When we think of a professional athlete, we don’t think of someone following a vegetarian diet. “They need energy,” we might think. However, João Pereira proves that even without eating animals he can have all the energy he needs. At the age of 33 he has already played football in Moldova, Denmark and participated in the Champions League. Along the way he met his wife Djuli Silva, 32 years old. She is also a vegetarian. That lifestyle and food led them to open Café Jardim, in Ourém. It opened on May 14th.
“We have been in Denmark for nine years. We went back to Portugal two years ago and bought a house in Santarém, ”Djuli tells NiT. They thought it would be there that they would stay for many years, but they were wrong. They had a son and realized it was easier if they were close to their parents, who lived in Ourém.
When they arrived, they saw that there were few establishments that bet on that aspect. When they were abandoned, they found Café Jardim, which was one of the great symbols of the region. On the ground floor, a traditional restaurant. There was a games room on the first floor. They completely changed the concept. They now serve vegetarian and vegan dishes and, in the upstairs lounge, they will hold yoga classes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. “It was a very old café, it had been closed for over 40 years. We kept the cards because they have a lot of stories. People go there and remember the space, ”explains the owner.
The goal is to serve well presented dishes with nutritional care, something by which the couple is guided in daily life. “They are beautiful dishes that people eat with their eyes,” describes Djuli. The decoration of the space is quite simple and you will find some plants there, such as linden. He is originally from Japan but they bought it when they lived in Denmark. It produces many shoots, which are then scattered in the already green space. This decorative style adapts to the environment surrounding the structure, which is located right in front of a garden, hence the name.
On Saturdays they have a special brunch menu. It costs € 9.50 and includes a bowl of Greek yogurt complemented by various types of fruit and toppings – as salted caramel or muesli – made in the garden, natural juices, open toasts and waffles. All these products are present in the menu of the day, but a combination of “more pleasant value” is created.
The menu has several other breakfast options. You can choose between simple toast (€ 1.50) with side dish or special toast (€ 2.30), with three. These complements can be homemade jams, butter (normal or peanut), honey, brigadeiro, sheep’s cheese. In the open toast you will find a scrambled egg with pesto and house sauce (4.50 €) and a vegan proposal (4.50 €), with pesto, avocado, hummus and crispy chickpeas. There are also smoothies (from € 2.30), açaí bowl (€ 3.85) and typical coffee shop drinks, such as coffee (€ 0.85), tea (€ 1), hot chocolate (€ 1.30), among others.
If you prefer to go to Jardim for lunch, you can always try the delicious Poke bowls. It costs € 7.50 and is very customizable. For protein you can choose between marinated tofu or falafel. The sauces have mustard, sweet and sour, and tahini. As for the side dishes, you can choose from rice, edamame, avocado, dates and more. Those with a sweet tooth have irresistible dishes, such as the brigadeiro (€ 2.50 per slice of cake or € 0.80 for the miniature versions) and vegan cheesecake (€ 2.50).
A pet friendly space with a dog that changed the couple’s life
They are not caravan drivers, but during the summer holidays they spend a lot of time traveling around the country. In addition to their son, Djuli and João take Courage, a dog who entered their lives by accident. “My husband called it after the cartoon,” he recalls. They found him on the street in Santarém, the same day that his son’s date of birth would later be revealed. “We spent the whole afternoon with the dog and we forgot that the baby could almost be born”.
When they saw Courage, they thought he was dead, because he was lying on the floor. In fact, he was just a good actor, trying to meet someone who would welcome him. When they took him to the vet he was in good health and was told he was only six months old, which was shocking because he was quite small. “We couldn’t leave him anywhere, so we took him home,” says Djuli.
The dog’s first night at home, the waters in Djuli broke. They didn’t want to leave him alone at home because they didn’t know how he would behave or what he could ruin. There was only one solution: they had to take him to the hospital. All of this happened during the pandemic, at a time when parents could only enter the birthing unit at a specific time. João was with the dog on the street. “He escaped to the hospital and he had to chase him,” Djuli jokes. “At the beginning of the day there were two of us, at the end of the night we were four”.
Since then, they have created a strong bond with the animal, which is often found at Café Jardim welcoming customers. All big eyes are welcome and are greeted by a cookie and water, if necessary. “People often want to eat outside and most places don’t accept pets. Being pet friendly made perfect sense because we also have an animal and we feel this lack in the region, ”she explains. Plus, it has the huge garden right outside.
Small, medium or large, everyone can enter. And don’t worry, they won’t upset you. You probably won’t even realize that there are dogs there, which happens regularly. “They all behave very well. The owners who take them know the dogs they have. Nobody wants to take an animal they don’t know how to be, ”she points out.
Click on the gallery and get to know Café Jardim better.