Q&A: Fred Phillips

 In Insider

Fred Phillips came to Portugal in the early seventies, initially taking a job in the Algarve’s first foreign-language publication, The Algarve News, launched in 1977 (today known as The Portugal News). He later started his own communication design practice, Atelier do Sul, based in Boliqueime, fulfilling his passion for design. Today, the company is one of the most well-established of its kind in Portugal, coming up to 40 years in 2019. Over the years, Atelier do Sul has created the brands of major hotel groups and has done pioneering work in sign design, from the very first out-of-town shopping centres to golf courses. Today, his creative team serves the ongoing communication design needs of a vast client portfolio.

How long have you lived in Portugal? 

I am very fortunate in that I have lived and worked in this beautiful country for some 45 years.

What made you choose this country?

I came on holiday in the late sixties and early seventies. After I finished college, I decided to see if I could get a job here. I did. I came with one suitcase, hungry for adventure, to learn and experience life in the Algarve and, more importantly, to be with my beautiful Portuguese girlfriend, Fatinha, whom I had met in Faro in 1971 and married in 1974 just before the Portuguese Revolution.

Was it difficult for you to acclimatise yourself?

I took to it like a duck to water. I loved it and still do. I still remember the original taste of a freshly-baked ‘papo-seco’ (bread roll), the ‘pão caseiro’ (rustic bread) picked up from the baker, or the combinados (a toasted cheese and ham sandwich, dripping with butter) enjoyed at the Gardy Cafeteria on the chic Santo António shopping street in Faro, still there today run by the same Dias family.

What do you most like about Portugal? 

I could not phrase it better than a highly-esteemed business friend and client, who recently wrote in this column, Kurt Gillig. Forgive me for using your very same words and I quote, the people and the culture. The Portuguese are very friendly and welcoming. They generally go out of their way to help, are hard-working and adaptable, with a strong sense of family and friends. The Portuguese easily conquered my heart, as did Fatinha and her family!

What do you least like?  

Perhaps the thing that annoys me the most, on a day-to-day basis, is driving in the Algarve! I feel ashamed seeing the totally unkempt roads, be it the A22, the EN125 or the council-attended roads, with weeds growing everywhere, rubbish at the side of the roads and an impossible sign system. Yet the whole of Portugal benefits from the single biggest generator of foreign income and number one industry – tourism – and the Algarve is responsible for generating the lion’s share of that! More attention and money should be dedicated to this, by all entities concerned (read politicians). It is not a good visiting card and, as we say in the design industry, you only have one chance to make a first good impression.

Which is your favourite region in Portugal? 

I love the Algarve and even pass my main holiday each year here, with my three fantastic sons, Ivan, André (now a partner in the business), Freddy, and two grandchildren (sadly, Fatinha was taken from us with cancer nearly 10 years ago). But the rest of the country is fabulous as well. I am often in Lisbon, the Alentejo region or even the North of Portugal on business; and the wine, the food and the people are astounding.

Name your favourite restaurant.

How can one have a favourite when there are so many, so different, close and far afield? I enjoy food in accordance with where I am. One cannot beat the locally caught and freshly grilled fish. It’s unique! And here I would mention Dina and Rui of António Tá Certo at Garrão beach, where I have enjoyed many a meal since the early seventies when Dina’s parents opened, perched on an unbeatable, high beach spot. Away from the coast, near to our atelier in Boliqueime, on the EN125, I would say Renato at Retiro for his wines, meat and fish. The fried solha (flounder) with arroz de amêijoas (Ria Formosa clams in rice) at Rui’s on Faro Island is highly recommended and, staying reasonably local, I have many favourites in Olhão, one being Andrea’s Lagar Mar, opposite the outstanding fruit, meat and fish markets, in themselves icons of Portuguese architecture and the traditional way of living.

What is your favourite traditional Portuguese food (dish or ingredient)? 

I have covered this above, but, trust me, it is just as difficult to have a favourite!

And your favourite Portuguese wine (or grape variety/wine region)?

Any good red from the Douro and most are! Pinga do Torto by the Reynolds family from Quinta de Macedos, Callabriga from Casa Ferreirinha, reds from David Baverstock at Esporão in the Alentejo and the white Sauvignon of Cortes de Cima.

And finally, your ideal destination for a Portuguese weekend getaway?

In the winter, Herdade dos Grous in the Lower Alentejo or Convento do Espinheiro in Évora. In the summer (the other 10 months of the year), the islands off Olhão. Unbeatable!