Moinho Dom Quixote, Portugal

Not far from Cabo de Roca, the westernmost point in continental Europe, sits what might be the best surprise of a trip to Portugal. Less than an hour from Lisbon, and about mid-way between Cascais and Sintra, its entrance guarded by an old Portuguese windmill, is Moinho Dom Quixote. You’ll need a car to get to this off-the-trodden-path spot in the heart of the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park.

Once you walk past the windmill, through the gate, and down a few steps to the planted patio, you’ll realize you’ve landed someplace special. Palm trees, cactus, acacias, succulents, flowering plants and vines greet you. And cats. There are always resident cats on the patio. You look to the left and there it is… a stellar view of Guincho Bay below you and the endless wild Atlantic beyond.

Come for the view. Stay for a drink from the extensive cocktail menu, the sturdy wine list or the taps with local craft beers. When the view makes you sit and gaze much longer than you expected, order a light meal or a snack. It’s all good.

Location: Rua do Campo da Bola 1, Cabo da Roca, Azoia, Colares, Sintra, Portugal (It’s about 300 yards/meters off Highway N247, which is the “long way/scenic route” between Cascais and Sintra.)

Menu: You don’t really come to Moinho Dom Quixote for the food, but you’ll like it anyway. The menu is light, with an emphasis on “toasts,” i.e. toasted sandwiches, some Mexican items, hamburgers, lasagna (including vegetarian), and goulash. Soups, quiches, omelets and salads round out the list. There are several fine dessert choices and coffee drinks. The very extensive bar menu is longer than the food menu.

Thoughts: Moinho Dom Quixote is a place to relax with friends. To kick back, feel the breeze on your face, drink in that view along with whatever’s in your glass. In nice weather, which is a lot of the time in Portugal, you’ll want to sit outside on the terrace. That’s where the real magic is. But if rain or a chilly wind off the ocean drives you indoors, that’s fine too. You’ll find a welcoming fire inviting you in. The place is deceptively large inside, with different spaces that wind on and on, making it easy to find a cozy nook despite its size.

If the exterior design is jungle meets ocean, the interior décor is what you might call “eclectic color meets stuff.” Hints of Mexico, touches of South America, Portuguese azulejo tiles, paintings, strings of lights hanging about. Painted tin mermaids and carved parrots. Birdcages, stained glass and a swordfish dangling overhead. And color… everywhere lots of color.

Although the view is the star and the décor gets second billing, the food is not an also-ran. I ordered the Endives Grantinée. They came straight from the broiler, layered with ham and covered in a lightly browned and cheesy bechamel sauce. Delicious but be warned… it was HOT. I burned my mouth trying to eat the cheese too soon. My friend, who has been here many times, ordered the club sandwich. It’s made with chicken and egg and comes with a pile of potato chips. At a nearby table where a family was enjoying lunch, the kids said they loved their tuna sandwiches, and their parents liked the chicken fajitas.

Moinho Dom Quixote is popular with locals and can get very crowded on weekend afternoons. It’s best to arrive right at opening time if you want a table. Tip: Try arriving late afternoon on a weekday and stay long enough to watch the sunset. Sip your drink and watch that golden ball sink into the Atlantic.

Prices: In general, two people can have drinks and a light lunch or snacks for about €30. Desserts (and there are some good ones) run €4-8. Most cocktails go for €6-7. There are lots of Portuguese wines, by the bottle or glass. You can even order a glass of Moet et Chandon champagne (for about €20).

Additional Notes: One very important note. Bring cash (Euros). They do NOT accept any credit or debit cards, and there is no ATM on the property. CASH ONLY.

The restaurant is pet-friendly, but if your pet is not friendly, you might want to leave it at home. There are always 3-4 resident cats about and the occasional dog as well.

If you’re looking for places to stay near Sintra, we recommend these.

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Donna Meyer

Donna Meyer is a freelance travel writer and the creator of Nomad Women, a blog to inspire older women travelers to get out and see more of the world. When she is not traveling the world--and eating everything in sight--she lives in San Miguel de Allende, in central Mexico.

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