Lisbon has long been home to a rich culinary culture, in which the abundance of fresh seafood offered up by Portugal’s long coastline is particularly prominent. In recent years the rustic flavors of traditional Portuguese cooking have been combined with cutting edge gastronomy to make Lisbon’s restaurant scene one of the most exciting in Europe, as these ten restaurants reveal.
Combining the traditional and the avant-garde, Belcanto is chef José Avillez’s brilliant addition to the Lisbon dining scene. Avillez took over a decades-old restaurant in Lisbon’s Chiado neighborhood and transformed it into a gastronomic laboratory for Portuguese cuisine, which has now been awarded a Michelin star. His cutting edge take on classical flavors is key to the ever-changing menu and reveals the breadth and depth of Portuguese cooking beyond the typical tourist staples. Avillez claims that he looks ‘at haute cuisine as a form of expression’ and this is immediately apparent in his dishes, each of which offers a narrative in itself as well as being visually stunning and delicious. Highlights from Belcanto include the Skate Jackson Pollock, a delicious seafood dish presented in the style of the late Abstract Expressionist, and an Inverted Martini, in which the traditional cocktail is turned inside out and upside down.
A low key, bohemian atmosphere makes Estrela da Bica a highlight of any visit to Lisbon. The restaurant manages to be innovative and creative without ever being pretentious, and the bistro-like ambiance makes for a particularly rustic dining experience. The food is a mixture of Portuguese and Brazilian styles, with the occasional fusion twist thrown in; the ‘Dim Sum of the Day’, a fried ravioli dish, being a particular highlight. Other recommended dishes include the Salmon Carpaccio and the fried sea bass with rice noodles; the ever-changing menu means a visit to Estrela da Bica will always offer some culinary surprises.
Pap’Açorda combines a sophisticated take on Portuguese classics with a consistently cool atmosphere. The restaurant takes its name from the Portuguese classic Açorda, a shellfish stew usually mixed with bread and covered in garlic and coriander. Pap’Açorda offers multiple varieties of their namesake dish, and the Cod Açorda and the Lobster and Shrimp Açorda are both among the best in the city.
A gourmet restaurant serving classic staples of Portuguese cooking in a luxurious setting, Tavares is one of the most iconic of Lisbon’s restaurants. It was opened in 1784 and is by some stretch Lisbon’s oldest restaurant. Its opulent interior is gilded in gold with statues, chandeliers and huge mirrors combining to evoke a centuries-old aristocratic dining experience. The old world charm of the decoration is matched by a commitment to classical gourmet cooking and the very best in gastronomy. Dishes such as Carne de Porcoa Alentejana, clams baked with small slices of pork, and Caldo Verde, a classic Portuguese soup, match the spectacular interior for opulence and luxury.
For something a little different, À Parte offers a unique and authentic dining experience. This cozy restaurant is the result of a Brazilian chef and his Portuguese wife’s decision to strip their apartment of furniture and to turn it into a restaurant. This results in an extremely convivial atmosphere and a homey environment which combines with a menu featuring the best Portuguese family dishes combined with some international flavors. A few dishes that particularly stand out are Grilled Swordfish Risotto with Shrimp, and Cod Loin Confit with Gnocchi.
For a taste of rustic Lisbon charm, Cervejaria Ramiro’s combination of seafood and beer is unbeatable. This extremely popular restaurant specializes in the freshest seafood Portugal’s shores have to offer and combines this with a bustling atmosphere which means the restaurant is constantly busy and service is delivered at a frantic pace. The menu is determined by the catch of the day but Shrimp à la Aguillo, Clams, Goose Barnacles, Grilled Giant Tiger Shrimp and Crayfish are mainstays. The restaurant recommends pairing these with a Sagres beer or one of their Portuguese wines.
If you’ve had your fill of seafood, Cafe de Sao Bento, which specializes in Carpaccio and steak along with eggs and chips, is a great place to experience the most carnivorous end of the Portuguese spectrum. The lounge-like interior is an odd but charming complement to the meat feast on offer, and the Cafe de Sao Bento prides itself on the quality of its wine selection, which perfectly complements its meat dishes. The signature dish at Cafe de Sao Bento is the Beef Tenderloin with Egg on Horseback, a mammoth steak which sits in a deliciously meaty broth with a sunny side up egg sitting precariously on top.
Clube de Jornalistas, or the Press Club, aims to deliver a romantic and atmospheric dining experience which combines the best Portuguese flavors with elements of Mediterranean cuisine. The restaurant has long been a favorite of journalists and diplomats from nearby embassies, and it retains an old world charm from its setting in a 17th-century mansion. It was founded in 1986 and traces its roots to the secret meetings of journalists held during the years of the Salazar dictatorship. Although those years are long gone, an atmosphere of subterfuge and exclusivity remains. The food is simple but delicious and is accompanied by an extensive wine list.
The Enoteca de Belém, founded in November 2009, is a space dedicated to the experimentation, to the meeting of people and flavors in a cozy atmosphere. At the Enoteca, you’ll get a wine list with approximately 80 references priced 4,5 euros per glass and 22 euros for one bottle. Enoteca was considered as one of the 10 best “Hot Spots” for wining and dining in Lisbon in 2015 by Wine Spectator, this place also received two forks from Lisboa à Prova contest in 2015 and 2014 and selected as best “wine by the glass” by Boa Cama Boa Mesa. The space also serves delicious food by chef Ricardo Gonçalves.
Delicious, reasonably priced Portuguese tapas is the main appeal of Cantinho Lusitano, and the range of dishes they offer is staggering. The restaurant features an ever-changing menu but some of the past highlights have included Pica-Pau (strips of beef with special sauce and fried sweet potatoes), semi-cured cheese with pumpkin jam, meat rolls with mint and Greek yogurt sauce and grilled chouriço sausage with muscatel sauce. These are carefully explained by the waiting staff, who can also offer suggestions for accompanying the wine.