Winning tip: Restaurante O Tachadas, Santos
Finding the Museum of Puppetry (another brilliant place to visit) closed for lunch, we stumbled upon Restaurante O Tachadas a few doors down – the kind of restaurant I always hope to end up in for a long lunch but rarely do.
Lisbon is full of half-open doorways leading to crumbling tiled bougainvillea courtyards, or music being played somewhere, and behind this one busy tables of locals were eating together, a big grill at the front cooking giant pieces of meat, squid, beautiful fish, sardines. We ordered plates of beautifully grilled fish and groaned with happiness as friendly waiters skimmed by and restaurant regulars enjoyed several courses in no hurry at all.
• Rua da Esperança 178, on Facebook
Ristorante Ponto Final, Almada
The best view and the best home cooking in Lisbon can be enjoyed at Ristorante Ponto Final. Take the 10-minute ferry ride across the Tagus from Cais de Sodre to Cacilhas then swing right, past the fishermen, towards the ocean. The catch of the day, served with Alentejo bread and wine for €15 is a delight, especially if you get there early and grab a table outside.
• Rua Ginjal 72
A Cevicheria, Principe Real
Be prepared to queue, with a refreshing pisco sour, for the pleasure of eating at A Cevicheria, a miniature fish palace with only four tables and a semicircle of bar stools from which diners can watch the chefs turning out perfect plates of ceviche. At around €40, the tasting menu a is a must, offering tuna, scallops, octopus and more, each a small work of art. It’s worth sticking your head in the door to have a look at the octopus watching over the diners from the ceiling!
• Rua D Pedro V, 129, on Facebook
Cantinho do Aziz, Mouraria
In a courtyard on Rua de São Lourenço is the Cantinho do Aziz. Plastic chairs and tables promise little but don’t let that fool you. The east African food gives off the smells of coconut, seafood and rich meat. The menu offers only a few dishes, each with an accompanying award story or shameless name-dropping of previous patrons. We chose chacuti de cabrito, tender lamb chunks in a dark coconut sauce with coconut rice for €9; to drink, a litre of white wine for €6. Satisfyingly spicy and as tender as I’ve had.
• Rua de São Lourenço 5, on Facebook
Terra, Principe Real
We’re not vegetarians, vegans or foodies, but the mix of food, drinks and atmosphere make Terra in Principe Real an ideal place to chill out after wandering around Lisbon. It’s got an atmospheric garden area and a great choice of vegetarian or vegan starters, mains and desserts on the €15.90 buffet selection. We have visited Terra a few times now and don’t have favourite dishes – we just dive in and enjoy.
• Rua da Palmeira 15, restauranteterra.pt
Dona Quitéria, Praça das Flores
Dona Quitéria is a charming restaurant with friendly, knowledgeable staff. Amazing petiscos (like tapas) showcasing Portuguese cuisine and the best grilled octopus I’ve ever eaten. Sit outside at the red tables on the cobbled street or inside to enjoy the vintage decor of this former grocery story.
• Travessa de São José 1, on Facebook
Tapisco, Principe Real
Every Saturday a food, produce and crafts market takes place in Praça do Principe Real. Much of the produce is organic and local. Nearby is a restaurant called Tapisco, which opened earlier this year. It serves staples such as bacalhau à brás (salt cod, potato and egg) and lentils with Alentejo pork are served alongside other lesser dishes such as bomba (like arancini risotto balls) and chocos (cuttlefish) with coriander and lime. Many of the plates are around the €12 mark. It serves a variety of vermouths and a good selection of wines by the glass. Presentation is modern. Eat at the long bar to watch the chefs in action.
• Rua Dom Pedro V 81, tapisco.pt
Taberna da Rua das Flores, Bairro Alto
Arrive early at Taberna da Rua das Flores: there are no reservations but from 6pm it is full. Give your name and the friendly staff will tell you how long the wait will be. It’s small but fantastic and the food is creative and beautifully cooked. A real modern take on tapas. I had a fantastic kind of Portuguese version of sushi with mackerel and delicious finely chopped peppers and onions. Definitely try the black pork, which has a stronger taste than normal and there are always plenty of daily fish dishes such as cod tongues (don’t be put off).
• Rua das Flores 103, on Facebook
Food Temple, Mouraria
The Food Temple is a small, hard-to-find vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the gorgeous medieval Mouraria neighbourhood. It serves delicious, good-value tapas-style meals and the (creative) menu changes frequently. The plates are around €4 and there are also delicious desserts. More than the food here though, the atmosphere of the place is wonderful. You can sit at a table or on outdoor steps where people mill around and order food and eat alfresco (they double as seating for live music events). The atmosphere is relaxed – I was travelling alone and sat for a long time, slowly savouring food and beer, reading and watching people come and go. This felt like romantic, southern-European style dining at its best.
• Morada, Beco do Jasmim 18, thefoodtemple.com
Darwin’s Café, Belém
In Belém, the Champalimaud Centre is a biomedical research facility with a waterfront restaurant with modern interior design – Darwin’s Café. The simple name belies its minimalist design and well-presented dishes. On a hot day, choose a table out on the terrace to enjoy lunch with a crisp glass of wine, a view across to the Torre de Belem and a welcome breeze from the Tagus. Excellent plates include risotto of shrimp and octopus with dried tomatoes, pesto and coriander (€17).
• Av Brasília Ala B, darwincafe.com
Alma was an exceptional experience from start to finish, and fully justified being one of the latest additions to Lisbon’s growing list of Michelin stars. It was really refreshing (to a Londoner at least) that a restaurant with such quality and elegance was equalled by the warmth and humility of the service. Chef Henrique Sá Pessoa’s tasting menu was wildly imaginative and sublimely executed, with careful explanations of not only what we were being served, but also how to go about eating it. The charismatic sommelier also deserves a mention for perfectly balanced yet affordable pairings – overall even our high expectations were greatly exceeded. Prices dearer than many of course but not unreasonably so – mains from €29, three courses from €80.
• Rua Anchieta 15, almalisboa.pt