List the most celebrated culinary capitals of Europe on one hand, and chances are you’ll run out of fingers before you get to Lisbon. It’s not that the food isn’t amazing here, it’s just that it doesn’t have quite the same reputation for haute cuisine as Paris, Madrid or Naples, or even more recent, arriviste destinations such as London or Copenhagen.
Yet Lisbon is still one of the best destinations for foodies anywhere on the continent. Because while it might not have as many Michelin stars as the cities above, it has one of the best street-level food scenes anywhere, with a long history of creating honest, unfussy food made from simple ingredients – dishes designed for communal enjoyment rather than culinary ostentation.
Culture Trip teamed up with French-born, Amsterdam-based chef Matthieu Eid to explore this scene, and we couldn’t have had a better guide. Eid is well-versed in the continent’s best cooking, but the first time he visited Lisbon, he had something of a culinary revelation. “Before travelling to Portugal I thought that the most enjoyable food was fancy food, elaborate food. But after discovering Portuguese cuisine I became aware that by putting a lot of love, a lot of pride into the food you make, you can make amazing dishes.”
Here are the highlights he and his local friends picked out for us to try, along with details of how to find them for yourself.
Arguably the most famous Portuguese food of all, these tiny custard tarts are now a staple of hipster bakery shelves around the world. But like Guinness in Ireland, they taste better at the source. Eid and his friends head to Manteigaria, in Luis de Camões square, to get theirs.
This Portuguese fast food is made from pork cooked in a spiced sauce. The exact ingredients vary (and José from As Bifanas do Afonso, on Magdalena street, keeps his a closely guarded secret) but it usually includes garlic, piri-piri, white wine and paprika. Served in a white roll with chili or mustard, it’s delicious.
Francesinha is originally from Porto, but the version served up at Lucimar, a family-run restaurant on Rua Francisco Tomás da Costa, rivals anything produced in Portugal’s second city. A sandwich made with sausage, pork and beef, smothered in a port and beer sauce, it’s not a light snack, and is far from veggie-friendly. But as Eid says in the video, “It’s greasy, it’s fatty, and it’s bloody delicious.”