A recent getaway to Lisbon literally fed into everything I thought about Portugal, relaxed and diverse with a passion for history. This can be said of its people but also its food. One of my travel non negotiable requirements is to eat where the locals eat. It is often a sign of affordability but also taste, so with Euro’s in pocket I set out in search of a taste of Lisbon.
One thing I knew about Portuguese food that had to be done was the synonymous Prego or Bifana. essentially a Sandwich made with fillet steak or Pork, grilled quickly with loads of Garlic and served in a fresh White Bun. This is by all means Portugal’s Hamburger/Bacon sandwich.
The first (and arguably the best) Prego I had came courtesy of Mercado de Ribeira. A local market that has seen better days until a few years ago when Time Out stepped in and turned a large part of it into a food hall. Gourmet chefs rub shoulders with smaller businesses in this quite large and always busy cornucopia of food. Seafood and Wine is the star here with smaller outpost of famous restaurants in the city vying for your cash.
O Prego da Peixaria has quickly grown a rep for quality food since opening in 2010 and they did not disappoint. The biggest difference in a Prego served elsewhere compared to in Lisbon is the bread Bolo do caco, flat and soft yet dense enough to soak up the garlic infused oil and juices leaking from the steak this is truly now one of my favourite sandwiches EVER!!! served with lights salted crisps, I probably could have eaten two but showed restraint as I had more food coming. Half a roasted Chicken with a delicious Chimichurri and Bacalao(salted cod) Croquettes helped to confirm that finding this place was a great decision. There really is something for everyone here and all budgets also.
A sucker for good gelato, Santini a local business that has been around for over 65 years may just have the Italians beat. I went with Passion fruit, a sublime Pineapple and Roasted Coconut and vowed to return every chance I could.
Following Time Out’s lead The city stepped in and restored the Mercado de Campo de Ourique to a similar standard. The focus here is more to do with the fact that all the food stalls source their product from the adjacent market. Seafood is literally still swimming its that fresh as is the meat and vegetables. This time I went for the Bifana, Pork cutlet, Garlic, Onions and in this case I asked for some chilli, all encompassed in a Bolo do Caco that this time was red. Sadly my slither of Portuguese language was unable to ascertain why it was this colour but it did serve to make this not only a very tasty Sandwich but aesthetically beautiful to look at.
Ginja is the local liquor made from cherries it is akin to alcoholic Ribena syrup and taken as shots for as little as €2. Deliciously more-ish and deceptively strong, this digestif is a must after eating a Prego. A few of these will also start an evening out the right way.
By far the grandest meal I had in Lisbon was at Cervejaria Ramiro, a renown seafood restaurant famed for the freshness and the long queues outside. The only thing I will say is this place more than lives up to the hype. 20 minutes in the queue with a gaggle of locals confirmed we were in the right place and it didn’t disappoint.
Grilled King Prawns swimming in garlic infused Olive oil, local large Red Prawns baked in Rock Salt, Spider Crab… no crustacean was left untouched. Dessert here takes the form of a Prego served with Mustard. Delicious but not the best in town
Not being a custard fan the Pasteis de Nata were not really an option for me although more than once smelling them coming out of the ovens almost made me change my mind Instead I found something else to satisfy my sweet tooth. Simply put, Landeau make one of the best chocolate cakes I have ever tasted!!! No amount of words I type can do it justice. Textures and Layers and Smoothness and …
Lastly the little carts in Belem selling drinks are the business. Ginja Mojito’s are the way forward this summer.