty international dishes such as octopus carpaccio or smoked codfish ravioli.
Santiago Menor 14, Funchal
For classic, made-in-Madeira hospitality and homespun seafood dishes, this unassuming, reliably buzzy mini-bistro with highly coveted outdoor tables at the end of Santa Maria Street has it covered. Its no-fuss fish dishes go down very well, like the grilled, garlic-butter lapas (limpets, a clam-like mussel), deep-fried espada à camarão (scabbard nuggets) or vinegar-octopus salad. Everything pairs ridiculously well with a glass of chilled white wine. Highly recommended.
Rua Bela São Tiago 137, Funchal
Restaurante Armazém do Sal
Set in a 200-year-old building (a former salt store, it turns out), this is broadly considered Funchal’s best restaurant and not unfairly. The food is unshowy but excellent – dishes like octopus a lagareiro (served oven-baked with potatoes) and snapper ceviche with fried banana show flair without being finicky. A five-course 'extra value' tasting menu at €35 is a steal. Book well ahead.
Rua da Alfândega 135, Funchal
Quinta do Furão
Just outside the small village of Santana, this is by far the most road trip-worthy restaurant on Madeira’s stunning north coast (around 40 minutes from downtown Funchal): part of a hotel, it’s surrounded by vineyards, has soul-affirming sea views and does comfortingly country-rustic Madeira dishes, such as Caldeirão Verde-style beef tenderloin wrapped in Roqueforte and puff pastry. A bigger-than-average cellar means this is a good place to sample Madeira wine.
Estrada Quinta do Furão 6, Santana
Bang in the centre of Câmara de Lobos, a sleepy but worthwhile fishing town on Madeira’s south coast, this cool, minimal-chic newcomer has begun to lure locals from nearby Funchal for its consistently ace and fairly priced route to classic Portugueuse cooking. The menu consists of hefty, come-hungry dishes like polvo guisado (octopus stew) served alongside perfectly baked bolo do caco (circular flat bread). If you can only do one out-of-town meal…
Rua São João de Deus 10, Câmara de Lobos
Rubi’s Snack Bar
For a can’t-go-wrong, made-in-Madeira cheap eat in downtown Funchal, this avowedly unpretentious and inexpensive bistro isn’t much of a looker, but does classic Portuguese dishes at seriously down-to-earth prices with zero compromise on quality. Just about everything is done brilliantly here, but the polvo guisado (octopus stew) wins hearts every time. Prepare to be smitten: repeat visits are not uncommon.
Rua Nova do Vale da Ajuda 14
Set on a cobbled backstreet of Funchal’s Zona Velha, this chic-but-cheerful restaurant is worth booking ahead for as it’s permanently in vogue with both Madeira’s in-the-know second-timers and seafood-loving locals. Both come for the high-grade assortment of fresh-as-it-gets frutos do mar like roasted polvo à lagareiro (octopus with potatoes) or local speciality espada com banana (banana fritters). Which is definitely better than it sounds.
Rua de Santa Maria 131, Funchal
Convento das Vinhas
Wow, those views: set back from the island’s rugged south coast just above Calheta, this is the area’s best seafood specialist and does no-fuss, piled-high portions of local favourites, including lemon-garlic lapas (limpets) and the hard-to-find Madeira speciality of ovas de espada (deep-fried scabbard fish roe). Skip dessert and head to the cliff-edged cafe at nearby Mudas Contemporary Art Museum for decent coffee and more dreamy sightings of the sea.
Lombo Do Doutor