“Why does Maktub remind me of Katmandu? Not that I’ve been to Katmandu. I’d like to but this will do meantime...” — David J Whyte
To the west of the island on the outskirts of the village of Paul do Mar, Maktub is a restaurant with rooms. But it’s a lot more than that! In fact, it’s a bit of a Madeira institution! And so it should be! All the ‘chilled kids’ come here to surf, socialise and soak up the regular stunning sunsets. Or take in a Reggae festival which was, pre-covid another institution in these parts. The rest of us come to eat at Maktub’s most marvellous restaurant!
The seaside village of Paul do Mar has some of the best surf in Europe.
The twin villages of Paul do Mar and Jardim do Mar are the top surfing spots on the island, Paul do Mar, in particular, has some of the best waves in Europe, especially in the autumn and winter. But no matter what time of year, Maktub is where the surfers, socialites and beach denizens congregate at sundown. It’s a colourful spot with the kind of vibe you’d expect and an interesting backdrop for the restaurant.
The first rule of thumb when wishing to dine at Maktub is ‘book ahead’. Otherwise, you simply won’t get a table. Owner Fabio decides on the ‘dish of the day’ ahead of the game and you simply comply with his decision. That might sound a bit draconian but trust me, it works very well. Fabio knows exactly what’s coming in each day in terms of ‘the catch’ so you’re guaranteed the freshest fair.
We had tuna tartar to start, prepared at our table followed by tuna steaks.
“Where do you get your fish,” I asked him as we sipped on what I reckon is one of the best Mojitos on the island. “From the fisherman!” he snorted. “Yes, but from where?” I persevered. “From here…” he said with a further twang of incredulity. “This is a fishing village.” Soldiering on, I asked about the limited choice on the menu, thinking I’d maybe catch him out. “The fishermen don't get to choose the fish they catch,” he retorted. “So why should the guests?" I decided to sit back and enjoy the experience. Before you think our new friend Fabio is a bit surly, let me tell you he’s the most laidback person you could imagine. "I'm retired!” he jested. He’s in his mid-30s! What I think he was saying was ‘this is not working for him but his passion’. Making your passion your profession is the foundation of Fabio’s philosophy.
Fabio’s tactical approach is to make everyone feel right at home!
"How do you guys like your tuna?" he asked once we’d finished our prefatory Mojitos. “Rare, medium rare or well-done?” Here on Madeira, the typical way to prepare tuna is to bake the hell out of it with onions - ‘atum de cebolada’ It’s ok but not a patch on freshly caught fish lightly seared on either side. If the fish is this fresh, it’s the only way to go! The meal was one of the best we’ve enjoyed on this island. Combined with a stunning sunset and the super-friendly staff, you need to make this part of your Madeiran experience. I asked Fabio about the musical events he stages periodically. Maktub’s ‘Sounds Good Reggae Festival’ normally takes place in May but these past three years, it has not been possible. “We hope to stage the event once more in May 2023.,” he told me. There’s also the Limpet Festival held in Paul do Mar in July and seeing how we love limpets here on this island we might just check it out. Maktub might not be Kathmandu - but it certainly will do!
Maktub’s staff are mainly Brazilian…and super-friendly
David J. Whye