The best espetadas on Madeira Island? Not where we expected to find them. Forget the famous spots in Câmara de Lobos. Next time we land in Madeira we’ll be returning straight to this local espetada spot – which we visited twice on our first trip.
Guest post by Jorge Branco.
Meat and fire. Sometimes that’s all you need.
Add a generous dose of garlic and salt and you have the makings of the perfect caveman meal.
Madeira is famous for its skewers. Be it beef, sausages or pork, the Madeirenses will skewer it on the flavourful wood of the bay tree and grill it to perfection.
The hanging meats are ubiquitous across the Portuguese Atlantic island but only one espetada experience haunts my dreams, threatening to lure me onto a plane just to relive the moment.
Roaring flames and huge jugs of cheap red wine. Soft bread soaks up the delicious meat juices dripping slowly from the skewers. And there’s not a chair in sight.
There’s a boisterous and convivial atmosphere akin to if you stuffed a backyard barbecue into a restaurant, because that’s basically what this is.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Talho do Caniço is a do-it-yourself grill in two parts: a butcher and the rustic tavern that sits behind it.
First, you walk into the butcher, order what you want (at very reasonable prices) and wait as they chop it, season it and whack it on giant metal skewers for you. Then, you need to go to the tavern.
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It feels a little odd to walk back outside and down the street carrying these raw-protein-adorned jousting sticks, but in a good way.
Head into the rustic restaurant and find yourself a table where medieval torture device-like stands will hold your raw skewers as you order some bread and wine (or whatever else you like to drink) at the bar.
Take a skewer or two over to the grill while the others hang there waiting their turn. This is where it gets interesting.
When I say DIY I mean it. You’re in control of where to put your skewer, when to turn it and how long to cook it for. Fortunately, a grill master is there to keep the fire roaring and supervise novices. The hardest thing is remembering your skewer number when the grill gets busy.
It really was a barbeque vibe when we were there, even down to the good-natured arguments about how to grill. It sounds kind of touristy and kitsch when I explain it but we were the only estrangeiros (foreigners) there. So be chill if you go and don’t ruin it!
Back at the table, it’s a primal experience as you use the bread to grab piping hot hunks of meat straight off the skewer and tuck into the best steak (or sausage) sandwich of your life. Tender, juicy, perfectly seasoned. Choose your own favourite meaty cliche because they all apply here.
The details: Talho do Caniço is only open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and the fire will be roaring from 10am until 10pm. It’s close to the airport, so for our second visit we dropped in around 5pm for one final meat feast – and it was still kicking with locals enjoying a long, late lunch.
Address: Rua Padre Agostinho de Freitas 18, Caniço
Prices: €1.90 for a whole loaf of bread, €4 for 1L of beer, around €9 for two skewers (2022)
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