The Lisbon suburb of Belém’s rich maritime heritage means it attracts plenty of visitors – which also means plenty of overpriced tourist-trap restaurants. So, steer a clear course for Belém’s best restaurants with Culture Trip’s selection, which runs from sleek modernist venues with prime riverside views to our favourite backstreet diners.
Tucked into the first floor of the distinctive CCB cultural centre, this modern space means ‘East-West’. Hence, it serves an interesting combination of tasty, mid-priced wood-fired pizzas and very fresh Japanese sushi. The main draw, however, is its superb roof terrace, with commanding views over Belém’s sights and riverfront, alongside a verdant roof garden studded with olive trees.
This long-established restaurant overlooks the clinking moored yachts of Belém’s marina, close to the Torre de Belém. It’s a sophisticated space specialising in upmarket seafood, with a fresh fish of the day as well as grilled meats and a long list of quality Portuguese wines.
Steeply uphill, close to the Ajuda Palace, is this charming páteo: renovated traditional townhouses clustered around an internal courtyard. The complex contains two quaint traditional restaurants, A Horta (summers only) and A Mercearia (winters only). Both offer a range of petiscos(tapas-like snacks) such as smoked hams, and a range of traditional dishes including tiger prawns, sardines and giant mixed grill dishes. Check before you head here, though, as the complex sometimes gets booked up for big events.
The ‘Manor of the Ambassador’ is not quite as grand as its name implies, but it is in fact a welcoming, small family restaurant specialising in a mix of good-value Portuguese and Brazilian cuisine. It’s good for things like mackerel, grilled prawns and octopus, and if you’re into sport, the TV is usually on in a corner.
This cool, minimalist restaurant-bar sits right on the Tagus with beautiful views across the river. The menu is not cheap but is varied, with everything from petiscos (snacks such as goat’s cheese with honey and game sausage) to salads, bruschetta and toasts, vegetarian dishes, pasta and hot daily specials. It also serves a fine range of refreshing juices, sangria and speciality teas (try it with cinnamon, ginger, honey and lime).
The third restaurant in Lisbon to earn a Michelin star, Feitoria is part of the Altis Hotel and provides fine Portuguese cuisine with a touch of Asian influences. The restaurant’s theme is inspired by Portuguese exploration that set out to trade and discover the Far East in the 15th and 16th centuries. There is an extraordinary Japanese Nanban mural at the entrance to Feitoria – the style of art that developed in Japan documenting the arrival of Portuguese traders and missionaries in the Age of Discovery. Dishes on the menu offered by chef João Rodrigues include sea bass with mizuna leaves, roasted pigeon with truffles and mushrooms, and tuna tataki and radishes.
For a touch of authentic Portuguese cuisine, head a little out of the main tourist centre of Belém towards Cascais and you’ll find A Tasca do Gordo. A minimalist space with tiled walls draped in soccer scarves, this is where the locals head, drawn by its substantial meals (its name translates as ‘Tavern of the Fat’). If you’re brave, try the house special: tripe stew with white beans. A safer bet is the espetada, a giant beef kebab hung on a skewer, served with mountains of chips. Save room for the homemade desserts. Then sit back and relax in the knowledge that the bill will be surprisingly modest.
On the steep road from Belém up towards Ajuda, this is an authentic local spot serving bargain lunches and dinners. Expect generous helpings of hearty Portuguese specials such as grilled sardines, seafood rice and octopus and bean stew in a back room usually bustling with locals. There are great homemade desserts and very palatable house wines as well.