Eating out in the Portuguese capital is an exhilarating experience. Not just because it’s always changing – the restaurant scene is growing, morphing and inventing trends at every turn – but also because it’s diverse. Whether you’re looking for an elegant, contemporary tête-à-tête in a Michelin-starred temple to food, or a casual, old-world bite in a decades-old mom-and-pop favourite, Lisbon caters to both with equal enthusiasm. This city has a character all its own and so do its restaurants. Here are the best ones to try.
It’s three floors of culinary fun – this much-loved Lisbon seafood hall dates to the 1950s, yet locals and visitors alike still happily queue patiently for its food and drink delights. They’re here for the next-level shellfish; think fat lobster drizzled in lemon juice, sweet langoustines and plump, buttery shrimp, all washed down with beers, wines and the odd cheeky martini. If you do have to wait for a table (and you should count on it), get ahead on drinks in the bar downstairs while you wait.
Now here’s a Lisbon haunt with real history. Originally opened around 150 years ago, it’s long played host to every kind of people, from sailors to intellectuals. A few years ago they did up the place and now it feels just the right side of modern – think shimmering classic Portuguese tiling, wooden bar stools and bold pops of teal. The food has had a smart update too, but not unnecessarily so – the likes of codfish fritters with turnip greens and rice, or hare stew with rice, feel distinctly timeless.
One of Portugal’s most celebrated chefs, José Avillez owns a clutch of must-visit foodie haunts in Lisbon – two Michelin-starred Belcanto included. But if your wallet can’t stretch that far, try this, his bistro, which turns out simple, fresh dishes to an exacting standard. Order up hand-minced tuna tartare; meaty beef croquettes with turnip-top rice; or giant fat Algarve shrimp drenched in a Thai sauce. The globe-trotting menu really does have something for everyone and is even more affordable if you visit at lunchtime.
Looking for a properly blow-out gastronomic feast? Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa turns out two-Michelin-starred delights at his restaurant in central Lisbon and while it will set you back a fair bit of cash, you can bet on an unforgettable experience. For example, opt for the tasting menu and you’ll feast on carrots with bulgur and apricot puree, goat’s cheese and cumin oil, or basil sorbet with champagne and Azores pineapple. Finish off with a punchy Lisbon Negroni, made with XO brandy.
Dine under a forest of green – loads of tropical plants hanging from the ceiling, that is – at this trendy central stalwart from chef Antonio Galapito. An all-natural wine list is just part of the appeal; decadent but simple dishes such as smoked Iberico pork lardo on toast, or hispi cabbage with cheese whey and walnuts, use modern stylings with the best of Portuguese seasonal produce. Even the desserts are innovative: think sweet potato with smoked milk ice cream and honey.
Lisbon has some knock-out old buildings, but when it comes to dining in them few wow like Palacio Chiado. Set in an 18th-century palace, once home to balls and parties, it comes with a dash of throwback extravagance that’s still visible in its plates of oysters, lobster taquitos and confit duck legs. Saying that, it’s surprisingly affordable, so if you watch what you order you should leave with enough change to grab a nightcap at the on-site bar.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Kevin Raub.
Why not make a weekend of it? Book a stay with Culture Trip at one of these stylish boutique hotels and then set off to explore the city. Whether you want to tick these must-visit attractions off your bucket list, spend some time admiring works of art in the best contemporary art galleries or get lost in the coolest neighbourhoods in Lisbon, there is something for everyone. After a long day, enjoy a refreshing drink at one of the best bars in Lisbon.
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