We cannot claim to have eaten in a lot of places in Lisbon Portugal, but when we travel we try to find good food that represents local cuisine. Here are our reviews on some of the places where we ate.
Although we were seated at a table with a lovely view at this Michelin-starred restaurant for dinner, things went downhill quickly. We were served water minutes after we were seated, but it took at least 20 minutes before a server reached our table, despite the restaurant being only one-quarter filled and other tables having already ordered. When we finally managed to get the server’s attention, he asked for our order. We said we had questions about the menu and would also like to speak with the sommelier. It took another ten minutes to get answers to two basic menu questions and were again asked if we were ready to order. We said we would like to get our wine before ordering. Several minutes later, our sommelier arrived, answered our questions, recommended a wine (2018 Bical Ante Aeguinoctium white wine blend based primarily on Arinto grapes from the Dao Valley). It then took another 15 minutes or us to finally get the attention of a server to take our order. An hour and a half from the time we arrived, our first dish arrived. The four, small gold-leaf-covered covered bars of fois gras terrine was ceremoniously removed from a lockbox with tangerines and soy. Cute, but not especially memorable.
Although we were reasonably pleased with (albeit not exited by) suckling pig with crisp lacquered skin, fried rice and mango, we found little of interest in the steamed cod with mashed potatoes. We finished with a basic cheese plate which included a slice of cow’s milk cheese from the south, goat milk cheese from the central part of the country and sheep milk from the north. The amuse consisted a of a small taste of marinated sardine and a semi-thawed (as was intended) tortellini and finished with an almond cookie and bite of a brownie. Our verdict: the sommelier was helpful, the food nicely presented and acceptable but not memorable, the ordering process inexcusable (although the dishes, once ordered did arrive at a pace we would expect), and the price was steep for the food and especially for the service. We have no interest in returning.
In contrast to Eleven, we would gladly return here. We began our dinner with a sinfully creamy goat cheese (from the southern Palmela region) and olives before our main courses in this seafood-focused restaurant. Joyce had an artistically presented grilled octopus with olive oil and garlic over a bed of roasted potato and chickpeas while Tom enjoyed a similarly artfully-plated grouper loin with clams and lemon in a light coriander cream sauce over a bed of whipped potatoes with carrots and green beans. Both were delicious and were too large to finish! Our wine, also from Palmela, was a very pleasant 2019 Ermelinda do Torrao Reserva made primarily from Arinto and Alvarinho grapes. The service was perfect.
We had a delicious lunch at this restaurant that focuses primarily on fresh, local seafood. After some mediocre bread served with a choice of butter or sardine pate, we split two inexpensive and very good dishes We began with Spanish clams in olive oil and garlic, followed by an entire mid-sized octopus body with potatoes, tomato, onions. We celebrated with a pleasant bottle of 2021 Coop. Monaco Alvarinho Vinho Verde wine.
The restaurant enjoys a pretty location over the harbor. We took advantage of the view for lunch while splitting three dishes: The tasty quails nest was based on the Atheira (wild bird) sausage that the city’s Jews used to make and hang in their homes to pretend they ate pork sausage during the Inquisition (to show they were not Jewish). It was served with onion jam, caramelized apple, leeks and quail egg. We also shared beef tartare and chunks of grouper flamed in PDO olive oil and spirits with clams in a garlic and coriander broth. While good, it was not memorable. We were especially impressed with a white Douro Valley white wine blend—2019 Monte Cascus Reserva (primarily Viosinho an Goicveis grapes.
We reluctantly entered a long line in the pouring rain for lunch in Belem. Mercifully, the line moved incredibly quickly. We had a good quick, casual lunch of a large Iberian ham, mozzarella and tomato sandwich and two of its famous Pasteis de Belem custard tarts and a bottle of water—all for less than 10 Euro.
Restaurante Santo Antao
At this seafood specialty restaurant, we began with tiny clams in a butter/white wine/garlic/parsley and mustard sauce that was delicious. The fried calamari was nice, but a slightly bit underdone, which is the first time we have ever been served a dish that we would have preferred cooked a minute more. We also had a very good seafood cataplana–mixed seafood (clams, mussels, shrimp, calamari, mixed fish) and potatoes in a tomato sauce. All were very good, although we weren’t crazy about the rather acidic white wine (Adega de Legoes Verdelho/Chardonnay) from the Setenai Peninsula.
Casa de Fados
We went here to combine dinner with a sampling of Portugal’s trademark Fado music. The food was mixed. Joyce‘s roasted octopus with olive oil, garlic, and roasted potatoes was very good. Tom’s Gilthead bream on seafood stew was too overcooked to be edible. The wine was another fruity, straightforward, easy-to-drink red: a Quinta de Cabriz Reserve from the Dao region. As for Fado music—whose singing is supposed to convey a deep sense of melancholy yearning for the past—Tom thought it was somewhat engaging (but felt none of the passion it is supposed to elicit. As for Joyce: she felt nothing except a burning desire to leave the building.
Joyce stayed with seafood here for our lunch and had as very good grilled sea bass. Tom, tempted by a veal chop, reverted to meat. Both dishes were cooked perfectly and very good.
We saw a lot of beautiful buildings in Lisbon, but our all-time favorite building was our hotel. Although we have stayed in a number of lovely hotels, Lisbon’s Hotel Avenida Palace was special. We were immediately floored when we walked and saw an incredibly Neo-Classical salon in which a classical piano solo was being played (with a different performance almost every day). Walks through our floor took us to several similarly sumptuous public meeting, sitting, and breakfast rooms.
During checkin, Joyce asked whether they had any upgrades as we had a free upgrade, if available. We were taken to our beautiful upgraded room. The large bedroom was beautiful with its 20-foot ceilings and sitting area. But just as Joyce began to congratulate herself on finding this hotel (at such a great price and remembering to ask for our upgrade), the bellman asked if we wanted to see our other room. He then opened a set of double doors that led to a magnificent sitting room that was at least the size of the bedroom. It was filled with antique furniture and its walls were painted as hanging cloth and were hung with oil paintings. We felt like royalty from the moment we walked in to the moment we left. We almost kicked ourselves for staying in Lisbon for only two nights. This is definitely a place to return to—and to book on their web site in case an upgrade is available.
Although this is a nice and comfortable hotel, we found its locations not as convenient for exploring. True, a bus stops right in front of the hotel, but as walkers, we preferred being closer to the main tourist areas.