I recently had the joy of visiting Lisbon – Portugal’s vibrant capital – a city perched on the edge of the River Tagus and bathed in warm September sunshine.
With a rich, seafaring heritage and situated, as it is, so close to the Atlantic, fish and seafood are the order of the day at restaurants across the city, with the infamous Bacalhau (salted cod) and Sardinhas (sardines) appearing almost ubiquitously on menus. Delve deeper though, and Lisboans know seafood on a much grander scale.
On our first evening we headed to Cervejaria Ramiro, a family-run Seafood Restaurant which started its days as a local ‘beer hall’. With warnings of hour-long queues we ventured out early and managed to get seated within about 10 minutes (although longer would have been well worth the wait). Sizzling prawns and garlicky clams were fantastic openers before we tackled the largest crab I’d ever seen – all complimented with local Sagres beer.
Lisbon also plays host to Time Out’s first food hall. Launched in May 2014, the market is a snapshot of all the best culinary offerings Portugal has to offer. Open from 10am to midnight, the market buzzes throughout the day without ever seeming to experience a ‘down-time’. Having done a thorough sweep of all the stands, we opted for Marlene Vieira, a female chef with roots in Northern Portugal with a flair for reinventing traditional Portuguese cuisine. A portion of Fried Cuttlefish and Squid Ink Risotto later and I was sold – Vieira’s dishes are absolutely fantastic.
Of course, no trip to Lisbon would be complete without paying a visit to Belém – the home of the famous Pastel de Nata. At just one euro a pop, they appear in Patisserie windows across Lisbon but Pastéis de Belém is the undisputed origin of the sweet, custard-filled tarts. Served with individual packets of icing sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle til your heart’s content and rest easy, knowing that the hilly streets of the city centre more than justify the delicious calories.
Four days in Lisbon passed in a blur of food, drink, hills, trams, tiles and sunshine. If you get a chance to visit this wonderful city, don’t pass it up – you won’t be disappointed.