Food Friday: Lisbon eats

Interior of the Casa do Alentejo. Credit for both photos: Retrorocketrick on Flickr
Casa do Alentejo dining room. Photo credit: Heather on her Travels

Casa do Alentejo
Rua Portas Santa Antao, Rossio
Although situated in one of the more touristy areas of town, this traditional Portuguese restaurant is not an immediately easy find. Not only is the building relatively unassuming from the outside – you certainly wouldn’t guess quite what was inside – but the ground floor is home to exhibition space showcasing Alentejan culture. The restaurant itself is situated upstairs, through a room filled with scattered furniture.

This may sound like a lot of hassle to go to for some food, but this restaurant is worth it if only for the gorgeous interior. Formerly the Palacio Alverdo, the building originally dates from the 17th century though did undergo significant work in 1918. It was renamed the Caso do Alentejo in the 1930s, when it became the secret place of Alentejans now living in Lisbon. Today it remains filled with the bright tiles that sum up the look of Lisbon, and even a stunning indoor courtyard. The restaurant itself features a murals created using these tiles and floors and furniture made of stately dark oak.

Yet despite its exuberant appearance, the feel of the restaurant itself is actually quite relaxed – there’s no need to dress up like you’re going for a royal dinner. Moreover the staff are friendly, chatter from fellow diners fills the dining hall creating a lively atmosphere, and the menu is reasonably priced. Although most patrons looked like tourists, we spotted some customers who could well have been locals too. The food itself isn’t outstanding, it was still tasty and a great example of traditional regional cuisine: coupled with the incredible setting, it made for an unforgettable dining experience.

Interior of the Cantinho da Paz. Photo Credit: Lisbon Restaurants

Cantinho da Paz
Rua da Paz 4, Santa Catarina
Tucked away in the Santa Catarina area, this family-run Goan restaurant is another one worth putting in the effort to find (and the risk of pushing open the door even if it looks closed!). It was small and friendly, and more importantly, we tasted some of the best curries we’d ever had: really rich and full of flavour. At around €15 for some of the mains, it’s not the cheapest eat in Lisbon but it was by far and away the best we experienced in terms of the food.

Restaurante Principe do Calhariz. Photo Credit: Virtual Tourist

Restaurante Principe do Calhariz
Calcada do Combro, 28, Bairro Alto
On the outskirts of the Bairro Alto, this bustling restaurant may look plain in décor, but its traditional Portuguese food is anything but. With young Lisboetas seemingly outnumbering tourists quite dramatically, this is a great place to sample ‘real’ Portuguese food – worth a visit despite the sometimes brusk service (probably because of quite how busy it is). I recommend taking a guidebook to attempt to translate the Portuguese menu, as I’m pretty sure we spotted some dishes that weren’t on the English menu we used – though I might be completely wrong!

The incredible Pasteis de Nata. Photo credit: Imaginacao Ativa
Exterior of Pasteis de Belem (my photo, for a change!)

Pasteis de Belem
Rua de Belém, 92, Belem
No visit to Lisbon is complete without a visit to this famous pastry shop. Sure you can buy Pasteis de Nata (custard tarts) at most cafes in Lisbon, but these ones really are the best – and worth the queues. Sprinkle on cinnamon from the packets provided, eat warm and savour.