Bairro Alto is more than just a hub of bars and clubs – the neighbourhood offers great eating, too. Culture Trip picked the brains of local foodie Tiago Pais to come up with this must-try list of Bairro Alto restaurants.
According to local journalist and food writer Tiago Pais, Bairro’s dining scene lost its way in the years of Lisbon’s tourism boom. But with many restaurants now investing in new concepts and exciting menus, the neighbourhood is reestablishing itself as a centre of food excellence. Culture Trip enlisted the help of Pais to narrow down Bairro Alto’s dining options to the 10 restaurants below.
Run by chef Kiko Martins, this restaurant, located between Bairro Alto and Príncipe Real, focuses on Peruvian cuisine, specifically (as the name suggests) on ceviche. There are delicious variations of the recipe, such as tuna with beetroot, and a version made with cod, the quintessential Portuguese fish. The small restaurant, with its modern and bold decoration (there’s an octopus hanging from the ceiling), also serves other authentic Peruvian dishes, like causas and quinotos. Don’t forget to order a pisco sour to sip while you eat.
Essencial, as the name indicates, is a place with no pretentious bells and whistles, instead featuring a minimalist interior and menu that’s short and straight to the point. Chef André Lança Cordeiro’s recipes are influenced by French cuisine and made with fresh Portuguese ingredients: highlights include foie gras with local cherries from the Fundão region, cod with carabineiro shrimp and mushrooms, and pork cheek with beetroot and potatoes. The wine list offers great options (like the António Madeira Centenária) to pair with dinner.
After running restaurants in London, Paris and Berlin, chef Shay Ola opened this small venue (no more than 20 seats) in bustling Bairro Alto. He is devoted to, quite literally, cooking with fire – roasting crab legs in miso butter and goat (for delicious tacos) over hot coals. In English, the restaurant’s name means ‘burnt’. The dishes are shareable, and the options are limited – but what they do, they do very well. Affordable cocktails and great music complete the experience.
Zé Verunca features cuisine from Portugal’s Alentejo region | Courtesy of Zé Verunca
Zé Verunca moved from Avenida da Liberdade to Bairro Alto and immediately attracted a loyal clientele. “This is a great place to eat authentic Alentejo food,” Pais says, describing hearty dishes like dogfish soup, cod migas and lamb stew. The owners often go to Portugal’s Alentejo region to source their ingredients, incorporating the area’s cooking traditions. The room has a homely atmosphere, with flower-patterned tables and walls covered with newspaper reviews of the restaurant.
The pizza at Valdo Gatti strictly follows Neapolitan tradition: the dough, made with flour imported from Italy, is naturally leavened for a period of around 48 hours, before being topped with marinara. A few other variations are on the menu, including fungi with speck or the Antonio Menghi – the restaurant’s signature pizza named after the head pizzaiolo – made with rocket, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes and avocado. The ingredients are all organic and handcrafted. Pizza prices are affordable, the environment is charming, and it is a great spot for lunch or dinner – the best part is that the pizzeria stays open well into the night. For dessert, make the impossible choice between homemade tiramisù and chocolate cake.
O Fidalgo serves comforting traditional Portuguese dishes | Courtesy of Fidalgo
“The codfish à brás is great at O Fidalgo,” gushes Tiago Pais, referring to the iconic Portuguese dish made with salted cod, potatoes and eggs. Other traditional dishes are made here such as duck rice and pork kidneys with sautéed potatoes, staying true to its hearty, simple roots. Since the 1970s, Fidalgo has been a popular family restaurant in the neighbourhood, serving locals in search of flavours that taste like home.
Long-time Bairro Alto resident and Yugoslav chef Ljubomir Stanisic opened his new space just a few metres from his old restaurant, serving only tasting menus during dinner. The menu (aptly named ‘History’) tells the life story of Stanisic – one of the most beloved chefs in Portugal – from his childhood, to his experiences in Europe, until he finally settled in Lisbon. The recipes change with the ingredients of each season, but expect dishes such as beetroot with coriander, carabineiro shrimp tartare and the chef’s reinterpretations of authentic Portuguese cuisine like the lampreia a minhota (a lamprey stew originating from Bordeaux but adapted to the Minho region, made with a local Vinho Verde wine).
During their honeymoon in Lisbon, Israeli couple Elad Bodenstein and Itamar Eliyahuo fell in love with the city and decided to open a restaurant specialising in recipes from their home country. Their homely venue in Bairro Alto can be found in close to Luís de Camões Square. Tantura serves more modern takes on Israeli cuisine, apart from the classic falafel with tahini sauce made in-house. There are stuffed pitas (with schnitzel or meatballs), burnt cauliflower with tzatziki sauce, as well as hamshuka (hummus and shakshuka) and chraime (gilt-head bream in tomato and paprika sauce).
A fantastic representation of Italian cuisine in Lisbon, Casanostra has been operating in Bairro Alto for more than 30 years, serving a huge range of pasta and dishes such as gnocchi, osso buco alla milanese and other icons from the true cucina Italiana. Among the house specialties are rotolo with ricotta and spinach and tagliolini al mascarpone. The decor is modern and elegant – the light bulbs in the ceiling are particularly charming – served up with a side of warm hospitality.
Lapo is a café, bar, design and clothes shop built inside the remnants of an old bakery. It also hosts an excellent restaurant: at night, the fitting room is opened to a secret space, where diners can enjoy a special meal. Run by chef João Pronto, the restaurant serves traditional Portuguese cuisine in a five-course tasting menu. Yet, the concept goes far beyond food: every night there are dance performances, concerts, stand-up comedy and other happenings. Therefore, reservations must be purchased online in advance.