Portuguese food doesn’t quite receive the same accolades as its European neighbours, largely due to its simple and less inventive nature. Typically, Portuguese food relies on the high standard of its produce and you’ll see this throughout Lisbon, where quality and seasonality are paramount. In many restaurants, locals will often shun the menu, having whatever the daily special is. Barbecued sardines or chicken, grilled fish and vegetable soups are a typical lunch of an on-the-go Lisboeta.
Lisbon’s restaurants are range from the Michelin starred to the plastic chair and strip-light variety, the latter being the more authentic experience. International food is pretty popular and there’s a decent mix of Japanese, Brazilian, Indian and European food, should you tire of the ever present bacalhau (cod-fish) or caldo verde (potato and kale soup). Favourite local dishes to look out for include porco preto (black pork), ameijoas (clams), Leitão (roast suckiling pig) and arroz pato (roast duck in rice).
The city’s imperial roots mean that coffee and sweets are a big deal here. You’ll not walk for more than 100 yards without passing a café in Lisbon, where locals like to stand at the bar, sip coffee and munch on pastries and mini savoury snacks. I’ve tried to include as wide a variety of restaurants as possible, including cafés, spit-and-sawdust restaurants and fine dining establishments, so there should be something for everyone. There’s also a good mix of old faves and the newly opened. Lisbon’s dining scene has had a pretty good few years and new places are popping up all over, so I’ll endeavour to update with new openings as much as possible. While I’ve been to every restaurant in the past year, things will always change and standards will certainly drop or increase, so this list will certainly be an organic beast with regular changes, admissions and omissions. Please feel free to contribute!
Things worth noting:
- Portuguese dine late, anytime between nine and 11 is normal.
- Service is rarely added to the bill and 10 per cent is customary.
- Avoid fish on Mondays. The fish markets are always closed so fresh fish is never found on this day.
- Often portions are big enough for two people. If you want less it’s possible to ask for meia dose (half-portion).