I am a foodie (I still do not dislike this word or label!) and I eat out frequently in all the cities I have the opportunity to visit. I recently moved to Lisbon and am ecstatic with how vibrant the city is nowadays, with restaurants boasting of various types of cuisine.
To start with (I am writing this in the hopes of being invited to write for Top10Mom again, okay?), here are my 7 favourite Portuguese restaurants in town.
- Café Lisboa – Largo de São Carlos, nº23
This is one of my favourite spots in town. Michelin-starred Chef José Avillez loves the Bairro Alto / Chiado neighborhoods and you can find several of his restaurants around this area. I have been to all except Belcanto, and this is my favourite. Here you have an interior and exterior space, yet it isn’t overall too big. The restaurant is filled with executives in a hurry at lunchtime and with gorgeous people in the evenings. The closeness to Theatre São Carlos makes customers come here for a quick date before or after heading to the theatre. We especially recommend the Bacalhau a Brás (let’s call it a potato and codfish stirfry?) with explosive olives and the discreet yet bold décor by Portuguese artist Joana Vasconcelos.
- Clube dos Jornalistas – Rua das Trinas
You will love this restaurant and want to move there
As soon as we booked a table at this restaurant called Clube de Jornalistas (means “The Journalists’ Club”). I thought the name was quite peculiar…
When I got there, you cannot imagine how flabbergast I was. I was not expecting this kind of spot at all. It instantly reminded me of restaurant Derrière in Paris where you have the impression to be entering someone’s house… but this spot was more refined and I truly appreciated that all the tables were quite set apart, giving a lot of privacy to every party. I loved the discreet lighting, the wood decor and the whole setting that is so well-thought to make you think it was only put there without overthinking. The service is excellent and done in such a suave tone of voice, the menu comes in an envelope that we rushed to open as we were ready to order.
We ordered for starters a corn cream made with fried corn and chorizo and a plate made with an egg, fresh asparagus, mushrooms and a piece of toast. I ordered this one and it was stunning! so simple yet so delicious. For the entree we ordered pork with truffles, black-eyed peas and apple and… the star of our meal… the thing I know that set of eyes was looking to see amazement in mine was the dessert. It’s called “coisas doces” (means “sweet things”) and it’s a combination of all the desserts of the restaurant in a miniature display. It was a feast for both our eyes and tastebuds… And last but not least, we received two gifts before leaving the restaurant: a cloth bag for me (I use it everyday ever since) and a gourmet tuna can for my date.
- Frade dos Mares – Avenida Dom Carlos, nº55A
Sometimes on Friday or Saturday evenings, it’s nearly 9pm and you do not want to cook and you want to go out. If happened recently, yet finding an available spot for dinner in Lisbon is not an easy task. I had been to Frade dos Mares a few months ago for a business lunch and liked it, yet did not know its potential for a dinner date. Totally surprising: the lights are soft, the conversations aren’t too loud, the service is superb and the food is more than competent: it makes us crave for more! I recommend this restaurant especially for its seafood (try the baked mussels, with breadcrumbs. I almost cried while eating it because I wanted more and more). The octopus is beautifully cooked, yet you can also give its meat a go, as they will not fail you. It’s the setting for a perfect and slow date!
- K.O.B. Lisboa – Rua do Salitre, nº169, opens for lunch and dinner on weekdays, only for dinner on weekends.
For meat lovers
I wish I were vegan or vegetarian to give you a good recommendation in this field, but I am a meat lover and K.O.B., by Olivier, does not disappoint. First of all, this is one of the most stunning restaurants I have been to in this town, and even if I had only gone for drinks and stayed at the bar, I would have kept this impression…. The gorgeous lights and decor, swoon! And the meat… go for it. This restaurant specializes in dry-aged meats from several corners of the world such as Ireland and Australia. You can order the sides as well, and I recommend the mashed potatoes and the salads – I love a salad or greens with a beautiful piece of meat. Is it to make me feel less guilty? – and all the cocktails you can humanly take with it.
- Bistro 100 Maneiras – Largo da Trindade, nº9, opens only for dinner.
This restaurant, set on two floors, is one of the best in town. It is located in Lisbon and its name is a play on words (that means “Lacking manners” in English), yet it could be located in any major capital in this world. At the head is the famous Chef Ljubomir Stanisic, of Bosnian background. On the menu, you will find Portuguese staple ingredients but with a classic and irreverent twist. The food is amazing – yet the menu changes regularly – but when I went, I loved the black risotto and the suckling pig. I did not eat pork skin prior to going to 100 maneiras. Now I do. Also, you need to know the chef loves anything gut-related (gut, liver, heart…) so if you are daring, go for it as soon as you see in on the menu, it’s worth the experience. Also, we left this restaurant completely and jolly happy by 2am after dinner. Is it telling that we loved it?
- Solar dos Presuntos – Rua Portas de Santo Antão, nº150, closes on Sundays
Okay, to enjoy a proper meal at the Solar, please go on a 5-day empty stomach because you all need all the available space you might imagine. Set on more than 3 floors, the restaurants prides itself on its established years, food and reputation. And it will not disappoint you. Here is the place to go for all the Portuguese staples and there will be no twist and no classic-cuisine education. Go for the bread, the cheese and the smoked hams for the couvert. Go for the açorda (“bread stews”), the seafood, codfish, the octopus or the roast goat that will be served generously with roast or boiled vegetables and all that stunning olive oil. And at this point, you will not be able to 1-order anything else 2-go down the several customer-filled floors without discreetly opening your pants.
- Alma – Rua Anchieta, nº15, closes on Mondays
If you are thrifty when it comes to dining out, this restaurant is not for you. If you only appreciate large portions and “beef and potatoes”, this restaurant is not for you. We recommend that you go all in, with an empty stomach, and order one of the tasting menus, with several dishes. And go beyond and request a wine pairing, and it will be the best day of your life. I do not like shrimp, I loved it at Alma, with its fried head. I do not dig red mullet much, I loved it at Alma, with its fried bones. The meat is amazing, the desserts are amazing, the wine is amazing, the smoked butter will make you want to steal it yet they will only have the house Olive Oil for sale. Smart kids! Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa is a discreet fellow with several restaurants in Lisbon, but we could say Alma is his flagship restaurant and it recently earned a much-deserved Michelin Star. It’s not the kind of restaurants we can go back every month, but it is completely worth a one time experience at the very least. And please, dress fancy. The place is gorgeous and so should you be.
Calma Chica is a young multicultural executive now established in Portugal. Monthly, she shares her views (in Portuguese) about the world in a newsletter about what she listens to, sees, watches, buys, eats, wears and mostly, where she travels.