An exuberant and slightly surreal exterior, a peculiar but cozy interior and an eccentric chef all contribute to making this a unique experience. Tokos is a delightful small restaurant on the island of Madeira that simply should not be missed.
Outside there is an impressive display of exotic flowers and plants, which sets the scene for a truly distinctive journey. Somehow, the exterior doesn’t quite add up and you are left with a feeling of anticipation. Inside is a small room flanked by a tiny kitchen, the décor strange and eclectic, lots of plants, clarinets and plates hanging on the wall together with naïf paintings depicting the chef (and owner), lacy curtains and a tapestry that seems out of place.
The seats around the edge of the room are cosy and all face inwards as if we were all part of the same stage production, even though you don’t know anyone or will ever exchange a word with the other guests. The tables are close to each other and are traditionally laid out, waiting to delight the guests that are yet to come.
Everything about Tokos is idiosyncratic: the décor, the menu (it is huge!) and the chef. Yes, the chef… what can I say about Filipe? An eccentric and relentless figure, he works tirelessly in the kitchen and front-of-house, running what appears to be a show where he is the main protagonist. He is backed by two exceptional waitresses, trained with minutiae, one shy and one ever so slightly sassy. His passion is what fuels this place. Get him to talk about how he cooks some of the dishes and he will come to life, making it sound simple and hard at the same time, explaining everything in detail, his voice (perhaps deliberately) bellowing across the restaurant.
The food is beautifully made and complex. Not complex in terms of the elements within a dish but complex in the depth of flavour. The French onion soup, made with an elaborate meat stock, was a warming liquid with the softest of onions and a generous dose of melted cheese.
The perfectly cooked veal with flambé mushrooms felt like an autumnal embrace and came served with a delectable slightly sweet and boozy deep brown sauce made with Madeira wine. Each dish comes with a wide selection of vegetables and sautéed potatoes, making for a very satisfying meal.
Even though we both ate meat, the fish we got presented with at the start of the meal was super-fresh and some of the fish dishes that went to other tables looked delicious.
For dessert, I had to go for the unashamedly retro crêpes Suzette because I have a huge soft spot for this dessert. And it was lovely, but massively overpriced.
As everything else, the prices are off-kilter. Some of the dishes seem perfectly priced and others completely mad. I paid the same for my veal main as I did for the crêpes Suzette!
Overall it is on the pricey side, but to me it is well worth it.
If you are ever in Madeira, please head to Tokos. It’s a wonderful little gem of a restaurant. I recommend you book as the place is small and popular.
Where: Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
Occasion: Lunch or dinner
Rating: 4.5 stars
Would I go again? Yes