It might be obvious to some that I fall into the category of someone who lives to eat, rather than vice versa. My surname was once misspelled as Gannet, which although faintly insulting, couldn’t have been more apt.
As a family, we love food and eating out. Having lived in Lisbon for many years now, I’m occasionally asked to recommend places to eat and drink. If it were up to my children, Mr Pizza would be ranking highly, but it isn’t, so what follows is my biased and entirely personal opinion.
If you’re after something reasonably-priced and authentic, try somewhere along the lines of Sinal Verde. It’s close to Bairro Alto, where you’ll also find a whole host of bars and restaurants. Sinal Vermelho, situated within Bairro Alto itself, is excellent; the staff are friendly and the food is great value for money. Also in Bairro Alto is As Salgadeiras. It’s slightly fancier and pricier, but atmospheric and offers a more polished take on typical Portuguese fare.
If you’re interested in taking traditional Portuguese cuisine up a notch – and paying accordingly – you could try any one of the restaurants owned by José Avillez. He has a range of different eateries, all varying in style and price, most of which offer a modern take on Portuguese cuisine. Bairro do Avillez is superb. The Taberna is cheaper and more casual; the Páteo is more expensive and sophisticated. Service is always excellent and it’s a wonderful place to go for a special occasion. I also like Cantinho do Avillez, which is different again and an opportunity to sample Portuguese petiscos (small sharing plates). The peixinhos da horta (green beans in a crisp batter, served with tartar sauce) are not to be missed! Belcanto is Michelin-starred and not cheap.
Another restaurant worth a visit is Pharmacia, which is in the same building as the Pharmacy Museum. It also offers sharing plates, meaning that you can sample lots of different flavours. Along similar lines, except cheaper and more homely, is Taberna da Esperança in Santos.
For perfect seafood, head to Ramiro. The tiger prawns grilled with garlic butter and the dressed crab are highlights here. This restaurant rose to international fame after Anthony Bourdain’s ‘No Reservations’ episode about Lisbon. Expect long queues (or arrive early), although the PAYG beer tap situated outside makes the wait a little less painful. For a slightly less polished, but no less delicious restaurant experience, try O Palácio in Alcântara. The joy of this place is that it’s a genuine favourite with the locals and you will be sure to encounter all walks of life. Be warned that several menu items in the majority of seafood restaurants are sold by the kilogram rather than per item, so you probably won’t know the precise cost of your crab, lobster or tiger prawn until you get the bill. Brace yourself!
Brassiere L’Entrecote in Chiado is a continental-style restaurant, which pretty much only serves one dish, but does it very well – steak (in a top-secret recipe sauce), fries and salad. It has a lovely atmosphere. For a similar vibe, but with more choice, Versailles on Avenida da República is an option. It’s frequented by Lisboetas stopping by for lunch or a snack throughout the day and is unashamedly reminiscent of a bygone era.
For lunch, dinner, sweet and savoury treats and wine, one of the gourmet markets is a good choice: Ribeira (Time Out) market is big, with unlimited choice but best avoided at peak times, as despite its size, it still gets very busy. My favourite kiosks here are Cozinha da Felicidade (run by the same chef that owns Pharmacia) and Alexandre Silva. A bit (but not very) off the beaten track is the Campo de Ourique market, which is smaller and less shed-like, more atmospheric and popular with locals. There’s an array of classic Portuguese food options (seafood, cured ham and cheese platters, traditional main courses, steak), as well as sushi, among other things, here.
Somewhere nice for a drink (just the one maybe, it’s not cheap) is the rooftop bar of Hotel Chiado. From here you get to take in views of the city (the castle and the cathedral for example) and it’s never that busy either. I’d advise against coffee stops in any of the more obvious bars and cafés in Rossio or Largo de Camões. The staff tend to be surly and inefficient and the prices are higher than they should be. There are lots of quaint coffee kiosks dotted around, particularly on Avenida da Liberdade and near the look-out points (Graça, São Pedro de Alcântara, to name a few). If you’re flagging, revive yourself in Rossio with a cherry liqueur at ‘Ginjinha Sem Rival‘ or ‘A Ginjinha’.
And finally, it would be criminal to visit Lisbon without sampling pasteis de nata. Pasteis de Belém are divine, but if you can’t face the tram ride, Fábrica da Nata in Restauradores offers an excellent alternative and the opportunity to sample these custardy delights with a cheeky glass of Port.