If you love eating out, then Lisbon is the place for you. Portugal’s capital city is renowned for its seafood and Pasteis de Nata (custard tarts) but you can find traditional local cuisine, as well as fine dining, modern eats and international fare everywhere you turn.
I’m not even going to pretend that we managed to eat tons of food while we were in Lisbon, after all, three nights really isn’t enough time to sample a city’s gastronomic offerings – especially when you have young children in tow. But what we did manage to eat, and the places we did find, were fantastic and, for the food alone, is one reason why we’d like to return.
For the choice…
Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, Cais do Sodré
Think indoor food hall mixed with a trendy market, the Time Out Mercado da Ribiera is well worth a visit, even if you only have a few days in Lisbon. It is busy, particularly when we turned up during lunch. It took us nearly 20 minutes to get some seats, but thankfully the children were being extremely patient.
Once you have a base – it’s then time to choose from the 35 kiosks. Yes 35 of them… From asian food, to burgers, to artisan chocolates, we opted to try Bacalhau first, Portuguese codfish deep-fried, as well as croquettes and a platter of hams and cheeses. We then moved on to pulled pork and squid, all washed down with beer and wine. We spent several hours here, and because the atmosphere is so lively, Monkey loved people watching and wandering to the different food stations. Prices vary from different dishes but on average we paid around €5-10 per dish and around €3 for a decent glass of wine.
Top tip: It is busy, so if you can’t find seating, just hang around a spot by the high wooden benches, where you think people are finishing up. They soon go. Or go mid-afternoon or early evening to avoid the crowds.
Avenida 24 de Julho, open from 10am to midnight (Sunday to Wednesday), 10am to 2am (Thursday to Saturday)
For custard tarts…
Pastéis de Belém
You cannot come to Lisbon and not sample at least 10 custard tarts, seriously… And Pastéis de Belém is an institution in these delightful sweet treats. Their secret recipe has been handed down for generations since 1837 and, to this day, their bakers still make them by hand. You can actually watch these masters at work inside the bakery. Sprinkled with cinnamon and straight out of the oven, the pastry was light and crispy, while the custard filling was divine. I’m not ashamed to say I had two in one sitting…
Top tip: Don’t be put off by the queues outside, there are actually two entrances – one for takeaway and one to dine in. The bakery is a TARDIS, there are hundreds of seats inside, so just make sure you avoid the takeaway customers and grab yourself a table.
R. Belém 84-92, open daily from 8am to 11.00pm
Ssshhh, keep this a secret but everyone goes to Pastéis de Belém (see above) because it’s so famous. But there is another little gem that makes custard tarts and dare I say, they’re even better? Situated in the trendy district of Bairro Alto near to our Martinhal apartments, we were recommended Manteigaria by several people who claimed that the Pasteis de Nata from here are the best in Lisbon. And it seems more people have cottoned on, as they were flying out of the door while we were there. Just a light and delicious, but not as sweet, I did prefer Manteigaira’s tarts. I felt there was more flavour to their eggy custard fillings.
Top tip: There is no seating in Manteigaria, so just grab an expresso and a tart or two, and wolf it down as you watch the bakers hard at work!
Rua do Loreto 2, open daily from 8am to midnight
For people watching…
It never quite feels like a proper holiday unless you sit outside, have a bite to eat and watch the world go past. When you’re wandering a city, sometimes you just chance upon a restaurant because it looks busy. Café Nicola was just that for us. Overlooking Rossio Square, Nicola’s prime position means you get to people watch on a grand scale, and it’s here in this art deco bistro we settle down to enjoy the sunshine, a drink and a sandwich. Sure, the menus have pictures of dishes, and the choice isn’t amazing, but that’s not the point of this popular café, it’s the location that counts… And apparently, it is one of the cafés where famous Portuguese poet, Fernando Pessoa, wrote a great deal of his work.
Top tip: Our ham and cheese toasties were huge and we could easily have just shared one!
Praça do Rossio, 24, Open Monday to Friday, from 8.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m., Saturday from 10.00 a.m. to 1.00 a.m
For the family…
As much as my husband and I could have happily munched our way through plenty of Portuguese dishes, Monkey knows what he likes and one night declared he wanted pizza. We were lucky enough to get a last-minute table at popular Pizzaria Lisboa – fronted by Michelin starred chef José Avillez – who owns several restaurants in the city. With its wooden tables, and simple decor, the restaurant is family-friendly with a buzz, while the menu offers a wide range of pizzas, salads, pasta dishes and rissottos. Hubby’s beef carpaccio was melt-in-the-mouth delicious, while I had the divine parpedelle ragu. Monkey devoured his crispy pizza and gelato, while Peanut slept soundly in the pram. We thoroughly enjoyed our meal and the cost was reasonable. Around €80 including wine, starters and main meals.
Top tip: Book in advance. The restaurant is small, and there were several customers having to be turned away or wait up to an hour for a table.
R. Duques de Bragança, open daily from 12:30–3pm, 7pm–midnight
For seafood… and gin
Hubby and I were lucky enough to go out for a meal by ourselves. We decided we wanted somewhere within walking distance that had great seafood – and Faz Gostos fit the bill. Plus another attractive feature is the restaurant’s gin bar! I loved the beautiful blue and white tiles that adorn Faz Gostos’ historic interior – part of it is the original structure of a convent which was destroyed in an earthquake in 1834. After several different recommendations, we both decided to go all out and eat seafood for starters and mains. Highlights included the scallop and salmon carpaccio and razor clam rice.
Top tip: Ask for a gin and tonic – they have several types on offer but beware, the glasses were nearly as big as my head! I managed two!
Rua Nova da Trindade 11 HK, Open Monday to Friday, from Midday. to 13.00 p.m, and 7.00pm-11.30pm; Saturday from 7.00pm. to 11.30 p.m
For the view
Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara
Wandering the Old Town around Bairro Alto and up its endless hills, we stumbled upon this glorious terrace which has the best views of the city with the Alfama district, Sao Jorge castle, as well as the Se Cathedral and the Tegus river, glistening in the distance. Along this marvellous view point are several stalls selling drinks and food, but we settled on the quaint tables at the Miradouro café – which serves a variety of hot and cold dishes and beverages. We nibbled on some fries, and swigged several beers just enjoying the shade of the trees. Before we realised, several hours had gone by. A great spot to just relax…
Top tip: If you can’t find a table straightaway, there are plenty of benches close by where you can enjoy the same vista
Rua de Sao Pedro de Alcantara – Bairro Alto