I didn’t write for a long time, but I have a really good excuse – D and I got married, so because of the hassle of wedding preparations, my job and just everyday obligations, I just couldn’t find the time to write something for our blog. But at the moment, as I fear I’m going to forget the goodness I wanted to share – so I have to write something now. My goal is to give you a small insight in our culinary adventure of Lisbon – the vibrant capital of Portugal.
I didn’t know what to expect of the food there. I never really thought about Portugal as a culinary destination of mine, but through googling about it, it became clear that the cuisine is focused mostly on fish and seafood (coming from the Atlantic Ocean) but has different influences as the Mediterranean or even African cuisine (the piri piri sauce is just one example). And man, listen, I really love fish – but seafood, seafood is a whole other thing.
At that time, I despised it as I just couldn’t stand the rubbery chewiness, for example, muscles have to them. But here’s where I come from – I NEVER had the chance to eat, fresh, off the boat, it-was-alive-one-hour-ago-seafood. For me it was just frozen, rubbery, plain frutti di mare. And my God, the difference is unbelievable – eating fish and seafood as fresh as it is in Lisbon is a revelation for me.
We stayed at an Airbnb apartment in Alfama, the oldest district in Lisbon and we had beautiful view on the Tejo river, but we really didn’t like our accommodation. So, we just slept there and mostly ate out – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I’ll start with the breakfasts: the Portuguese have a funny relationship with toast – they outright love it. Wherever you go, you have local coffee shops or pastelarias where you have a breakfast menu, which in 90% of the cases, consists of a white bread cheese and ham toast, a coffee and a freshly squeezed orange juice. All of this for 5€! Just be warned, they usually pour melted butter over the toast, so it’s a reaaaaally fatty start to the day. For the more adventurous ones there are different toast creations at some places, for example I ate a hearth shaped banana and cheese toast.
Our favorite place was the Confitaria Rainha Dona Amélia, as the waiters are really friendly and everything looked nice and clean, but it is a more touristic type of coffee shop. We also visited some local pastelarias, one of them the Pastelaria Lisboa Tejo, a place which is directly across the Santa Apolonia train station. We fled there from the rain and the storm Felix which was crossing over Lisbon at that moment. It is a really interesting place as it has the tang of a comedown, local train station café, which didn’t change, renovate or refurbish for at least 15 years – but the locals didn’t really care about that. You will see a group of grandmas sitting on plastic chairs and drinking their coffee of tables with paper tablecloths, just chatting about something, or you will notice a steady stream of people running in and out, taking their snacks or their coffee to go, or chatting up at the counter. One snack I found pretty interesting and which I want to eat fresh is a Rissóis de Camarão (Portuguese shrimp dumplings).
As for lunches, I’ll talk about 2 places we ate lunch while staying there. The first one is the Petisqueira Conqvistador – a small place with a capacity of maybe 20 people. Interior-wise it isn’t really special, but the food is pretty good and the service was excellent. We payed about 54€ (without tips) for 4 dishes, different tapas, a pumpkin-based cake and a bottle of wine. So, the price is also pretty fair.
This was the first time I ate really fresh seafood – and it was too good. They season the dishes pretty lightly so you get a genuine experience on the tastes of the ingredients. We had prawns (served in a chili and lemon sauce) and some clams (the Portuguese amêijoas à bulhão pato, and also ordered a cheese plate with regional cheeses and homemade onion jam. I would definitely recommend a visit there, optimally when you are visiting the São Jorge Castle, as it is nearby.
The other restaurant was also in the neighborhood of the São Jorge Castle – Canto da Villa. We stumbled upon it by chance whilst visiting Miradouro de Santa Luzia, a beautiful viewpoint (miradouro is translated to viewpoint). There are many beautiful spots to have a view over Lisbon, but the Miradouro Santa Luzia is one of the more famous ones.
Canto da Villa had a really cheap offer (touristic menu for 15€ p.p) where you’ll get a homemade soup of the day, tagliatelle in a tomato-eggplant-mozzarella sauce and a carrot cake as a dessert. All this is accompanied by a drink (wine or beer). Everything was really fresh and made in the restaurant. Even the tagliatelle wasn’t bought but made in the restaurant (I didn’t have the chance to check this with the servers, but it sure looked and tasted like it).
And just a couple of tips – always and everywhere order olives. Always! They are just addicting (I ate about 200-300 grams daily). They usually come in an olive oil-parsley-garlic sauce, and taste when you munch on them whilst waiting on your meal. They also taste amazing when you eat them with some beer or wine. If you are more of a beer drinker, you will mostly find two types of beer: Sangres and Super Bock. Personally, I found Super Bock more enjoyable and tastier, but the difference wasn’t really that big. As for wine, be sure to check out white wines form the Alentejo region with your fish dishes!
As for the part II, I’ll write about our experience of a dinner accompanied with fado music, the famous Portuguese bacalhau and furthermore I’ll talk about the tasting menu at the famous A Cevicheria.