â€œWhenever I told people that Praia da Comporta was one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, in Europe, even, they used to laughâ€
LuÃs Carvalho and PatrÃcia Pereira da Silva are the owners of Comporta Café, a restaurant located at the heart of Praia da Comporta. Taste, friendliness and the best of traditional Portuguese cuisine reign around here. Not to mention the breathtaking view.
How long has Comporta Café been around?
PatrÃcia: Comporta Café will have its 15th anniversary this year. We always celebrate, but it will be special this time.
What did you have in mind when you created Comporta Café?
LuÃs: When we opened Comporta Café, our idea was a concept different than that of the typical fishermen log. All the other restaurants looked like that. The idea was to create a different space, that looked more like a balcony at home.
As time went by we had some different ideas, such as the director chairs on the beach, or the puff chair cushions (which we don’t have anymore because it’s become commonplace). There were some details that made a difference at the beginning, and we still have the spirit we would like to - which is to have happy customers coming back.
This beach, though usually crowded, is quite tranquil in the concession zone. We sit a limited number of people, here. This is to say, whoever gets here sees an area of great tranquility because there is the concession where our umbrellas are and then there’s the other zone, also surveilled, that is paid by us for the average customer that doesn’t want to rent an umbrella.
How about Comporta Café, what does it have besides the marvelous view?
LuÃs: The friendliness, I think. It also has good food. Of course, I’m biased, but it does. Our dishes are based on regional rice and fish. We combine both ingredients and manage to create quite original dishes.
PatrÃcia: We also have many petiscos for those who want to leave the beach and have a lighter meal. All of our dishes are idealized by LuÃs.
LuÃs: I was trained in kitchen and hotel management, so there isn’t anything that happens around here that I haven’t been trained for or haven’t idealized. Everything goes through me.
PatrÃcia: On busier days, LuÃs goes into the kitchen. I’m usually outside. I think that our customers feel like they’re being welcomed into their own homes. We look to transmit to people that we are pleased with their visit and we try to know what brought them here, where they are staying and whether they need anything. People love that approach. We make the most wonderful friendships here at the restaurant.
Are there any habitués?
PatrÃcia: Yes, there are customers who come every year. Some have a home here, some don’t, but they all enjoy spending their holiday in this region. There are more and more foreigners. Some days we are at the restaurant, we sit together and as we look around we realize that we might very well have but one other table with Portuguese people. This happens quite usually, especially in winter.
Is it as if foreigners have found out about Comporta before the Portuguese?
PatrÃcia: Yes, many foreigners come here. Spanish, mostly. Well, all Hola writes about is Comporta, now. The French have a tendency to buy a home here or to keep a holiday house. Some even more here.
LuÃs: Contrary to the Algarve, there are fewer English and the majority of our customers are Spanish, French, German, and Portuguese.
What does Comporta have to offer?
LuÃs: Tranquility, gastronomy, beach. It has kept a wild, natural look. There’s no construction work happening at the beach in Comporta. It’s unique. It’s one of the few spaces in the country where you can be and pretend to be somewhere else in the world. Fashion catalogs have been photographed here and identified as having been shot in St. Louis, Barbados. It’s unspoiled, there’s nothing to identify it. It’s one of the few places in Portugal that is preserved and will continue being so.
Do you think Comporta will continue unspoiled like it is?
LuÃs: Obviously, and that is the reason why people come here. It’s obvious that at weekends and in the summer, there are more people coming. There are 43 kilometers of beach, and Comporta is more or less in the middle. This is almost a bay. On the other hand, it’s protected by the ArrÃ¡bida mountain, which creates a very special microclimate.
Over the years the same structured has been maintained. There’s environmental awareness and that makes a difference. Comporta isn’t just a beach place in itself, but a place that’s been taken care of over time and in which there’s always been a special concern for raising environmental awareness.
Maybe that is why Comporta has managed to maintain this demand and it’s been stable over the years. The location is fantastic, but there are also other details that people miss at first glance.
Are you from Comporta, LuÃs?
LuÃs: No, I was born up north and then I lived in Angola. But this is where I’ve lived the longest. I’ve been here for 22 years. When I started out, this was a wild beach. I took part in planning the territory on the coast and ever since then I thought this could be a special place.
The beach was desert, there were no rules. Whenever I told people that Praia da Comporta was one of the most beautiful beaches in Portugal, in Europe, even, they used to laugh. Today they acknowledge that great work has been done and we are glad it is so. There’s been a tremendous evolution in what Comporta used to be and what it is now.
The idea is to treat the beach is our own backyard. When you like and appreciate something there’s the need to take care of it.
Who visits Comporta? Is it true that it appeals more to the higher classes?
LuÃs: Not really, no. It seems to me like those with more money are attracted here because of how well taken care of and discreet the beach is. This is Praia da Comporta. There are other beaches associated with Comporta but they’re not it. This is a privilege because people associate other beaches with Comporta because of how prestigious it is.
How much does it cost to have an umbrella?
LuÃs: The price is 25€ per day for two chairs and an umbrella. Beds are 100€ per day with bar service included.
We invest a lot in safety here. We have eight lifeguards, that is, we are way above what is normally demanded. What’s more, there are no casualties ever recorded to have happened at the beach, because we invest this much in safety.
It’s a reference beach. A golden beach awarded the Blue Flag. It’s also an accessible beach. There are two completely free awnings for handicapped people. We are that careful and it might be because of it that Praia da Comporta is so special.
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