By Imogen Lepere
As with many things in Mindelo – the cultural capital of Cape Verde – the food scene tells the story of this intriguing island’s checkered past. Uninhabited until the Portuguese arrived in the late 15th-century and then a port where enslaved people from across Africa were trafficked before being sent to destinations across the North Atlantic, it even had a brief stint under British rule in the 1800’s.
Despite its remote location some 500-miles west of Senegal, it remains somewhere travellers from around the world mingle. Of a morning, the air of Praca Estrela is thick with the shouts of vendors selling mangos and the deeply savoury smell of cachupa (leftover bean and meat stew refried on a hot skillet and served with chorizo and an egg). Next to the marina on Avenue Marginal, Mercado De Peixe is a hive of activity as fishermen haul fresh tuna, grouper and swordfish off their boats, where they are descaled in seconds by nimble-fingered women. In the heart of town, locals enjoy earthy espresso and pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) before work. And at any time of day, the smell of fresh fish sizzling over an open grill and sound of morna music blasting from an outdoor stereo is never far away…
Call ahead to book a table at this authentic spot overlooking the Palacia de Povo (colloquially known as ‘the pink palace’) in the centre of town. With its simple decor and open kitchen it has all the warmth and friendliness of a private home. Owner Lydia takes great pride in her flavourful fish and meat dishes, generally served with rice and root vegetables. There’s typically only around 2-3 things on the menu but all are reliably excellent.
Rua Fernando Ferreira Fortes 12.
The glass cabinet at this Portuguese pastry shop is always groaning with flaky croissant, pastel de nata, donuts, cookies and fresh bread. It’s a favourite with locals before and after work as its pastel-painted doors open early and remain so until 10PM every night of the week. During the day, decent wifi and whirring ceiling fans make it the perfect place to catch up on some emails.
Avenida Baltasar Lopes da Silva 21A.
There’s always a cool breeze fluttering the net curtains of this cute cafe on the second floor of the Municipal Market. It’s popular with a local, arty crowd as reflected by wooden crates filled with vegetarian cookbooks and handmade cups, as well as tourists making the most of the wifi. Mostly vegetarian menus include the likes of salads and tuna burgers, as well piquant tamarind juice and home-roasted coffee from Fogo island.
Rua da Luz-Mercado Municipal.
Marina Mindelo Bar
The fish croquettes and grogue (sugarcane rum) caipirinhas at this al fresco bar are good, but the real draw is watching the sun sink behind the distant mountains of the neighbouring island of Santo Antao as a live coladeira-zouk band fills the air with sultry melodies. Located on a floating pontoon overlooking the marina, it is understandably a favourite with sailors looking for a last knees up before crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean.
Cais Alfandega Velha.
Mochin De Monte
A vital part of daily life for everyone from vegetable traders to school children, the kiosk in the middle of Praca Estrela is sewn into the very fabric of the city. All four restaurants serve well-priced versions of classics such as cachupa, feijoada or lentil stew alongside fresh mango juice and addictive mini donuts rolled in strands of coconut. There’s little difference between the four but Mochin Do Monte just wins on friendliness as it’s run by an elderly couple who make a point of knowing all their regulars by name.
There is much to explore in Cape Verde – each of the 9 islands has its own flavour and they are surprisingly different. The food is not complicated and tends to be a fusion of Portuguese and west coast African (rice, fish, meat, pulses, veg, eggs and fruit) – The coffee is also good!
Please call or email us, if you’d like to find out more or plan an island hopping trip to Cape Verde – As nobody knows Cape Verde like Archipelago Choice
To find out more email either Jake or Max
Call: 01768 721030
Imogen, Max and Jake
Recommended small travel company!
Great little company with friendly staff. Organisation of flights & accommodation very efficient. When problems arise they are helpful and very reasonable in their efforts to resolve them. We would definitely use them again for a return trip
A wonderful break in a beautiful environment
Every thing was excellent. The information and organisation, the hotel and the island itself all exceeded our expectations. Whale watching and other trips out, fantastic. We will book again!
Great honeymoon package and experience
They provided a great package at a good price. We found them to be helpful and a quality service was provided.
Brilliant holiday organised by an excellent company
Friendly, helpful, professional and completely geared to us as individuals.
Perfecte organisatie variatie in de wandelingen en tijd en oog voor wat er …
Perfecte organisatie. Variatie in de wandelingen en tijd en oog voor wat er op de eilanden te zien is een aantal schitterende hotels geweldige gids leuk klein groepje