Lisbon, in recent years, has become a recognised destination for those who travel in search of excellent food. Its combination of traditional cuisine and modern interpretations attract hungry stomachs from around the globe. A number of places have established themselves on the Portuguese capital’s culinary map. For example, the famous Time Out Market has become a haven for hungry tourists who require something a little more adventurous and refined than the usual. I would recommend the Sea Me stand and Marlene Vieira’s stall for reasonably priced and extremely fresh fish. Cervejaria Ramiro is, many would claim, the hottest spot in town for exquisite shell fish and other oceanic delights. As well as these hotspots, the city also boasts a number of Michelin starred restaurants and other establishments who are vying for the same recognition. Despite visiting a number of these famed destinations, it was a handful of smaller, less celebrated eateries that really stole my heart. So, in light of these joyous little places, below is my guide to Lisbon’s hidden gems.
Located in the crumbling streets of Alfama, this small outdoor eatery attracts crowds on a daily basis with its perfect simplicity. Many would complain about having to queue for a table, however I indulged in the opportunity to observe the frankly beautiful surroundings; old, weathered women hang from creaking houses pushing Ginja (a cherry liqueur) on passers-by whilst ancient church bells clang and echo around the district. In the queue for Patio 13, frustration is replaced with anticipation.
Ordering is a simple task. An unpretentious list of fresh fish and meat is presented to diners. To start, the Colombian and I opted for the fish soup, which was fresh and clean, made with cod and zingy tomatoes. For the main event we shared the Golden Bream and a steak, both cooked on the outdoor barbeque. The steak was juicy and tender, clearly not a prime cut but it was gristle-free and full of fatty flavour. The Golden Bream was impeccable – the white flecks of soft flesh were caressed by large flakes of sea salt, culminating in an explosion of simple flavour. I found myself picking at the carcass in a desperate attempt to keep the whole experience alive.
The fish is fresh, the surroundings are real and the staff are a blast. You’d be foolish not to attempt the queue at Patio 13.
Housed in the confines of Lisbon’s leading circus school, this romantic little spot boasts fabulous views of Lisbon’s cityscape. Despite sharing a space with clowns-in-training, there is nothing funny about the food – or the entire experience for that matter. Tucked away from the bustling streets, this hideaway dining destination offers really tasty food for a fair price. I had a delicious slow cooked calf dish, served with salty bacon and delightfully waxy new potatoes. The Colombian ate an entire sea bass, served whole and grilled to perfection – the skin slightly charred and the flesh soft and sumptuous. What really stole the show (pardon the pun), were the breath-taking views of Lisbon. Situated just a few minutes away from Castelo de Sao Jorge, the viewing deck on which we ate gave us exquisite night-time views of the rugged city.
Without a shadow of a doubt, the best eating experience during my time in Lisbon. Tucked away in an historic patio in the shadow of Castelo de Sao Jorge this petite little eatery, run by husband and wife team Ana and Thiago, offers those who know about the quaint location an adventurous tasting menu for a modest sum. From parrot fish and beef from the Azores to cured egg yolk in a sweet onion broth, the tasting menu at Leopold abounds with artistic flare and delivers on taste and substance. The Colombian and I opted for the wine pairing which proved to be a fantastic decision, predominantly Portuguese wines complimented excellent cooking. Ana, the hostess, does an excellent job at making guests feel welcome, as if she were inviting close friends round to her own house. This isn’t surprising given the enterprise was influenced by their shared love of cooking for and entertaining their friends and family.
When in Lisbon, go to Leopold. You won’t be disappointed, you’ll be blown away.