Some restaurants take on an importance out of all proportion to their food. They become legendary meeting places, historical landmarks or backdrops to the life of a community. It isn’t just the expensive restaurants that acquire this status. Sometimes a local dive has it too. A Vencedora did – and that explains why its closure last week, due to the retirement of the owners, left a culinary hole in Macao that will never be filled in the same way.
At best, A Vencedora’s Macanese and Portuguese fare could be described as robust. Its interior was stark and utilitarian. The style of service was take it or leave it. But people loved its cramped premises on the Rua do Campo. Perhaps it was the restaurant’s longevity – it was established in 1918 – in a town where places come and go. At any rate, A Vencedora pulled off the distinction of being one of the few no-frills eateries with a visitor’s book out front, bearing the autographs of people from all over the world, drawn by the sense of place that it expressed so beautifully. A Vencedora could have only existed in Macao. Maybe that was its magic.
Photojournalist Eduardo Leal went to its last dinner service, on 10 November, to say farewell and preserve a piece of it for posterity.
Staff prepare ingredients for the final dinner service
Lam Kok Lon (L) and his brother Lam Kok Veng (R), third generation owners of A Vencedora
A menu deeply familiar to generations of Macao residents
The sad grimace of a customer, as he reads about the restaurant’s closure, says it all
Queues of diners, anxious to say goodbye to the restaurant, formed early
A staff member raises the shutters for the last time
A hectic final dinner service begins
His retirement just hours away, Lam Kok Lon waits tables one more time
Lam Kok Veng puts in a final shift at the cashier’s desk, where he has been a familiar sight for years
A toast to A Vencedora and the memories it holds
Customers write their farewell messages in the guest book
The final night of dinner service attracted regulars, families and others paying their respects
Going out on a high note
Overcome by the emotion of the moment, Lam Kok Veng dabs a tear from his eye
The Lam brothers can’t resist cracking a smile as they pull down the shutters for a last time and think of their well earned retirement ahead