Portuguese Pleasures & Posh Nosh


As 2018 kicks off damp and chilly, the Nose reflects on a long weekend of food, wine and wandering in Lisbon.

Lisbon is a first for me, although it had been on my radar for a while. Clearly I was not alone. Judging from the accents, it seemed the student population of the UK and the US had piled into this hilly city for a weekend of fun. Well the beer is cheap (under E2 a pint) and the nightlife is exuberant. By 9pm in streets in Barrio Alto were heaving. There are numerous places to eat with tables spilling onto the steep cobbled streets. We joined the throng and took pot luck with the Bota Alta (Old Boot) enticed by diners crammed into this tiny family eatery, clearly having a good time and soon we were tucking into the house speciality of cod cooked in white port, drowning in onions and washed down with jugs of sangria. The waiter had a great line in straight-faced humour. The chocolate cake was deliciously alcoholic. Sophisticated it was not, but it certainly hit the spot on a hot night.

By night Lisbon is a party town. By day, there is plenty of culture to inhale and there’s shopping – the steep, narrow streets are crammed with boutiques, food shops, wine shops… lots of nooks and crannies to explore.


Salted cod is a staple.


Streets are festooned with streamers as numerous saint’s festivals are celebrated in the summer

One morning I headed over to the Torre de Belém an impressive fort guarding the mouth of the Tejo harbour… remember this is the city from which Vasco de Gama ventured in 1498. The C16th Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, build to commemorate his discovery of India, has beautiful, if much renovated cloisters and a chapel which simply soars skywards.

For a busy, buzzy lunch..great with group of friends… head for the Time Out market near Comercio Square, the main waterside plaza. This eating emporium is housed beside the covered fruit, veg and fish market…and is best on a week day – dipping back on Saturday it was just too crowded. Taking ‘time out’ from wine, the Nose settled on beer. The lightly creamy wheat beer from the central beer stand – can’t miss it right in the middle of the hall with a chap on hand to explain the different ale – was particularly good. Must quickly add here – the Portuguese are so friendly.

At the top of the Alfama district, the oldest in the city, is Castelo São Jorge. The robust and largely medieval citadel actually dates back to the iron age. A labyrinth of cobbled streets flow down the slope to the water. This kasbah-like layout reflects its Arab history. The view from the castle is worth the walk up and at the risk of sounded too cheesy – the sunset here is stunning.

It’s such a hilly city. Not just one hill up and down, but a series of undulations. In Alfama there are plenty of churches – including the Romanesque cathedral, called the Sé – to pop into for some respite from the sunshine, although the coastal breeze keeps things quite temperate.

Lisbon is in a process of renovation. One evening we sat at upturned barrels in Alfama at a small place called Casa de Sabicos – this spot is half renovated, half derelict – definitely more shabby than chic, eating delicious tapas of dried cod (local food born of the necessity to preserve the catch), tuna carpaccio, tapenade, garlicky beans and sardine pate.


I love the fresh grilled sardines on offer at many a street BBQ, but the tinned version is also a big thing. The canning industry happily targets tourists. A shop on Rossio Square markets their tins with a year stamp so you can take a souvenir of your birthday in fish should you be so inclined…

The wine came from the quinta of Casa de Sabicos. The story was outlined on the menu. A mother of eight children who “precociously having lost her husband” was left to manage the estate. In the interests of supporting a single mother with a family and a vineyard to manage we tried quite a number of cuvées and I can recommend the Casa de Sabicos Reserva.


Pastelaria Santo Antonio – just a small one for me!

The graffiti – elevated to street art – is impressive in this part of town. So is the ice cream. I could live on ice cream – top quality, lip smacking, deeply flavoured, richly creamy ice cream that is. Never happier than alighting on a top gelato spot. I found one below the castle, Pastelaria Santo Antorio, which we re-visited several times. I can thoroughly recommend the chocolate, the coffee, the raspberry…..and there were delicious tarts and I could only wish to teleport a chocolate donut home for my son Thomas. A baker was busy making the traditional custard tarts which are ubiquitous here. Pasteis de Nata – layers of flaky pasty filled with unctuous vanilla custard.


We hopped on a train to Sintra on Sunday…a lofty spot where the royal family and their chums built summer residences. Pena Palace reminded me of the extravagant, kitsch and oriental feel of the Royal Pavillon in Brighton. I imagined Sintra as a sleepy place of faded glory, dusty palaces and overgrown gardens. Umm… things have moved on. It’s a tourist mecca…and we were among those trampling down the romance of the place.

Heading back to the city we’d booked Bistro 100 Maneiras for dinner. Lisbon has some very good restaurants, but wing it at your peril. You need to book in advance on Friday and Saturday nights. We had drawn a blank on several enticing restaurants, and in consequence had enjoyed some hearty, local and tasty food, but I was ready to put on a nice frock to go out for some posh nosh.

We came up trumps with Bistro 100 Maneiras. Chef Ljubomir Stanisic cooks contemporary Portuguese food with a twist. He has gained some notoriety as a celebrity chef but the staff at our hotel (Browns – a trendy boutique hotel in the centre of town) recommended him as I was looking creative food – in an intelligent way – and I was not disappointed.

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The Nose outside Bistro Maneiras primed for posh nosh.

I had two exceptional dishes. A first course of ceviche – the best I have every tasted… tangy, salty, sweet, lime – with the freshest of fish. A simple dish, elevated and beautifully balanced. And then there was the octopus. I’ve had bad experiences with octopus – notably an eye to eye standoff with a whole octopus in Venice – but a chat with the sommelier (the staff are excellent here…dressed in black t-shirts and jeans with some interesting leather strapping) considered this the most unusual dish on the menu. I put aside my reservations and was rewarded with a revelation of flavours – bitter, umami, sweet, sour and just so moreish. The thick, black sauce was based on a traditional porridge blackened with squid ink. The octopus was sweet and tender (and not looking at me). I took the sommeliers advice with the wine. Quinta Ponte Pedrinha Reserva 2011 was the perfect marriage with my Octopus. The tannins were smooth, the flavour dark and deep and it had a refreshing bitter note.


The setting was cool and contemporary, but very relaxed. It would be worth going to Lisbon exclusively to eat Ljubomir’s food. Yup the Nose would head back for the tasting menu at the restaurant.

What more could you want from a mini break – enticing food, decent wine and oodles of culture. The only drawback is the penance required to lose the Portuguese pounds gained oh so enjoyably.

Restaurante and Bistro 100 Maneiras