"Cozinha Portuguesa. E agora?" (Portuguese Cuisine. What's next?) : this is the slogan of the fifth edition of Sangue na Guelra, which took place in Lisbon on Friday 8 May this year. The culinary festival organized by Ana Músico, together with her photographer husband Paulo Barata, has contributed to update, innovate and – in part – revolutionise the image and identity of Portuguese cuisine.
The answer to the slogan’s question is comprised in the Portuguese Cuisine Manifesto 2.0 presented at the end of the congress: eleven points determining “common denominations for a cuisine that speaks many languages”. The country’s top chefs – all of them very young and rarely over 40 – were divided up into work groups to address topics of particular significance to Portuguese gastronomy (blood, salt, fried things, bread) before being invited up on stage to present them. The audience of theHub Criativo do Beato in Lisbon was largely made up of journalists, foreign chefs and Lisboans themselves, who have never been prouder of their city and its gastronomy.
Lisbon has become a restaurant destination: after years of silence, the city is grabbing its share of the limelight on the international dining scene. We recommend six addresses to those wishing to find out what Lisbon's food is all about today, a city that is trying to bring back its culinary memories, to upturn precepts without making them banal.
There is a lot going on in Lisbon
Two new stars have appeared in the city in the past year. One is that of Alma, the restaurant owned by Henrique Sá Pessoa, known as the “Portuguese Jamie Oliver” thanks to the popularity he has earned with his television programmes Entre Pratos, Ingredient Secreto and Chef’s Academy. Located in the Chiado district, Alma reopened in 2016 following a restyling of its interiors – chiselled elegance and, particularly in the evening hours, evocative luminosity – and its menu. Played out between new twists on Portuguese classics – such as the highly successful Red mullet, xerém, "caldeirada" sauce, samphireo, the Confit suckling piglet, sweet potato puree, pak choi, orange jus – and an abundant use of exotic ingredients, attention and satisfaction levels remain high throughout the gourmet menu (5 courses, 90 Euro).
The other star is that of Loco, opened last year by chef Alexandre Silva behind the beautiful Praça da Estrela (couples take note: in the evening, nothing beats the romantic atmosphere of the Basilica and its nearby eponymous gardens). In a tiny dining room, with a kitchen that is on full view, there is a lot of fun to be had following a menu that is set out in ‘18 moments’, chosen at the sole discretion of the chef. A special mention goes to the very young pastry chef Carlos Fernandes, who does a great job with bread at the Loco – bread is a course on its own, served with oil, aromatized butter and a pan of gravy to dip it in – and pastries, in which vegetables and algae feature strongly.
On the banks of the Tago, in the Belém district, the ultra stylish Hotel Altis Belemwith its up-to-the-minute design hosts one of the country’s best known chefs, João Rodrigues, who has held a Michelin star at his Feitoriarestaurant for six years now. Mainly oriented towards the sumptuous catches to be had in the ocean off Portugal, his cuisine successfully blends technical perfectionism with an impassioned research into ingredients. Gourmet menus at 75, 105 and 135 Euro.
José Avillez is the enfant prodige of Portuguese cuisine: not yet turned 40, he already has two Michelin stars at the Belcanto which occupies the 85th position in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and heads a small empire of 8 restaurants located between Lisbon and Porto. The latest in order of appearance is Beco, which opened a couple of months ago at the back of the Barrio do Avillez, behind a little speakeasy-type door concealing the fascinating atmosphere of a twenties style club. There is no way of knowing in advance what the evening will offer: you pay for your ticket first (120 Euro) and get ready to enjoy a 12 course menu, featuring some of Avillez’s classics – such as the spherified olive – all of which is accompanied by an authentic cabaret. No photos are allowed, this is an evening for adults only.
Beco - Cabaret GourmetRua Nova da Trinidade, Website
Lisbon for all tastes
It would obviously be wrong to depict Lisbon as a galaxy of gourmet menus. The other side of the city can be discovered at Cervejaria Ramiro, a local institution patronized by great chefs and young Lisboans, who are willing to queue for two hours at weekends to get a table. A noisy atmosphere, rapid service and excellent Portuguese seafood and crustaceans, comprising percebes, clams and carabineros of Baroque appearance and size. Dinner inevitably ends with a Prego, a Portuguese roll with garlic flavoured beef steak.
Avenue Almirante Reis 1, Website
Another place top chefs swear by? The Taberna da Rua das Flores, just a few steps away from Largo do Chiado. The menu consists of a selection of little dishes for sharing, taken from traditional fare and prepared according to whatever is available on the market and the flair of chef André Magalhaes, who loves to seek out Portugal’s most obscure food culture. Beware: the venue – whose decor and atmosphere recall those of an authentic tavern – is very small and they do not take bookings.
Taberna da Rua das FloresRua das Flores 103, Website