Making the Michelin list: NUMA and Noélia featured...

Making the Michelin list: NUMA and Noélia featured on the list of recommendations by the Michelin Guide

NUMA Restaurant Portimão, Algarve ©Vitor Barros -

By: Beatriz Maio 

Photo: NUMA Restaurant ©Vitor Barros

The Algarve’s gastronomic scene continues to shine

Portuguese gastronomy, which has always stood out for the quality of its products, continues to impress, and the Algarve is shining. Although there was little change at the first all-Portuguese Michelin gala at the beginning of the year, two Algarve restaurants have been added to the prestigious food guide’s list of recommendations. 

NUMA, in Portimão, and Noélia, in Cabanas de Tavira, are among the 20 new Michelin Guide Recommended Restaurants; a list which includes venues from different parts of the country, from Porto to Marvão, and Funchal, on the island of Madeira. 

Nuno Martins

For chefs Nuno Martins (NUMA) and Noélia Jerónimo (Noélia), the distinction was not so much a surprise as a recognition of all their hard work. Both natives to the towns where they operate their restaurants, they are self-employed and take on other roles in addition to being chefs – they are also managers and owners. 

NUMA Restaurant ©Vitor Barros

Their journeys have not been easy, with adversity acting as stepping stones in this ascent that has only just begun. Upon learning that NUMA was among the restaurants listed, Nuno Martins felt “over the moon” at seeing his “hard work” recognised. For the chef, this brings greater responsibility, as it puts the restaurant on the international stage. The name, a fusion of Nuno and Manuela, his wife, is now not just a symbol of their union but also their pride. 

NUMA ©Vitor Barros

The chef started out working in hotels and restaurants and later spent a decade working in civil engineering, until cooking brought him back to his roots. “I had to make up for lost time and, when I did, I realised that I had to get to the top,” Nuno Martins revealed.

NUMA ©Vitor Barros

Although the culinary arts have always captivated him, he only began to pursue this career path when he was invited to cater for events. From then on, he never stopped; he took pastry and bakery courses, got his chef certification, was invited to be an executive chef at a hotel in the north of England, joined the teams of five-star resorts in the Algarve, such as Vilalara Thalassa Resort and Vila Vita Parc, and, in May 2021, opened NUMA. 

NUMA ©Vitor Barros

The project had been on his mind since 2015, but it wasn’t until 2021 that it came to life. Nuno decided to go all in and saw his dedication rewarded the following year with a distinction in the Boa Cama Boa Mesa guide. Three years later, he admits that he had not planned on being included in the Michelin Guide’s list of recommended restaurants, but “it was something that was on the table, in a way”. 

Nuno’s talent and dedication, alongside that of his three-person team, shines through in the dishes and in the unique experience at NUMA, where guests can choose between the à la carte menu and the tasting menu, which will now be further explored.

Although 90% of the products used are Portuguese, the chef wants to highlight the Algarve’s cuisine, “from the sea and the estuary to the hills”, while remaining faithful to his three pillars: sustainability, zero waste and making new friends every day. He makes a point of introducing himself at each table and providing an intimate and inviting atmosphere for his customers, which is a reflexion of his gastronomic choices and his approach as a chef. “I want to make a difference and be present,” he explained. 

Different ingredients and flavours are the theme of the new menu, which promises to transform the most underrated ingredients into dishes that truly shine. The menu varies in order to respect seasonality and freshness, but some classics remain such as the sirloin steak, the carabineiros (scarlet prawns) and the octopus, all from the Algarve. “The Michelin Guide gave me the responsibility after recommending these dishes,” Nuno stated. The wine list, which prioritises national production and currently consists of around 60 labels, will also undergo changes. More will be added from other regions of the country, from the Algarve to the Azores.

Noélia Restaurant ©Hélio Ramos

Also raised in the town where she has the pleasure of working, Noélia Jerónimo fully embraces the incredible flavours of the Algarve. She grew up “practically in the Ria Formosa” because she used to follow her mother who was a shellfish gatherer, and this connection to nature has grown ever since.

Noélia Jerónimo ©Hélio Ramos

For her, the inclusion of Noélia in the Michelin Guide “is extremely gratifying and it will help take the Algarve further”. She sees it as recognition of her customer-focused approach and always gives her best. 

Noélia Restaurant ©Hélio Ramos

She has been working in the restaurant that today bears her name since 1985, progressing from waitress to chef and owner. Like Nuno Martins, her career path also developed naturally, as she started cooking as an adult. “Most of what I learnt was at my father-in-law’s restaurant, which no longer exists,” she said, adding that she is currently inspired by her own essence. “I have family from the hills of Tavira and my heart belongs to the sea and the estuary. I’m a unique blend of the two, so it makes sense that I work with both,” she reflected. 

Noélia Restaurant ©Hélio Ramos

Her favourite dish to cook is the lemon rice, made with the catch of the day, which can range from snapper, croaker or forkbeard, followed by the oyster rice. “My cuisine is very much about comfort and sharing, with a modern twist,” she emphasised, stressing that all customers are invited to try her special starters, such as braised red mullet with its own liver pâté, sea bass with cockle xerém (corn purée) or spicy mango gazpacho with sea bream.  

Noélia Restaurant ©Hélio Ramos

Every day, the team of around 18 prepares different dishes so that quality seasonal ingredients are always served and the menu is constantly evolving. 

Nuno and Noélia are an inspiration to many and promise not to stop here; they will continue to show that the Algarve not only has excellent ingredients but also has a lot of talent and resilient professionals full of passion for cooking. The two chefs agree that the secret to success is to love what you do, be happy every day, chase your dreams and appreciate your roots. 


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