Just north of Lisbon, Ericeira is an under-the-radar foodie’s paradise where squid, sardines, langoustines and crab are hauled out of the sea and onto your plate – with views and surfing to match.
This sunkissed slice of the central Portuguese coast feels deliciously off the beaten path. Striking a balance between rustic-authentic and holiday-ready, it has a strong surfer culture with four beaches easily accessible from the main town and others nearby for bigger waves or quieter corners. Ericeira sits just a 45-minute drive north of Lisbon – perfect for a hybrid city-and-beach break. A cosmopolitan crowd of weekenders comes for the sands and surf but hang around for the alfresco seafood restaurants and laid-back tapas joints.
A tapas bar as laid-back as its barefoot clientele, Tik Tak has outdoor tables on an atmospheric, cobbled side street. Tuck into unpretentious Portuguese bites, from salty, bone-crisp fried whitebait to chargrilled langoustines and black pork ribs, paired with salads and fries. There’s a strong local wine selection that draws a mixed clientele of practically all ages and backgrounds.
Painted a serene sea blue, with tables spilling out onto the seafront, this modern hangout specialises in petiscos (like tapas, to be nibbled over drinks) and Portuguese classics reinvented for today’s diners. Think golf-ball-sized, salt cod croquetas drizzled with herby mayo and prawns balanced on mounds of sculpted risotto. It’s not the cheapest around, but good for a first-night or last-night splurge (take note of the hefty wine cellar inside). Time it right and you can watch the sunset from just outside.
One hallmark of a Portuguese beach holiday is a venerable old fish restaurant with a decent sea view. This central stunner ticks all your boxes: heart-shaped slabs of sole grilled to perfection and doused in lemon juice, affordable Portuguese white wines swirled into your glass and sea-spray spritzing the rocks below. A little tray of local delicacies, including olives, octopus salad and salsa, are brought out for you to snack on while you choose from the lengthy fish menu. Bliss.
It’s all smiles at this hearty Brazilian barbecue, set just back from the Praia dos Pescadores beach. Pull up a wooden chair under the thatched canopy or in the wood-clad interior, as doorstop hunks of steak and tuna sizzle over the flames. The regulars flock here for the expertly cooked beef – try the “picanha and caipirinhas” offer for a great deal on steak, sides and cocktails for two. Best of all is the youthful, chatty staff who always lay on a warm welcome, however busy they might be.
In Ribamar de Cima, a short drive or walk north of Ericeira, you’ll find this simple seafood joint packed with ravenous locals. Crabs wiggle their claws in a salty tank and waiters clank casserole pots full of fishy stews onto long tables – this is more of a fishmonger-with-tables than a candlelit restaurant. It’s also the place to ask for what’s freshest and recommended – or if you can’t choose, just a really lavish seafood platter stacked with a bit of everything.
Unvarnished wooden benches and shutters, backed by an exposed-brick wall, give this modern hole in the wall a raw, hipster vibe. As the name suggests, beer is the star of the show here, sipped alongside affordable platters of squid-ink spaghetti topped with herby prawns or squid roasted with garlic and parsley. Burgers and fries on the menu mean there’s plenty of options for fussier eaters, whilst a soundtrack of bouncy rock-pop adds to the festive atmosphere.
Folksy and old-fashioned in the best way, this squat, whitewashed cottage has a handful of trad tables outside, topped with blue-checked tablecloths. Inside are polished wooden tables, blue tiling and black-and-white photos of the area in past decades – older couples and child-free groups will love the huge fresh fish selection, served with salads and chunky new potatoes. The owners really know their fish and they cook it to perfection, as any of the many locals raising a glass here will tell you.
A term of endearment for grandmas all over the Portuguese-speaking world, the word Avó conjures up images of rich, flavoursome home cooking. It’s a well-chosen name in a spot where thick, clove-scented lamb stews are served in sturdy cooking dishes and slabs of white fish come with lightly bashed roast potatoes and greens. The simple, wood-panelled dining room has a few bookshelves and house plants to draw the eye, with specials scrawled on a chalkboard. Most are on the meaty side (think pork cheeks or rabbit rice), but there are always a few fish and veggie options.
A truly informal tasca (tavern), with a scattering of red-checked tablecloths and red plastic chairs facing the seafront, this place really is a joy to eat at. Everything from wine to mussels is served in brown, glazed pottery dishes and cups, at bargain prices – most of it simply-cooked seafood plated up with chunky potatoes, rustic bread and thick lemon wedges. Try the Cataplana de Marisco for a big platter of their greatest hits and bag a seat outside for expansive Atlantic views.
Another affordable option in Ericeira old town, this spot has a quaint, tiled dining room with black lanterns and fish motifs on the walls. You’re given some dried hams and local cheese to nibble as you peruse the menu, but this is sardine country and so it would be rude not to try the salty, grilled morsels – though the lulas (grilled squid) are just as popular. You’ll hear lots of chatter in the local language – always a good sign – and portion sizes are generous.
Fancy a drink after your hearty meal? Look at the best bars in Ericeira.
This is a rewrite of an article originally by Simao Valente Baptista.
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