Macau beyond the roulette wheel
Chinese visitors to Macau have embraced the island’s Portuguese heritage, with a strong interest in trying Macanese cuisine, a fusion of Chinese and Portuguese influences. At Restaurant Litoral, southwest of the historic district, diners tuck into African chicken, a fiery dish brought to Macau by Portuguese sailors and made using spices such as chilli and paprika that they collected on their lengthy sea voyage to Asia. The Espacio Lisboa restaurant (Rua das Gaivotas; No 8 R/C) in Coloane village is popular for a leisurely lunch break, offering such authentic Portuguese dishes as garlic prawns and bacalao (cod) fishcakes.
Most accommodation in Macau is geared towards providing instant access to the casino floor, but visitors looking to get away from the hustle of the strip can stay in the Pousada de Sao Tiago, a 17th-century fortress that was originally built to defend Macau against local pirates. It was acquired by local tycoon Stanley Ho in 2004 and renovated to create 12 suites overlooking the harbour. While the rooms are thoroughly modern, the entrance to the property is through a long stone tunnel that remains just as it was 400 years ago. The hotel’s Chapel of St James, built within the original fort, is a highly sought-after venue for weddings.
The obsession with gambling in Macau is so strong that it is easy to speculate that many visitors would not even notice if the city’s historical and cultural heritage was quietly removed overnight. Yet, look a little closer and it is clear that even more than a decade after the Portuguese left Macau, their legacy carefully and faithfully lives on.