Renowned author Malcolm Gladwell came up with the concept that 10,000 hours of practice are needed to become world-class in any field. That principle seems to hold true for Restaurante Algarve in the sleepy village of Guia. Since the 1960s, the same family (through different generations) have been serving chicken piri piri using the same recipe. There were four generations of the family when we visited, the great-grandmother still supervising the cooking in the kitchen.
You will not find much information about the restaurant online. It has been run pretty much in the same way since it opened. If you walk past the restaurant, you may even think twice before entering. It’s like time stood still. The decor is still very 1960s and 1970s, the tables give you the impression that they’ve remained the same from that time, but the family have been cooking the same chicken piri piri for many years and they have clearly perfected it.
The restaurant serves chicken piri piri, a tomato salad, rice or fries and that’s pretty much it. Many locals are here as well as repeat visitors who stumble upon the place once and tend to return on their trips back to the Algarve.
Dig deeper and lovers of this Portuguese national dish will tell you that in a village that takes piri piri very seriously (after all it is believed that the piri piri recipe originated from here) none is better than the Restaurante Algarve.
We arrived in Guia on a very hot summer’s day after harvesting salt at Castro Marim. The heat was stifling. As we opened the door of our car there was this feeling that we have come out into an oven. It is a bit disturbing because it is already dark and you would have expected the temperature to drop. In a way it is the perfect prelude to the Chicken Piri Piri experience at Restaurant Algarve in the sleepy village of Guia in the Algarve.
Here you will find locals but you can also bump into regulars like Kurt Gillig, the managing director of Vila Vita Parc, one of the top resorts in the Algarve with his guests as well as Hans Neuner, chef of the two Michelin star restaurant Ocean.
We are here with Kurt and Hans who upon arrival head straight to the kitchen to show us how the chicken piri piri is cooked.
The chicken is halved and coated with a brine of water and salt and then it is brushed with the piri piri sauce before it is grilled. The spicy sauce is made with piri piri chilies, oil and garlic and but everyone has their own recipe and put their own ‘secret’ ingredients.
The spicy chicken is served chopped into bite size pieces with a tomato and onion salad that is simple but perfect and fries.
The chicken is perfect. Crisp on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside with the perfect amount of spice. The tomato salad is sweet and acidic thanks to the combination of olive oil and vinegar. It is the perfect combination to the chicken.
If you are in the Algarve, you cannot miss the Piri Piri experience. But if a local tells you that an accompanying sauce is spicy, you should trust him. I tried a drop of the Piri Piri Ai Ai sauce despite the warning and I still get a sweat and a cold shiver every time I remember that lingering sensation of heat in my mouth. I should have listened or at least accepted what was written on the label – Perigosamente Picante means dangerously hot.