We visited Lisbon three years ago, and, as I wrote about our visit then (well, on another blog and I kind of just brought the post over here), another city-overview post might be a bit of overkill. But I can assure you that we weren’t disappointed with our decision to spend a few days revisiting the city at the beginning of our recent Portugal adventure.
We did have a few new discoveries on our trip though: firstly nearby Sintra, and also lots of lovely restaurants. More on the former soon, but as it’s Friday today, I make it Food Friday! So here’s Lisbon Eats: Part 2!
Fumeiro de Santa Catarina This little restaurant is tucked away on the corner of two quiet streets in the Santa Catarina area (near Bairro Alto); we were staying five minutes away, yet if it wasn’t for Tripadvisor’s ‘best nearby’ feature, I doubt we’d have discovered it.
Each dish at Fumeiro de Santa Catarina is contains a smoked element (smoking meat is an Iberian tradition – but it might not be the meat that gets smoked here). It’s not quite tapas, but plates are small – our waitress recommended we ordered three between the two of us, which was enough, but we probably could have fit more in if we wanted to gorge – or couldn’t make up our minds (which looked to be the case for some of our fellow diners).
We went for the roasted vegetables with mozerella, broad beans with ham, and octopus in a barbeque vinegarette. They were all delicious; the smokeyness really added something to all the dishes (I particularly enjoyed the flavour it gave to the aubergine), without being overpowering. However the octopus was definitely the star of the show.
Service was friendly and prices were good; two (small) alcoholic drinks, three mains and olives came to under €30. (As with many European restaurants, the extras they place on the table aren’t free, but the olives were worth it. We resisted the very nice looking cheeses, so I’m not sure how much they would have cost, but the olives were just €1 so don’t worry too much about tucking into them.) Even on a Wednesday night, the restaurant was full by 8:30/8:45ish (still on English-eating time, we turned up at 7:30 when it was just us and one other couple – the Portuguese eat much later than us Brits). So it’s probably worth a reservation if you want to guarantee yourself a spot past 8. Also worth noting is that they can’t take overseas bank cards and the nearest cash machine is just under ten minutes away, so make sure you’re stocked up on Euros before visiting.
Great food and an interesting experience in a relaxed atmosphere, Fumeiro de Santa Catarina is a must-visit if you’re in the Bairro Alto or Santa Catarina area – and well worth making a trip for even if you’re not.
Fumeiro de Santa Catarina
Travessa do alcaide, 4C
Open Tuesday – Saturday, 19:00 – 00:30
Telephone: 92 640 9775 – 213471002
Mercada da Ribeiro
The one change we did notice about Lisbon was that the area we were staying in – particularly Rua Boavista – seemed to be at the beginning of a process of gentification. Among the old ginja bars and pastelerias was a furniture store full of ‘hip’ furniture, an electric car shop and a shabby-chic style bar complete with table football which seemed to attract a younger crowd than the surrounding places. The older, more traditional outlets still far outnumber the ‘cool’ ones, but I couldn’t help wondering if this was the next ‘cool’ Lisbon neighbourhood (if it’s not already).
The nearby Mercado da Ribeira development has certainly helped add kudos to the surrounding area. The 19th-century building itself isn’t new; it has been home to the traditional market for many years. But the new Time Out development in another part of the building only opened a few months ago and it’s clearly already a popular hangout. The Mercado is like a massive, upmarket food court, hosting a number of stalls from well-known Portuguese restaurants, and five with food by their top chefs. You grab your food and sit down on a stool at one of the communal benches – although it looked pretty busy both times we visited (3pm for lunch, and 9pm for dinner. Yes, on the same day), we managed to grab two seats together both times – though it was much easier at lunch.
I say grab your food, but there’s a bit more waiting involved than in your typical food stand. It’s made fresh to order in front of you, leaving your mouth watering. But if there’s likely to be a long wait (in the evening, our meals took 20/25 minutes or so) they’ll hand out a buzzer that’ll go off when the food is ready, so you can relax in your seat and take in the atmosphere instead of hanging around at the stand.
Most of the stands also serve drinks, but there’s also a bar in the centre of the room – with ‘self-service’ beer!
At lunchtime, we sampled Cozinha da Felicidade. I had the scrambled eggs on bread with sausage, which was amazing. The sausage was really meaty and gamey and the bread was gorgeous. John’s meal trumped it though – a meaty ‘pie’, but with mashed potato instead of pastry – very fuzzy photo above (apologies). (Though the Portuguese menu I’ve found describes it as a ‘Rosti de batata’ – potato rosti – which is probably a more accurate description.). My food was great, but I still had food envy. In the evening we went for Cafe de Sao Bento, the outpost of a well-known restaurant in the city once voted the best steak in Lisbon. John went for the steak sandwich, whereas I decided I had to sample the ‘steak sao bento’, which came in a creamy sauce that was almost like a less-rich bearnaise. (I plumped for the rib eye as it was by far the cheapest cut on the menu, but other options were available). We both thought our meals were on the well done side of medium, so if you prefer more pink to your meat then do ask for it medium-rare or rare. Otherwise both dishes were excellent; I definitely wasn’t trying to spoon the remainder of my sauce into my mouth at the end (and by spoon, I mean try and get a substantial amount onto a fork)…
If you fancy a more traditional restaurant experience, there’s a couple of outlets on the outside with terraces and tables. There’s also a gelataria and pastelaria for dessert and a cocktail bar if you don’t fancy the self-service beer.
On a Thursday night, the room seemed full of a huge mix of people from families to young and old groups of friends catching up, to couples to tourists. It was lively, loud and a great way to sample some of the local restaurants and chefs in an informal atmosphere – and ideal if you and your party are at odds about what you fancy for dinner that evening.
Mercado da Ribeira
Avenida 24 de Julho, Cais do Sodré
We ummed and ahed about Ibo. It had good reviews and plenty of very positive blogposts about it. We love curries. It overlooked the water. But it was expensive, especially for Portugal. Eventually we decided to spoil ourselves. This turned out to be the best food-related decision of the holiday.
Sat in a former warehouse on the waterfront behind Cais do Sodre station, Ibo’s menu is inspired by Mozambican and Portuguese dishes: think seafood curries, fish dishes and steaks. I had the prawn curry, which came with rice and two condiments (some of the best chutney and lime pickle I have ever tasted). John went for the octopus fillet with beans and coriander rice. Both dishes were amazing – fresh and full of flavour, and mine had a hint of spice without it being overpowering.
And then there were the desserts. I tried the caramelized banana with cream ice-cream and sesame seed brittle, while John plumped for wild berry cheesecake. There aren’t enough adjectives to do justice to these meals so let’s just say that they tasted even better than they looked.
Coming in at around €60 for poppadoms, two mains, two desserts and a glass of wine (they ask you what you like, whether you’re happy with house white or more, bring out a suggestion and check whether you like it), Ibo’s not exactly a budget option. But considering the quality of the food and the location (we watched the sun begin to set over the river as we ate, the area relatively quiet save for the occasional passing cyclist, runner or walker), I certainly wouldn’t say it’s overpriced. The perfect place if you’re a curry and/or seafood fan after a slightly more ‘special’ meal in Lisbon.
Cais do Sodre (behind the train station)
Tues-Thurs: 12:30pm-15:30pm; 19.30pm-11pm
Fri-Sat: 12:30pm-17:30pm; 19:30pm-01:00am
Closed Sunday evenings, Mondays
Where to drink
We loved Park, situated on top of a multistory carpark in the area where Santa Catarina meets Bairro Alto. We initially went to watch Portugal’s last world cup group game, but the television was in a covered area and we couldn’t resist the lure of the terrace overlooking the streets below and the river and 25th of April bridge beyond. Complemented by table service and a soothing soundtrack, Park is the perfect place for a relaxed couple of drinks after a day’s sightseeing.
Calçada do Combro 58
Open every day, 13:00-02:00
Fumeiro de Santa Catarina interior: Fumeiro de Santa Catarina’s Facebook page, by Beatriz Tomáz
Mercado de Ribeira Portuguese Independent News
All other images my own, please credit if using.
(If you want to see where we ate last time, I wrote about them too. However this was three years ago, so I can’t still vouch for their quality.)