A week in Madeira

Hiking Ponta De São Lourenço then the fabulous Restaurant Tokos

Ponta De São Lourenço

At breakfast again we planned another day’s walk with John and Jenni. After fried egg on toast and cake (Sam somehow managing to get ketchup over her cake!), we again bought picnic food before just making the 113 green and white bus from town to Ponta De São Lourenço, via a water park, the airport, Machico and Caniçal. After an hour of curly bends and ups and downs we reached the end of civilisation, a roundabout that doubled back on itself.

A coastal trail

This wasn’t a levada walk, it was a steep coastal one in glorious sunshine and without any shade. It’s number 13 in the sunflower guide. The landscape is barren and alien to the rest of Madeira. Sharp escarpments point out of the sea and the land is covered with nettles and flowers. With the Desertas islands in the distance, and Madeira under cloud cover behind us, we set out in the sun along the Abra Bay.

In single file again, John and Jenni leading the way, we climbed down the first big slope and around to a vantage point that looked north, and some so called sea horse rock formations. Then up again, a thin dirt track carved into the side of these towering rocks. Zig zagging, bumpy and steep it was easy to trip. Half way to the tip of the island a narrow rocky saddle connected us to the next part, here the cliffs fall away either side, but Sam’s vertigo didn’t make an appearance.

We stopped for lunch at the shaded Casa do Sardinha (park ranger’s house). Yummy fresh croissants, meat slices, brie, stodgy bread, biscuits and fresh papaya. It was so good the lizards wanted it, one crazy fella diving across our table and almost into the food bag as John tried to slice his unripe tomato with a pen knife. So many lizards here, sometimes it felt like the walls were moving. No bins or loos though, time to carry on.

Ponta do Furado peak

We left the hardest point until after lunch. A hard climb to the peak of Ponta do Furado. At the top, out of breath and sweaty, we had awesome 360 degree sea views and Madeira looked magnificent. Beneath us the sea raged, lashing the rocks.

Back down again, a quick zig zag route, hard on the knees, we headed back to the roundabout. Mid afternoon now, the sun bearing down, the last hill felt endless, but rounding the corner we spotted an ice cream van! Five hours since we started and the walk was over and we had chilled (and cheap) victory beer to celebrate!

Fabulous Restaurant Tokos

In the evening we stopped by a restaurant we’d eyed up before, Restaurant Tokos. We made a reservation for nine o’clock and went to the Pestana Village Hotel’s Bar Da Fonte for a couple of Madeira (wine) based cocktails.

At Tokos we were seated in a very small, eccentrically decorated restaurant-room with full kitchen at the side. It was a small affair with only a waiter, a waitress, a sous chef and the enigmatic Phillipe, the head chef. Watercolours of Phillipe hung to my left (sitting in wrong sized frames) and juxtaposed a trumpet collection above the kitchen and a mini wine-rack and ladder above the entrance to the loos. This place felt very special and it oozed character, from the neon blue lights out front to the personal PC in the corner and the classical playlist.

As we ordered Phillipe gleefully talked to diners, sang and entertained as he concocted exquisite sauces with perfection. By some quirk of the menu, for all three courses Sam and I wanted the same dish, I compromised only on dessert.

The food was magnificent. Every mouthful perfect. Portion sizes exact. Nothing short of fabulous. There aren’t enough yummy nom-nom adjectives to explain how tasty the squid, prawns, sauces and desserts were!

The Finnish couple next to us had been coming here for 20 years, and with every trip would come to Tokos at least three times, “We’ll be back on Thursday”, “You could come back tomorrow too,” Phillipe joked, “I have seven children to feed!” (he doesn’t). It seems Phillipe is a local celebrity, another couple had visited many years ago and asked why he wasn’t playing the trumpet. If we ever came back, we’d eat here as much as we could afford.

We were the last couple left in the restaurant and we watched as the chef prepared our desserts. Great flames appeared from behind the counter and the waitress calmly told us, “Chef is burning your banana, sorry”. Of course it was perfect and yummy, even if banana is not ananas and a flambeed pineapple might have been preferable.

This was undoubtedly one of the greatest dining experiences we’ve ever had.

Drive around the island, evening in Ponta do Sol →