ferrugem2016-13Ferrugem is a name that everyone, more or less interested in the national gastronomy scene, as heard of, but few have had the boldness and satisfaction of visiting and experiencing it. We are people of convenience and do miles of highway to visit a restaurant is not yet part  of the usual guides of the Portuguese, even being an hour away from Porto!

Well, this Ferrugem was born in 2006, in the unusual town of Portela, next to Famalicão, by the hands of Dalila and Renato Cunha, who joined their self-taught passion for cuisine with the bold – maybe crazy is the correct term – wish to create a signature restaurant in a rural area of the conservative region of Minho. The talent was evident and its Portuguese brand started conquering even the most dificult critics (locals), just remember the huge success of their Pastel de Bacalhau com Nata, their caldo verde, or their Smoked mackerel with Moura Alves vinegar roe.

ferrugem2016-2Destiny made these four hands to split, but the project remained alive and well! With Renato Cunha at the helm of the project, the restaurant lives a beautiful phase, and conquered in 2016 the title of best “Out of Doors Restaurant” in the Flavors and Senses awards – The best for 2016 (see).

But stories aside, let’s go ahead to another visit around the gastronomic Portugal.

ferrugem2016The restaurant keeps the influence of Minho in its sober decoration, with the room’s height and the granite walls gaining comfort and cozyness with the modern fireplace that serves as centerpiece of the restaurant.

Already at the table, sitting comfortably, old pleasures come to us, like the Olive oil butter, and the homemade bread of plums and nuts. The wish to recreate the portuguese tradition is well marked in the butter, transforming our classic olive oil in a paste to spread in the bread, served in a pipe that reminds the Couto medicinal pipe tube.

ferrugem2016-3Scarlet shrimp yogurt
The first snack arrived soon and if at first we had classic flavors, now our mouths are awarded with a kick of joy and freshness, preparing it, well, to the rest of our meal, keeping our taste buds very active. Of yogurt just the name and cream based texture, roasted scarlet shrimp heads and citrus, with highlight to the kaffir lime. The seafood is served in its most noble way, raw and lightly marinated. A beautiful start!

ferrugem2016-4Between the breaded and the green sauce, let the octupus choose!  
The name of the dish pretty much says everything about it, and in its creation was the combination of two traditional cuisine classics, the modest and innocent octopus salad and the comforting octopus fillets, here transformed into a fried octopus ice cream, accompanied of a garlic and chives butter, in a tartar style, crunchy onion and dehidrated coast shrimp. High score to the quality of the frying and the brilliant texture of the octopus, very well comined with the greasiness and freshness of the mayo and the flavor of the onion, elevated in the end with the intensity and crunchyness of the shrimp. Delicious!

Harmonizing was a wine from one of the most captivating producers of the Green Wines region, Aphros, with an interesting Aphros Loureiro Reserva Bruto 2014, a young sparkling, full of force and great aromatic power, making easy its combination with the snacks.

ferrugem2016-5Caldo Verde soup, Corn bread 
This has been, for years now, the usual welcoming of the chef at Ferrugem, and it’s easy to notice why it’s always on the scene, firstly beacause it personifies the spirit and ideology of the restaurant, and secondly because its great! Comfort food that if you close your eyes takes you to your grandma’s or aunt’s cuisine, it’s Minho, it’s Portugal! The flavor is all there, the chorizo is in great highlight like we people from the North like. The almost silky texture is another highlight.

ferrugem2016-6Bacalhau com Todos
This is the lattest famous dish of Renato Cunha, much because of its presentation in the National Cooks Congress, in 2014, I believe. Another dish that pretends to recreate, in modern art, the Portuguese Gastronomy immortalized by Maria de Lurdes Modesto. The elements couldn’t be anymore known, chickpeas turned into a hummus, olives in a paste, brilliantly pickled onion, quail egg, and of course, our king, codfish, here raw, after a cure that didn’t seem the usual to me, very well cut into sashimi. A cold salad, with a great combo of flavors and textures where the highlight is the texture of the codfish and the delicacy and flavor of the onion pickes (with Azores saffron and beetroot).

In the glass also a classic, one of my favorite whites, the Soalheiro Primeiras Vinhas, from 2015, a great year, giving as much joy today as it will for sure do in ten years, elegant aroma and fruit in the right dose, grows in the mouth with its characteristic minerality and a great complexity of flavor. A great wine to a great dish!

ferrugem2016-8Wild sea bass, sea foie and boletus rice 
This was the dish that made me book my return to the restaurant (after seeing the chef present it on tv) and it did not disappoint. Big fish (5kg) cooked to perfection after some time in brine, streak liver, with the right greasiness and fat, boletus chutney and creamy boletus rice on spot. Excellent contrast of Earth/sea flavors and texture game, the shoots that usually don’t bring anything to the plate, here give a touch of freshness, relieving the dish a bit.

Concerning the wine, we come back to the Aphros project for a great, great surprise, an Afros Loureiro 2009, a lightly oxidated wine, with enough resting time to think about what it wanted to become, and so it did, a much more delicate and interesting wine that a Summer Loureiro, a kind of Riesling, with mature notes, some sweetness but with acidity and character to make it last.

ferrugem2016-9To clean the palate, a simple but always effective lemon sorbet, flavored with bitter almond and elevated by the petazetas that bring us back to our childhood, while the guests get a smile on their faces while the clicks are being felt.

ferrugem2016-10Maturated Arouquesa, carrot puree 
Pojadouro maturated for 5 weeks, perfectly cooked, with a still firm and resistent texture compensating the stiffness with flavor and fatness. Accompanying very nicely was the puree, slightly sweet and buttery, contrasting well with the pickle explosion. Great jus, watering the meat and connecting all the elements.

Accompanying the meat we travel to Alentejo with a red, Julian Reynolds Reserva 2009, a very fruity wine, matching the meat pretty well, with good integration of the wood and elegant tanins. While not surprising, a great match to the dish.

ferrugem2016-11Portuguese cheeses
To finish there was not an homage to the Abade Priscos that must already be in its fourth interpretation, but there was a São Jorge DOP cheese, 30 months of cure, that Renato brought from a recent trip to Azores, and that took us to a super high level of pleasure. Also competent the buttery cheese; all very well accompanied by the fig ice cream with Moura Alves vinegar and the crunchy tiles that gave the dish another dimmension, texture and flavor.

The harmonization was in charge of an elegant sweet wine from Setúbal, a Moscatel Roxo 20 years from José Maria da Fonseca, a wine of a beautiful ambar tone and orange, caramel and spicy notes working beautifully with the cheese.

ferrugem2016-12Renato Cunha*

The Service is competent and the presence of the chef in the room explaining the dishes, everytime he can, makes te experience even more interesting and complete to the point of view of guests who want to know a signature cuisine.

Final Remarks
We often read that there are not more Michelin stars in Portugal (altought this was a good year) because the Spanish critics don’t understand the Portuguese cuisine as it is, in part I tend to agree, but on the other side, when fine dining restaurants shifted to our country’s flavors and roots, their work started to be recognized at every level. I ask myself if its just the critics or also the Portuguese themselves! – But this would give wings to much text and this one is already long.

What I mean, and coming back to Ferrugem, is that this project has much to offer, I believe it will have even more when the guests support Renato enought for him to set his creative side free, the produce and passion for our roots, without worrying so much with management, bills, payments and the project sustainability (not everything in a chef’s life is rock&roll!). The star would help that, help the Portuguese to open their eyes and visit one of the best ratio of quality/price restaurants in the country, that it’s not in Porto nor in Lisbon, to the benefit of regionalization. But for it come, and I believe it will, there are details to be enhanced, as Renato and his team know better than me, it’s not fair that critics and the Portuguese themselves forget to visit a small village in which Portugal is served with a bit of magic.

rua das pedrinhas, 32, Portela, Famalicão
+41° 27′ 41.83″, -8° 26′ 53.63”
252 911 700

Versão Portuguesa

 Text: João Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses and * Tiago Lessa 

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