Richard Lachmann’s Dining in Lisbon, 2014 Edition
Our return to Lisbon gave us the opportunity to return to favorite restaurants from our previous visit in 2012 and to try some of the restaurants that have opened in the meantime. As in other cities, some chefs have opened multiple restaurants.
What follows are my evaluations of the places where we ate during our months of living in Lisbon in 2012 and 2014, grouped into categories. I hope you will find this helpful if you travel to Lisbon, and that you will add your impressions of these and other Lisbon eateries.
Innovative restaurants (these seek to combine Portuguese ingredients and recipes with international contemporary cooking techniques and sensibilities):
Belcanto (Largo de São Carlos 10; phone 213-420-607). This is Lisbon’s most interesting and successful effort at molecular cuisine, making use of first class ingredients. Chef José Avillez richly deserves his Michelin star.
100 Maneiras (Largo da Trindade 9; phone 910-307-575 http://www.restaurante100maneiras.com/?q=N/-/46). They have both a café and a restaurant with a single tasting menu. The café menu has an excellent variety of interesting dishes, well prepared.
Pedro e O Lobo (Rua do Salitre 169; phone 211-933-719). Outstanding tasting menu, and a bargain at 42 euros. They also now have an a la carte menu for those who don’t want to be locked into the tasting menu of the moment. Dishes are inventive, especially for fish.
Casa de Pasto (Rua de São Paulo, 20; phone: 213-471-397). Interesting takes on traditional Portuguese food. Their razor clam soup is wonderful and other dishes were delightful and tasty. Prices are a bargain for food of this quality. They showcase excellent wines from new Portuguese producers and are planning to create a wine bar on the ground floor; the restaurant is one flight up. They also plan to create a boutique hotel on the upper floors. Service is friendly and professional, and the restaurant has a hip design, with perhaps the most fanciful looking bathrooms I’ve seen in a restaurant anywhere. Hipster and Trendsetter approve.
De Castro (Rua Marcos Portugal, 1; phone: 215 903 077) A less formal, but I think more interesting, restaurant from the chef of Largo. Outstanding fresh seafood and fish, innovative dishes, including de Castro’s renowned clams with butter beans. Service is excellent and knowledgeable. Prices are a bargain for food of this quality. The restaurant looks out on the pretty Praça das Flores in the Principe Real neighborhood.
Cantinho do Avillez (Rua dos Duques de Braganca 7; phone: 351-211-992-369. An informal restaurant from José Avillez, the chef of the wonderful Belcanto. The menu is meat-heavy with renowned steak sandwiches, but the appetizers and fish dishes are especially good.
Chefe Cordeiro (Praca Comercio 20/23; phone 216-080-090) A less formal restaurant from the chef José Cordeiro of Feitori, which has a Michelin star. The food at this restaurant is pleasant but far from Michelin quality. The room is gorgeous and has a view of the beautiful Praça do Comercio. If you want to eat on the Praça this is the place to go, but it is not a destination.
Cafe Lisboa Largo de S. Carlos, nº23; phone: 211 914 498) A bistro with Portuguese influence from José Avillez, the chef of the wonderful Belcanto. The café has a room inside the theater and also tables in the plaza in front of the São Carlos Theater, a beautiful setting for tasty food.
Pharmacia (rua Marechal Saldanha 1; phone 213 462 146). A beautiful funky room inside the Museum of Pharmacy furnished with tables and other antique hospital equipment. The 28 euros tasting menu is a steal and the a la carte menu also is a bargain. The tapas portions are almost entree sized and most are 10 euros or under. Dishes are traditional Portuguese reimagined with contemporary techniques. Not all the dishes are successes, but overall a meal here is fun, with friendly service and great views of the Santa Catarina miradouro. The majority of diners were locals when we ate there.
1300 Taverna (Rua Rodrigues de Faria 103; phone 213-649-170) Located in LX Factory, a fun complex of stores and restaurants. Beautiful décor but mediocre food.
Seafood restaurants (these take advantage of Portugal’s outstanding fish and seafood):
Cervejaria da Esquina (Rua Correia Teles, 56; phone 213-874-644; cervejariadaesquina.com). Excellent super-fresh seafood: wonderful oysters crab, shrimp, barnacles. Their dressed crab appetizer is deservedly famous. The less elaborate dishes that let the seafood dominate are best.
Largo (Rua Serpa Pinto, 10A; phone 213-477-225) An excellent seafood restaurant with always-fresh ingredients carefully prepared. Their fish and seafood soup is outstanding. Main courses are more traditional, well-prepared but sometimes boring. The restaurant is in a beautiful space and the service is friendly if not entirely polished.
Gambrinus (Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 23; phone 213-421- 466) Fresh seafood, good service, very old style in preparation, e.g. Crepes Suzette made at tableside
Ramiro (Av. Almirante Reis nº1; phone 218-851-024) fresh seafood, but way overcooked
Lisboa a Noite (Rua das Gáveas 69/71; phone 213-468-557)
Fresh seafood, boring preparations
Tapas (less formal restaurants that are best for small dishes)
XL (Calcada da Estrela 57-63; phone 213-956-118) very good tapas, my favorite is their wonderful fried egg with foie gras sauce
El Gordo (Rua de S. Boaventura 16; phone 213-424-266) nice wine bar with generally decent tapas
Chafariz do Vinho (Rua da Mãe de Água; phone 213-422-079) beautiful space with good wine and ok tapas
Antigo 1 de Maio (Rua da Atalaia 8; phone 213-426-840). Traditional Portuguese dishes, extremely friendly service in a pretty room. Prices are very reasonable.
Zaafran (Largo Dona Estefânia, nº7; Metro Picoas; phone 213-558-894). Closed Sundays. This would be a top Indian restaurant in any US or European city, and well-regarded in London. The owners are Indians who lived in Mozambique, and there are subtle African elements in some of the dishes. Be aware: Thursday nights they have belly dancing and a set menu.
Lapa Restaurant (in Lapa Palace hotel, Rua Pau da Bandeira 4; phone 213-949-494) If you are dying for Italian food this is good though way overpriced, but in any city with excellent Italian food, this would be considered mediocre.
Pizzaria Lisboa (Rua dos Duques de Bragança 5H; 1200-162 Lisboa; phone 351-211-554-945). A pizza restaurant from star chef José Avillez. The best pizza I’ve found in Lisbon. The crusts are good but not outstanding, but the toppings are varied and excellent. There are more than twenty choices. I especially liked the one topped with truffled mortadella and the mushroom.
Casanova (Av. Infante D. Henrique 7 Loja B; phone 218-877-532) Good thin-crust pizza and crowded with both locals and tourists in a great location along the river.
Cais da Pedra (Av. Infante Dom Henrique, Cais da Pedra. Armazem B, Loja 9; phone 932-561-522). The gourmet hamburger craze has hit Lisbon. This is a worthy entry, with a variety of toppings and relishes, an excellent veggie burger, and large portions for the price. A beautiful riverside location.
Our favorite ice cream shop from 2012, Ice Dreams, has sadly gone out of business, but two new establishments are worthy successors.
Nannarella is now the best in Lisbon (Rua Nova da Piedade 68; phone 916-302-201; open noon to 7:30 pm every day except Sunday). Their chocolate ice cream is outstanding, rich with just the right touch of bitterness to cut the heavy creaminess. The cream overwhelms the fruit flavors, but mint and other non-fruit flavors and sorbets are excellent.
Fragoleto (Rua da Prata 61; phone: 213-479-472; open noon to 8pm daily). Numerous flavors with original interesting combinations, all made with organic ingredients only. Quality is less than Nannarella or the multi-location Artisani but better than Santini.
Artisani (various locations in Lisbon and also in Cascais). Rich, flavorful ice cream, almost as good as Nannarella.
Santini (various locations in Lisbon). This is the well-known, tourist-clogged ice cream place. They are good but their ice cream is clearly several notches below Artisani, although their sorbets are top-notch.
Claudio Corallo Chocolate (Rua Cecílio de Sousa 85; phone 213-862-158). Outstanding hot chocolate (a bargain at 1 Euro for a small cup) and excellent chocolates, albeit at high prices, which have doubled since 2012 – now 90 euros a kilo, $55 a pound.
Chocolataria Equador (Rua da Misericordia 72; phone 213-471-229). Dark, milk and white chocolates with a variety of flavorings from fruits to curry. As good as Claudio Corallo but at half the price.
Nata: the best Pastel de Nata is from a store simply named Nata. They no longer have a location in Principe Real on Rua Dom Carlos V but have expanded elsewhere. Now they have two Lisbon locations: Rua de StªCruz do Castelo, 5 a 11, and Rua da Prata, 78, as well as locations on Cascais, Porto, Braga, Coimbra and more.
Poison d’amour (Rua da Escola Politécnica, 32; phone 213-476-032). This is the real thing. French pastries of the same high quality as a top French patisserie.