The Cave is back

One of Funchal’s most striking places in the second half of the 20th century has just reopened, completely renovated but respecting tradition



In the 1970s and 1980s, there used to be a restaurant that dominated the then entrance to the harbour area of Funchal. It was a cave, beneath Parque de Santa Catarina, where one of the city’s most striking places operated.

After being shut down for more than two decades, A Gruta – ‘the cave’ – has reopened. The challenge was set by the Town Hall of Funchal, and entrepreneurs Brito Figueira and Alexandre Costa who owned other restaurants responded. The ambition was to restore the importance the space had in past days, but adapting it to the 21st century.

The renovation project was spearheaded by architect António Fernandez. The architecture office’s goal was to present ‘the motif of the cave as a natural space, shaped by nature and carved by water’. Its closeness to the sea is illustrated in the details of the décor. The cave is described as ‘golden and magical, housing birds in the silence of the night and where the babble of the day and night life, the tired ‘sailor’, find a place to relax in, to enjoy, or to delve into the contemplation of a fantastic world’.

The renovation works led to the discovery of a second chamber that has since been connected to the first by a tunnel. Outside, in Avenida Sá Carneiro, an image in white clay evokes the martyrdom of Catherine of Alexandria, after whom Parque de Santa Catarina was named.

A Gruta blends café with restaurant. It is a space where one can go for a pause during the day, or even breakfast, served starting at 10 a.m., as though it were brunch, and including ‘typical Madeiran sandwiches like marinade and swordfish’, explains Guadalupe Brito, one of the managers.

The concept is also one of food for sharing, with there being a choice for different doses and typical traditional Madeiran dishes, like minced beef and octopus or the Madeiran espetada, among others. The whole menu is available throughout the day.

But it is also a place to delight in an ice cream, in the esplanade, or simply let time go by as you take in the city.