Four different restaurants in Lisbon, each celebrating Portugal in its own unique way.
1/ Sea Me At The Market
The philosophy behind the original Sea Me peixaria moderna, started in 2010, as a tribute to the old fish shops of Lisbon. Today, its newest embodiment at Time Out Market showcases this philosophy on a smaller scale. A mix of petisqueira (snack bar), and traditional marisqueira (seafood eatery) the restaurant pays homage to the country’s gastronomic links with Japan. Guests sit on stools at the counter and plates come out like a flawlessly in-sync marching band, gradually dialling up in flavour, dish by dish. Start with the sardine nigiri sushi a simple single bite that celebrates one of Portugal’s favourite fish, followed by the surprisingly delicate chocos fritos (fried cuttlefish), gently bathed in its own charcoal coloured ink. The playful octopus dog, with greens, and creamy aioli wrapped in soft bread is a triumph of the sea, while the roasted cod served simply with potatoes, turnip greens and olive oil is satisfying. The lively bustle of the market combined with the palpable glee of the chefs who proudly cook each dish makes for lasting memories.
2/ Pasteis de Belem
An icon of Portugal, the ubiquitous custard tart appears all over the country, although their rightful home is Lisbon. Originally invented by monks in the early 19th century at Jerónimos Monastery in the Belem neighbourhood, they are known by two names in Portuguese: pastéis de nata and pastéis de belem. The former is the general name for the pastry while the latter is the specialty of Miguel Clarinha, owner of Pastéis de Belém which has been selling the treat since 1837 following a secret recipe. “You should be able to taste the difference between the two,” he advises. Behind the scenes, an army of staff take on different stages of the process. The custard filling and dough are left overnight to develop flavour and to proof. Meanwhile, dozens of women hand form the pastry into moulds in deft movements that would easily rival a mechanized version. “People stay here for thirty to forty years, for as long as possible and become part of the family. There are people [working here] since before I was born,” notes the fourth generation owner. Here, flaky pastry is reminiscent of phyllo rather than puff pastry with a slight hint of salt, the custard itself is soft and less sweet than pastéis de nata and the pastries themselves are small enough to polish off in a single bite. Be warned, there are always long lines, but there is plenty of seating inside the maze-like interior, many, beneath the shop’s well-known tiles.
3/ Nós é mais bolos (Time Out Market)
Indulge in a bite (or three) of pure pleasure, where classics are reinvented. A glorious array of cakes and tarts from silky cheesecake, to rich chocolate Dacquoise and fruity berry tarts glisten behind a glass case. Just try to resist!
4/ Hard Rock Cafe Lisbon
All of the hallmarks of Hard Rock remain strong at this location on Avenue da Liberdade: super friendly staff, solid food, great music and a convivial atmosphere. Unique here is a limited time feature from local chef Filipa Gomes, Ó Capitão, a special Portuguese burger that combines seared tuna on a bed of arugula and watercress, served on a nero di sepia bolo do caco bun and slathered with tangy lemon mayo. It, like this location, celebrates the best of Portugal.
This original travel article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of City Style and Living Magazine