Nestled off the north west coast of Africa, the sub-tropical Portuguese island of Madeira boasts stunning vistas and plenty of restaurants serving vegan food, as Richard Webber discovered...
The tiny Atlantic island of Madeira has seduced Brits for decades – and it’s easy to see why. A sub-tropical isle, it enjoys a favourable climate year-round with bags of sunshine and boasts stunning vistas.
Dubbed the “Floating Garden in the Atlantic”, it’s awash with colour, including a rocky coastline fringed by ever-flowering bougainvillea, hibiscus and poinsettia, giving way to a mountainous landscape with towering peaks.
When it comes to finding cafés and restaurants offering plant-based dishes, the good news is that an increasing number are providing vegan menus or, at the very least, plant-based options. It’s worth noting, however, that most of these eateries are located in Funchal, the capital city.
Where to find vegan food in Madeira
1. Mundo Vegan
Opened in 2019, this cosy cafe-cum-restaurant is, seemingly, Madeira’s only 100% vegan eatery. After struggling to find vegan food when eating out, the owner decided to open her own business with a fully vegan menu.
You can choose to eat on the terrace and soak up the sun, or inside where you can enjoy the fresh, nature-influenced décor.
All of the food at Mundo Vegan – and there is a wide selection – is made from scratch on the premises. Mains include creamy lentils with curry, spinach, pumpkin and almonds (€12.50) or homemade burgers from €12.
Rua Velha da Ajuda 2, Funchal | Tel: 00351 962 328299 | Open: Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri & Sat: 12.30-5pm, 6.30pm-10pm. Closed Wed & Sun | Insta: @mundo_vegan1
Bioforma has been taking care of the Portuguese people for over three decades. Located in one of Funchal’s tight city centre streets, close to the cathedral, you’ll find a health store upstairs and the café below.
The soup of the day, which is occasionally vegan, is reasonably priced at €2.
Rua Queimada Cima 31, Funchal | Tel: 00351 291 229262 | Open: Mon-Sat: 9am-7pm | bioforma.pt
3. Fala Fala
Tucked away off one of Funchal’s city centre streets, Fala Fala provides both outdoor and indoor seating with a menu inspired by the Polish owner’s travels.
Almost entirely vegan, lunch and dinner menus are available, and I’d recommend trying the falafel tortillas (€8.50) or vegan burger with fries (€10). To finish, enjoy a slice of the vegan cake of the day with vegan vanilla ice cream is €5.
Arcadas Sao Francisco 18, Funchal | Tel: 00351 291 652365 | Open: Mon-Fri 11.30am-6.30pm; dinner available on Fridays until 10pm | Insta: @falafala.madeira
4. Armazem Do Sol
Located inside a former salt warehouse in the centre of Funchal, this attractive restaurant with its wooden beams and stone walls has a small dedicated vegan menu.
When I visited, the three main dishes were soya moussaka with roasted aubergine comfit and tomatoes (€14), lentil salad with roasted veg (€12) and barley salad with caramelised baby veg, dried tomato petals and sprouts (€15).
Rua da Alfandega 135 | Tel: 00351 291 241285 | Open: Mon-Fri 12-3pm, 6.30-11pm; Sat & Sun 6.30-11pm | armazemdosol.com
5. Recharge Bar & Restaurant
Part of the Savoy Signature’s NEXT hotel, Recharge is a relaxed, contemporary restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner inspired by the vibrant islands of Hawaii where you can enjoy fine views across the pool to the sea.
Opened in 2021, its dedicated vegan menu includes dishes such as vegan burger (€9.50), quinoa poke bowl, edamame beans, avocado, onion and mango (€11) and a salad containing avocado, tofu, tomato, seeds and aduki beans (€11).
Rua Carvalho Araujo 8 | Tel: 00351 291 205700 | Open: All week, 9am-10.30pm | hotelnext.pt
You can’t visit Madeira without enjoying a delicious vegan afternoon tea at Reid’s, the iconic hotel where Winston Churchill regularly stayed. Served on the terrace overlooking Funchal Bay, it’s very popular so booking is essential, at which time make sure you request the vegan option.
At Reid’s you’ll be served delicious scones, sandwiches, cakes, and 24 different varieties of tea, all with first-class service and a spectacular view – what more could you ask for? Note: a dress code applies so check the website for details.
Estrada Monumental 139 | Tel: 00351 291 717171 | Open: Afternoon tea available daily 3-4.30pm | belmond.com
7. Il Basilico
Situated in Funchal’s popular Lido, this attractively decorated Italian restaurant has indoor and outdoor seating. While the menu doesn’t contain myriad vegan dishes, what they do offer is delicious.
Try a wheat-based pasta dish (starting at €14) or, like me, a tasty pizza with vegan cheese (made from tofu) and toppings of cherry tomatoes and asparagus (€13.90).
Rua de Leichlingen 9 | Tel: 00351 291 708708 | Open: All week, 12.30-3pm, 6.30pm-10pm | portobay.com
8. Faja Dos Padres Restaurant
Relaxing by the ocean under the shade of palm trees, this ultra-relaxed eatery is a must. Although just a handful of vegan options are available, the food was particularly fresh and delicious, largely because most of the fruit and veg are not only organic, but are grown in the resort’s gardens.
I chose quinoa salad with fresh fruit, including mango and avocado (€14.50) while a vegetable curry was another option.
Rua Padres Antonio Dinis Henriques 1 | Tel: 00351 291 944538 | Open: Every day 10am-6pm, except Christmas Day & New Year’s Day | fajadospadres.com
9. Prima Caju
Prima Caju was one of my favourite eateries, where natural moss adorns the walls, plants hang from the ceiling. Every dish is healthy and nutritious plus the atmosphere is affable. Owned by three cousins, any dishes which aren’t vegan can easily be adapted.
I’d recommend you try one of the savoury bowls, such as the Wabi Sabi Bowl containing, among others, quinoa, tofu, cabbage, avocado, tomatoes, rocket and ginger (€11.50). Alternatively, order the Vegan Bowl comprising the likes of chickpeas, purple cabbage, soybean sprouts, rocket, sunflower seeds and tomatoes (€10.50).
Rua da Carreira 108 | Tel: 00351 291 106600 | Open: Mon-Fri 9.30am-6pm; Sat-Sun 11am-4pm | Primacaju.pt
Located close to the City of Sugar Museum in the area known as Yellow Square, Kouve’s owner, Julio Pereira, is a well-known chef on the island. He has three restaurants with this one dedicated mainly to plant-based food.
Grab a table outside and enjoy the likes of watermelon and avocado tataki with soy (€12.50).
Rua da Alfandega 76 | Tel: 00351 933 484939 | Open: All week 12.30pm-3pm, 6.30pm-10pm | kouvefunchal.pt
Top 5 things to do in Maderia
1. Visit Faja Dos Padres
Image credit: FotoHelin via Adobe Stock
An oasis of tranquillity, this little spot on the southern coast reachable by boat or cable car has been owned by the same Madeiran family since the 1920s. Visitors come to relax, swim and sunbathe amid the peace. It’s the simplicity which makes it so special for anyone wanting to get away from it all.
(Entrance fee: €10, including a return ticket on the cable car)
2. Head for Porto Santo
Image credit: Richard Webber
Spend a day or more on Madeira’s smaller sister island where research allegedly shows that the golden sand contains therapeutic qualities. Twenty miles from Madeira, the main attraction is the six-mile-long beach spanning the entire southern coastline. To get there, take a 20-minute flight or catch the ferry.
3. Explore Fenchal
Situated on the sunny south coast, Funchal resembles a giant amphitheatre overlooking the Atlantic, its houses spreading up over the lower slopes of a 3,900-foot high mountain range. Head for the Old Town and relish the atmosphere while wandering along narrow, cobbled streets flanked by restored houses, pavement cafés and cosy restaurants.
Visit the steeply-terraced Botanical Gardens, showcasing virtually every type of plant grown on the island. Take a leisurely cable car ride to the gardens before jumping aboard a toboggan, among Madeira’s most famous tourist attractions, at the hilltop town of Monte.
The wicker contraptions, first used in the 19th century to transport goods down the steep three-mile hill, zip along. You’ll soon appreciate why Hemingway described the experience “exhilarating”.
4. Go walking
Ponta de São Lourenço is a a rocky, finger-shaped peninsula marking Madeira’s easternmost point. Image credit: Martin Deja via Getty Images
Madeira is a magnet for walkers, many keen to follow the levadas, a network of mini-canals dating from the 15th century built to distribute water.
But one of my favourite walks is at Ponta de São Lourenço, a rocky, finger-shaped peninsula marking Madeira’s easternmost point. Its undulating landscape, stark cliffs plunging into the ocean and rocky coves are reminiscent of Cornwall’s dramatic coastline.
5. Hire a car
Hire a car for a day or two and explore beyond Funchal. Narrow, time-consuming routes snaking around the mountains have been improved with new highways and tunnels. Visit Calheta in the west and relax on the beach while further around the coast is Porto Moniz, a delightful spot where you can swim in natural rock pools.
Sao Vicente, meanwhile, is enveloped by soaring peaks while at Santana in the north-east, you can see traditional triangular-shaped thatched houses.
Where to stay in Madeira
Vidamar Resort Hotel
The ocean view from my room at the Vidamar Resort Hotel. Image credit: Richard Webber
This luxurious five-star hotel, surrounded by gardens packed with exotic plants and palm trees, overlooks the Atlantic and enjoys direct access to the ocean. Guests, who stay on a half-board basis, can enjoy the indoor/outdoor pools, spa and several restaurants serving international cuisine.
The spacious bedrooms also offer magnificent ocean views and the hotel is just a short walk from central Funchal. The average room rate is around €250.
Estrada Monumental 175-177, Funchal | Tel: 00351 291 717700 | madeira.vidamarresorts.com
NEXT at Savoy Signature
Savoy Signature is a family-owned collection of hotels based in Madeira. NEXT is four-star rated and offers 130 rooms. Guests can enjoy two outdoor pools including an iconic rooftop pool. Its oceanfront setting close to central Funchal is ideal. Prices start at €100 per night.
Rua Carvalho Araujo 8 Funchal | Tel: 00351 291 205700 | hotelnext.pt
Travelling to Maderia
Looking for somewhere to eat that’s closer to home? Here are our favourite vegan restaurants in Manchester.
Featured image credit: Juergen Sack via Getty Images. All other images ©Richard Webber