One could say it was a meeting of minds and a passion for cycling that brought Lee Eaton and Neil Wilson together resulting in Velochique, a stylish cycle café in the centre of Monchique with a bike repair service and shop under one roof.
There you can find tasty homemade flapjacks and great espresso, giving the extra push needed for the last stretch of road up to Foia, the highest point of the Algarve. A favourite destination for cyclists, hikers and those out for a leisurely drive.
The idea for a one-stop-shop offering great food and service came about last year when Lee and Neil cycled Portugal’s Route 66, the N2 from Chaves to Faro, raising money for charity. They were joined by a small group of friends as they covered the length of the country totalling 738 Km over 5 days. Their endeavour raised collectively just under £10,000 for UK charity MIND and 1,000€ for the Bombeiros of Monchique.
Lee describes the experience as one of the best in his life and one he will never forget. Along with the freedom of cycling through the countryside and forging a bond with friends, Lee and Neil also realised a business opportunity. With very few places around offering good quality healthy food options and a place to get repairs, their entrepreneurial instincts kicked in.
Lee, originally from Nottingham, has been living in the Algarve for the past 18 years. He has a business in wedding planning and event management. Neil is from Newcastle upon Tyne and a relative newbie to the Algarve and cycling. He moved here just as the first lockdown hit last year and found himself completely alone for 13 weeks. As lockdown lifted, he needed to meet people and find a healthy outlet. He got a bike and started cycling and joined a couple of local cycling groups, including the Algarve Mammals, where he met Lee.
All roads lead to Velochique
Cycling is a national pastime in Portugal enjoyed by thousands and Volta a Portugal is one of the oldest races in the country and it is happening from the 5th – 9th May. The second stage starts in Sagres, Vila do Bispo, and will head up into the mountains of Monchique and ends at Fóia after 182.8 kilometres and an accumulated ascent of 4,100 meters.
There are hundreds of amateur cycling clubs in the Algarve and a popular place to head is through the winding roads and arterial routes that lead to Monchique and Foia taking in the stunning views that stretch out to the coast. Whereas before there wasn’t anywhere to fix a puncture or mend a chain often resulting in a taxi ride home, now Velochique will be offering a paid-for mobile service (rescue at the roadside) to get you to where you need to be. Or simply head to the café to relax, get the necessary repairs and whet your appetite at the same time.
On the menu
You don’t have to be a cyclist to enjoy breakfast, lunch or afternoon snacks as everyone is welcome. Arriving on foot or on wheels, the café is perfectly situated in the central main square with seating inside and out to park yourself or designated cycle racks to park your bike. The menu includes Portuguese favourites as well as vegetarian and vegan options.
Sérgio Gama heads up the kitchen and is creating interesting taste experiences through simple blends of fresh ingredients. Originally from Coimbra, he has worked at Ocean Restaurant at Vila Vita Parc, Algarve, Hide Above, London and Norma, Copenhagen and he bring this experience to the mountains, on-trend offering healthy breakfast bowls and lunch bowls fused with Asian flavours.
You can select a combination of ingredients from the menu and for the larger plate, you will find dishes like tofu or tuna with sesame soy dressing, pea shoots, scallions and coriander. The mixing style continues through the toast offerings with smoked salmon, avocado, eggs cooked to order and berry jams and peanut butter with bagels, muffins and pastries. Fresh juices and smoothies including carob to wake up the taste buds, a range of leaf teas and homemade cakes served daily along with raw energy balls made from local figs and almonds to give the body a boost. Takeaways and lunch boxes are available to order.