A culinary tour of some of the best restaurants in Lisbon, Portugal, prompts many delightful moments, ignites many more trips within the trip to the beautiful capital, and reviews to match. Unfasten your seatbelt.
A well-known face on Portuguese TV for his cooking show Improbabilicious and the author of several published cookbooks, celebrity chef José Avillez has garnered international acclaim for his inventive cuisine. At Belcanto, the master uses the latest gastronomic techniques to transcend traditional dishes. Mission: accomplished.
The restaurant occupies a former convent in the Bairro Alto (Chiado) district, its new home since 2019. It lies under high, vaulted ceilings and antique chandeliers; the architecture is sublime and the dining room just as refined, with every course presented before you by an expert, convivial staff. Belcanto offers its 45 guests both tasting menu and à la carte options, which take diners on a gastronomic journey of contemporary Portuguese cuisine.
Portuguese shore prawn with pine nut cream is a delight, as are all seafood dishes.
The seabass with avocado ‘scales’, clam, and razor clam dashi with salsify, constitutes all of one dish, and is best described as another dream come true. Most entremets are no less miraculous.
The desserts (including one Mandarin-based, as pictured below) are a feast, as well.
Expect a search for the perfect balance and a most wonderful, if slightly disconcerting, journey on a carousel of emotions (to echo the chef's very own take).
Exquisite breads (including a memorable Portuguese one), a privileged location in the historic center of Lisbon, a warm, discreet and attentive service, and a wine cellar that showcases some of the best Portuguese wines, as well as great international references, complete the picture.
Avillez's food empire encompasses a cluster of restaurants in Lisbon and Porto, including Bairro do Avillez, a hall housing four distinctive eateries under one roof, and three vintages developed under the JA line with Quinta do Monte D’Oiro winery.
Belcanto is a must if you can afford it. The chef's table menu will cost you a cool 250€. The restaurant offers an additional two tasting menu options, the Evolution at 195€ and the namesake Belcanto at 175€ (prices valid as of end of May 2022). More detail and information on the à la carte offerings are available here.
Born in Sarajevo, 100 Maneiras's chef, Ljubomir Stanisic, was forced to carry arms and fight the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina when he was still a child. He has lived in Portugal since 1997 and has won rave reviews for the innovative menu of his flagship (1 Michelin star 2021) restaurant. "100 Maneiras is a life story," to quote the restaurant's website, and dining here does convey it.
The food draws on interesting dishes from across Europe. The experience is exotic, ethnic, fun, and at times quite delightful, with great service to match.
The restaurant offers two tasting menus (the so-called Story, 17 moments at €140, and a shorter version, 11 moments, at €120) as well as Echoes of 100, "a love letter, a declaration of principles. A vegetarian and eco (logic) menu that echoes the concerns of the chef and 100 Maneiras. A hedonistic commitment to the Earth and the Species. A statement of principles. With many endings…" at €125.
100 Maneiras puts 'The Story' menu this way, "First we travel to where Ljubomir Stanisic was born. Then we see how he grew up, where he traveled to, what caused an impression. There are 17 moments in this journey that is physical (and starts in Bosnia), but above all emotional. A Story that is rewritten every day, depending on the days of the chef-patron's life - but also of his team, led by executive chef Manuel Maldonado."
As for the shorter version, "Some say a tale never loses in the telling. And so this Short Story wins: emotion, flavor, surprise... The condensed version of "The Story", tasted in 11 moments."
Note that the restaurant is at Rua do Teixeira 39, Bairro Alto, not to be confused with the Bistro at Largo da Trindade, 9, Chiado. “Bistrot”, some call it, with a French accent. But Bistro is spelt without a t. The word means “clean and clear” in Serbian. "“Clean and clear” – the ideas, the food, the space." (as quoted in the restaurant's website)
The Bistro serves comfort food, with a choice made à la carte, with creations designed from the traditional Portuguese, “Yugoslavian”, French and Italian gastronomy, with an author’s touch and inspirations brought from the travels, experiences and tastes of Ljubo and the team led by the executive chef.
The names of some dishes convey a unique sense of humor. Brûlée-vous Coucher Avec Moi?: Vanilla Crème-Brûlée is one that caught the author's fancy.
Some of the desserts at 100 Maneiras (as pictured above) are quite original and delicious.
It was at the Bistro that, in 2005, the ideas for the first great Portuguese cocktail book germinated: 100 Cocktails 100 Maneiras, published by’A Esfera dos Livros. A book that reflects the importance of the cocktails in the restaurant. Monocle magazine has considered Bistro the perfect place to have a cocktail in Lisbon… Bistro’s Bar won, in 2017, the Coaster award for Best Restaurant Bar in Portugal – awarded annually in the final of the World Class competition, the most renowned cocktail competition in the world, which recognizes daily work in the best cocktail bars – and the same title, in 2019, at the Lisbon Bar Show Awards.
Skillful curatorship – “curadoria” in Portuguese – lies at the heart of CURA, the restaurant at the Four Seasons Ritz Lisboa where, per the restaurant's website, "Michelin-starred chef and head culinary curator Pedro Pena Bastos selects his ingredients as meticulously as an artist chooses his paints, drawing from Lisbon’s rich regional palette of seasonal ingredients to create artisanal dishes of great depth, taste and meaning."
The restaurant offers the following options:
|À LA CARTE
The Origens menu includes 12 moments and costs EUR 145. It includes 'Squid | Hazelnut | Bergamot | Roasted Seaweed Butter | Caviar,' and this is but one moment, not 5 of them!
Meia Cura is a condensé (7 moments) version at EUR 105. The Raízes menu, a veggie option, is available at EUR 85.
'Banana & Lovage | Eucalyptus & Smoked Cocoa | Pine & Pine Nut' is one of the desserts offered.
Signature dishes include red mullet, squid, and figs (beetroot, lime, reindeer moss), all delicious.
As a matter of fact, most everything is magical.
The young and good-looking chef is quite charming, will come say Hi!, but he did decline to honor some minor modification requests by one of the author's friends. Beware!
Other dining options at the Four Seasons Ritz including the Varanda Restaurant are well worth considering.
The Varanda Restaurant offers a premier view of Eduardo VII Park and a diverse menu that highlights local specialties and ingredients.
Per the restaurant's website, executive chef Pascal Meynard is "a bit of a thrill-seeker. Of dual French and Canadian citizenship, he grew up surfing and kayaking in the beautiful Basque region of France and returns there every summer to experiment with the latest water-based activities."
The site continues, "Chef Pascal’s adventurous spirit has taken him to work in far-flung places such as Tasmania, the remote wilderness of Canada and the Michelin-starred restaurants of Paris."
Both buffet and à la carte options are offered.
All meals were consistently good, some terrific.
A sample of desserts follows - many a delight, not one a miss.
Most desserts, courtesy of the in-house pastry chef, Diogo Lopes, are indeed winners.
A sample of breakfast wonders... All classics offered. Expect...expectations to be met expertly.
Varanda also offers one of Lisbon's best weekend brunch buffets, if not the best...
Freda dos Mares
Freda dos Mares, a seafood restaurant, is a more casual affair, but none the less enjoyable for it.
This smart, contemporary bistro keeps the mood relaxed with well-calibrated lighting and unobtrusive yet attentive service.
The menu is varied enough that most will find it to be an attractive value proposition. (But a few will complain that menu options are a bit limited with too many octopus plates.)
This said, seafood and octopus are the highlights. The polvo or octopus "à Lagareiro" (grilled) is one of the most popular dishes.
The fish soup, garnered with fresh fish, prawn, and coriander, wins the day; the octopus croquettes can't quite measure up.
The restaurant is rather small with (in the vicinity of) 20 tables offering both indoor and outdoor seating. The menu is available via a QR code, Wi-Fi is available for free.
The prawns are a delight.
So is the fish, devoured; the photographer showed up way too late. The gourmet and gourmand win.
As for the desert, beware. It may not look like it, but it truly is one of the most wonderful dishes the author has had in Europe. Simple, but incredible. Ask not what it is; just go and try all options; most, I have been told, are...
Terrific main courses served in copious portions, deliciously seasoned seafood, flavorful veggies and sweet potatoes (the former highly satisfying, the latter to die for), desserts that not only stun but will have you daydream of going back to Lisbon sooner than later, great service, and a reasonable price, add to the allure. Total approached €100 for two (including tip).
Lisbon has some terrific restaurants and is a must destination even for the most discerning palates. They alone are worth the trip to the capital of Portugal. Hoping to be back so very soon.
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