Top tables: Pau de Lume, Funchal

The Madeiran capital Funchal is gaining a reputation as a foodie destination and Pau de Lume is as stylish address as any to sample the gastronomic pleasures that are filtering across the Atlantic archipelago

Hotel restaurants are often unfairly overlooked, but to do so would mean hidden gems such as Pau de Lume remaining beneath the radar. Offering up authentic Portuguese cuisine intended to share at the Savoy Palace in Madeira’s capital, the restaurant has its own dedicated entrance on Praça do Turista or can be accessed via reception. It’s a perfect example of the kind of wholesome, flavoursome rustic cuisine Portugal is synonymous with, but reimagined and trendily prepared in an unpretentious way. Pau de Lume takes its name from the Madeiran term for “matches” (as in to strike a match), referring to the signature accent of the restaurant, specifically the Josper charcoal oven, whose fire, embers and smoke impart the homespun charm of a traditional kitchen. The Josper, for those unfamiliar with the item, is much like an indoor barbecue oven, popular among chefs for its flavour- and moisture-retaining capabilities which tend to escape regular ovens.

According to island intel, when a new restaurant flings open its doors in Madeira, curious locals come to inspect and if it’s not up to scratch, they don’t return. But since its opening in February 2022, Pau de Lume has retained its locals as well as attracting the stylish set. It’s a spacious affair where floor-to-ceiling glass windows enable natural light to spill through into a stylish interior where exposed brick walls create an industrial aesthetic while wicker tables and chairs fringed by Kentia palms and cascading plants make it feel like an extension of the outdoor garden – although you can dine alfresco if you wish. Floors fuse vintage Portuguese geometric tiles with contemporary parquet and counter dining is also available here, for diners to experience first-hand the transparency of an open kitchen and see their food crafted and plated. There’s also a standalone bar serving up food-friendly cocktails, local wines and healthy shakes. Chef Hugo Freitas, working with executive chef Carlos Gonçalves has established good relationships with local suppliers, so the farm-to-fork game here is strong.

Contemporary renditions of the copper pot and casserole dish are the main vessels on which Pau de Lume’s delicacies are served. I wanted to check out the fêted all-day brunch and it didn’t disappoint. For mains, I opted for Gambão Argentino grelhado e molho satay (grilled Argentinian red shrimps drizzled with satay sauce) and a side of Arroz de alho (garlic rice tinged with lime) and paired a crisp glass of Atlantis Tinta Negra Rosé by Blandy’s, (the renowned Madeira fortified wine producer now turning its hand rather well to table wines) and finished it all off with Pudim Abade de Priscos e sorvete de tangerina (Abade de Priscos pudding with tangerine sorbet). My companion shared delicious plates of avocado tempura and grilled octopus with kimchi sauce and we were both struck by a strong sense of not only how tastefully presented these courses were, but how fresh and healthy they looked and tasted. Highly recommended.

Pau de Lume, Av. do Infante 25, 9004-542 Funchal, Madeira; Bookings: +351 969 882 020

All photos by Lee Osborne

Lee Osborne is creative director of Secret Trips

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