Portugal is one of those mediterranean influenced countries where the food is simple, fresh and delicious. The Portuguese have a strong affinity with the sea so their cuisine is seafood lovers dream. Their coffee is as good as any I tasted in Italy (and far cheaper) and for those of you that like their grape even cheap bottles of Portuguese wine or port are better than most house wines you’ll be served in London. Best of all – it’s very affordable. In most of the little cafes and bistros in Lisbon you can get a standard meal and a glass of house wine for around €10. In fact there are so many good restaurants there that even if you don’t try any of my suggestions you will still have some amazing food adventures of your own.
If there is one place in Lisbon that’s worthy of starting off a review on how I ate some great Portuguese food it’s Pastéis de Belém – makers of a custard tart so amazing it’ll ruin you for any other custard tart the city has to offer.
Belém is a waterfront town thirty minutes by tram from downtown Lisbon. The patisserie has been in operation since 1837 and it’s easily found as there’s always a queue of people spilling out the front door! I recommend going inside the labyrinthine building to take a peek through the glass wall into the kitchen and then finding yourself a seat to enjoy your treat at leisure.The signature pastry of Belém has delicately soft custard (still warm from the oven) in a case of crispy buttery filo pastry dusted with cinnamon and sugar. Beyond that I can’t think of the words to describe how divine it is. All I can say is if you’re ever in Lisbon you MUST take the time to go to Belém and try one (or a few) yourself.
Pastéis de Belém, Rua de Belém 84 1300 Lisbon, Portugal
In between scoffing custard tarts in Belém I grabbed some lunch from a little restaurant on the main street. I forget the name but the dish – Acorda de Marisco was quite distinctive. Described (in slightly sketchy English) as a ‘traditional seafood bread sauce with coriander’, I was sold as soon as I saw the words coriander and seafood together.
My meal arrived with a raw egg cracked on top that the waiter thoroughly stirred through the dish before leaving me to it. Acorda de Marisco is best described as is a smooth seafood bread based porridge. Mine featured prawns and a generous helping of garlic. While the texture may be a bit off-putting for some people it was rather tasty and I can imagine it being a filling hearty meal on a winter’s day. Plus it seems a perfect way to use up a loaf of dry crusty old bread!
Back in Lisbon and just up the hill from Camões Square in the Baixa Chiado (bar and restaurant) district is a little restaurant called Casa Da Índia. From the street you can see the chef cooking meat and seafood on his charcoal grill in the window. Don’t be deterred that the menu isn’t in English – even if you don’t get a bilingual waiter you can just point to something in the cabinet and they’ll cook it on the grill for you!
The restaurant was recommended to me by a tour guide and is full of locals (which is always a good sign). I was on a mission to eat some cephalopod. Every person I’d talked to had said that the Portuguese really know how to cook their octopus and cuttlefish – it’s always perfectly tender and never chewy. The cuttlefish I pointed out arrived with a charcoal flavour, the usual side of boiled potato and so much olive oil infused with parsley and onion that I’d have to drink it to finish it. The cuttlefish was tender, my meal was delicious and best of all it was cheap. If you’re in town and looking for something delicious you can’t go wrong with this place.
Restaurante Casa Da Índia, Rua do Loreto 51, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal
Cantinho das Gáveas is a little restaurant also located in heart of Baixa Chiado. I was lured in by their red wine octopus rice dish and settled myself down with a large of red wine and some anticipation. The dish was another simple but delicious affair – a bit like a casserole or a risotto but the rice was cooked before the dish was assembled to stop it from being stodgy. There were chunks of octopus in amongst the rice that were so soft and tender that even sitting in the warm serving pot while eating my first portion didn’t make them rubbery.
Like the Acorda de Marisco this would be an amazing hearty meal to have on a winter evening. In fact I might try making it myself sometime in the future.
Restaurante Cantinho das Gáveas, R. Gáveas 82, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal
Half an hour by train outside Lisbon is the beautiful historic town of Sintra. Clambering over the ruins and exploring palace corridors had given me quite an appetite. Being ravenously hungry while in a tourist town is generally an expensive exercise in dining off ‘Menu Touristic.’ These are menus written in bad English with overpriced ‘safe’ food for tourists who can’t be bothered translating the menu from the local language. So when I collapsed in a chair outside Tasca do Xico I was a touch worried. Instead I had the most delicious meal of my trip.
A general recommendation for Portugal is if you want the freshest food, decipher the Portuguese on the specials blackboard (or get an english speaking waiter to decipher it for you). I picked a fish of the day called dourada mainly because I had no idea what it was (Google tells me it’s a gilthead bream). It arrived cut down the middle, grilled with garlic and it’s tail delicately draped over the edge of the plate. The flesh was white, soft and the chef hadn’t overcooked or over-salted it (the Portuguese like their fish salty). Instead of the standard Portuguese side of boiled potato and a salad of a few leaves of lettuce, the dish came with baked potatoes and salty wilted greens. The saltiness of the greens was created by dressing them with olive oil and brine – something which sounds odd, but matched the flavours perfectly.
While the dish was a bit expensive by Portuguese standards (€14 instead of the usual €8-9 you might find in Lisbon) I was feeling puffed up with culinary schadenfreude as I watched the French couple next to me tuck into their toasted sandwiches and fried egg with chips.
Tasca do Xico, Rua Arco do Teixeira 8, Sintra 2710, Portugal
As a fan of seafood, Portuguese cuisine stole my heart. The food isn’t fancy and there’s a distinct lack of vegetables – but in exchange for that you get great wine, fresh fish, delicious olive oil, cheap amazing coffee – all for a great price. Combine this with the amazing culture, history and scenery and you’ll come close to understanding why Lisbon has moved to the top of my travel list to become my most favourite city I’ve visited.
One of the great things about moving to a new city is that there are plenty of new places to try. Having previously lived in Auckland, New Zealand for around 6 years we had tried almost everywhere that was worth trying, the best places to go were well documented and the search for the best place to get a burger was effectively over. Now that we’re based in London, the hunt for a great burger has resumed and there are a whole heap of places lined up waiting for a visit from amazing food adventures, the latest of which was Lucky Chip.
Leanne and I went to Lucky Chip on a cold miserable night which in hindsight wasn’t the smartest thing we could have done. It turns out Lucky Chip is contained within a portable trailer located at the Netil Markets (on a Saturday night when we were there) a market with limited shelter from the winter elements. Luckily we went there at night when the other market stalls had closed down, this left us an area where we could sit down and keep covered from the rain.
Now for the food, I went for the Selleck burger that had a thick juicy beef patty, bacon, cheddar cheese, salad, grilled pineapple and a one hell of an onion ring. Quite simply put it was massive! Leanne opted for the “Sheen” which had the beef patty, Philadelphia, cheddar cheese, lettuce, beer soaked onions and garlic aioli and very satisfied she was with it too!
The beef patty in the burgers were incredible, great texture, nice char salty grill flavour, medium rare. The bun was probably the best I’ve ever had on a burger, apparently the people from Lucky Chip went through 50 bakeries to find the perfect one! Bacon could have done with a bit more grilling but it was really, really tasty. Yum!
Lucky Chip also do a great selection of sides, we went for the beetroot flavoured onion rings and of course, fries. Wow. Fries. Best we’ve ever had. Great crunch, soft in the middle, just the right amount of salt, potato skin still on. Incredible. Onion rings disappeared before the burgers even arrived, absolutely delicious.
Overall, Lucky Chip was definitely an amazing food adventure. Will definitely be heading back there to try the bacon burger and Sebright Arms before I give it a rating against Honest Burgers!Netil Market E8 3RL on Saturday nights or Sebright Arms 31-35 Coate St E2 9AG
Note from Leanne: Check out this blog Burgerac. Truly dedicated to the pursuit of great burgers. Often a source of inspiration even when we lived in NZ! I also want to bring up those fries again – they were second to none. AMAZING!
ps – promise we won’t bring up the new city thing again! We’re adjusting slowly but surely!
Ok, so it’s the boy again and I’m writing about burgers. What else?! The other week Leanne, Nick (the new flatmate) and I decided to check out Honest Burgers having spotted it on a recky around the markets in Brixton, close to where we’ve just moved.
Honest Burgers is quite a small place, seats maybe 8 people inside and another 8-10 just outside in the covered walkway. We arrived for a late lunch and it was packed, we waited a short time before we were seated so watched the chef busy in his little quarters with little metal bowls covering the patties on the grill and tossing the triple cooked fries in rosemary salt. The menu, which takes up an entire wall, also kept us deliberated while we waited.
In terms of burgers, I had the honest burger with no cheese, Leanne had the honest burger with cheese and Nick had the vegetarian option, the cauliflower fritter. All the burgers came with triple cooked chips, something I’ve been hankering to try after seeing them on Masterchef!
Upon ordering Leanne and I were asked how we would like our burgers, “medium?”, “Yep”. Awesome. We’ve heard that the Brits love to ask how you’d “like” your burger cooked now we can vouch for that too!
Now apparently I need to use more adjectives in my blogs to describe the food and to entice the readers. So here are a number of them to describe the burgers: delicious, mouthwatering, scrumptious, delectable and yummy. The triple cooked chips were pretty good although they weren’t all the same thickness some of them seemed a little under cooked and not as crispy as the rest. A minor gripe really as I did end up eating every last one of those sumptuous rosemary salt fried potato things!!
We are still getting used to the prices here in London but for £8 it seemed pretty good given it came with fries. We’ve seen more expensive burgers in the UK that don’t look anywhere near as good as the ones from here so if that’s anything to go by then this is definitely worth it!
Like I said in the title, these burger are good, honest burgers. Most definitely worth a try!Honest Burgers Unit 12, Brixton Village, London SW9 8PR T: +44 (0)7739 182 955 OPEN: Tu – We 12-16h; Th – Sa 12-16h, 18-22h; Su 12-16h