Good things come to those who wait.
It’s only 35 minutes on the train from Lisbon to Estoril. The trains go every twenty minutes up to the beaches of the Caiscas. Yet none of those numbers take into account the hurdle of hundreds of people flooding the train station on a Saturday morning when the mercury is set to pip 36 degrees.
Trying to get a ticket out of machines which cough and splutter, spraying paper and freezing in technological tantrums takes us over an hour.
Which means when we finally emerge from the underpass which links the train station to the beach at Tamariz and clock our eyes on the sparkling water, neat lines of thatched umbrellas and the stretch of daffodil hued sand, we’re pretty happy.
Estoril may have a reputation for being where Portugese glitterati holiday, but on this Saturday in late June the sand is filled with families, with balls, buckets and spades in hand.
For those who prefer not to get sand in every crease and crevice, access to an umbrella and a beach chair will set you back €7.50 for the day. Sold.
At one end of the beach is a castle that’s owned by the royal family of Monaco. At the rear, is a restaurant, with laminated menus, a refrigerated display cabinet holding fish and a note on the bathroom door that says clothes and shoes are required before entering.
This is where we find ourselves for lunch. There are classic Portugese options like salt cod and clams cooked with pork. There are plenty of salads dominated by iceberg lettuce, grated carrot and slices of egg, and more than a few variations on toasted white bread and cheese sandwiches.
Then there are a swathe of tapas style options which cobbled together, create the perfect beach side feast.
First there are petite prawns, paddling about in a lake of olive oil and garlic. There leathery strips of jamon, which are sturdy like jerky.
An order of sheep’s cheese for €5 brings not the brittle slices I was expecting, but a plump round of gooey Queijo de Ovelha, the size of a minidisc, with a thick skinned rind and a spreadable centre.
Add that to some bread with the jamon and you’ve got a very fine ham and cheese sandwich indeed.
Sure, the rings of crumbed calimari were slightly flaccid, but anyone who’s ever had fish and chips on an Australian beach knows that it’s not a proper trip to the seaside without some soggy squid to pick at. Give me all of this, a view of the ocean, a pitcher of lightly fizzed Sangria the size of a sandcastle and a gentle crusting of sand underfoot and I’m the happiest of campers.
It was a perfect birthday lunch for The Hungry One. A few dips in the water and ice creams that dribbled down our inner arms on the train ride back to town made a grand end to a beach side feast.
The only thing that would have made it better was a few waves.
Never fear Bondi, we haven’t replaced you yet.
Restaurant Praia Tamariz
Estoril beach, Portugal
Telefone: 214 68 10 10