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If you could go anywhere in Portugal, where would you go?

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I have been saying I want to plan a trip to Portugal for years and this year I am finally doing it (early-mid summer). $ is not a huge issue. I have already been to the Sintra area in the winter months. My spouse and I are pretty big foodies, but we enjoy local fare, simple country meals, and little known places with a story the best. I usually start planning trips based my fantasies of great meals. If you have been to a great town or two or three and you could go back I would love to hear some feedback. If you would recommend a city/region/place to stay in Portugal, based on your food experiences, where would you go? Thanks!

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  1. This is exactly the question I should have asked. We are going in April for two weeks. I decided I was going to take notes all over Portugal and post them because there is so little information on food recommendations outside of Lisbon. Hopefully, I'll get some information from your post before we go.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Deborah

      Cool. Im looking forward to your write up.

    2. What about the Algarve... Lots of top class restaurants starting with Vila Joya, Amadeus, Henrique Leis,Sao Gabriel, Willies (all with Michelin stars). Vila Vita in Aramcao de Pera has fantastic accommodation, and their restaurant "Ocean" is also top class. Plenty of simple local bars, beach restaurants and "tascas" around. Avoid July August at all costs!

      1. Porto, without a doubt. Aside from being a lovely little city, you check out the wineries and eat very well for virtually no cash.

        2 Replies
        1. re: cmoniker

          do you have any recs for restaurants or dishes to try in porto? thanks!

          1. re: patz

            Absolutely! (Forgive the lag, it's been a while since I last logged on.)

            Don Tonho (Cais da Ribeira 13) serves contemporary Portuguese cuisine overlooking the river with the Port wineries climbing the hill behind. The clams here are delicious, so be sure to ask if they have any in, and their toucinho do cué is the best dense almond cake dessert ever.

            Taylor's (Rua do Choupelo 250) is the restaurant at Taylor's winery. The food's good, if not especially exciting, but it's worth eating at just to hit the port wines after dinner. (I have yet to find anywhere else that serves Taylor's 40 year tawny by the glass.)

            Nelso dos Leitôes (upstairs in the market, Mercado do Bolhâo, loc.14-15) is hard to find, but well worth the hunt. Every day they roast a piglet here and sell sandwiches of the tender juicy meat for a mere 4€. Be sure to arrive before 2pm though. There's only one piglet a day and it flies. (If you do miss out, don't despair! The cafe just outside the market called Confeiteria do Bolhâo do a more than reasonable facsimile in much larger quantities.)

            Abadia (Rua Ateneu Comercial do Porto 22-24) is on a road so small it's not found on maps, this place is worth finding. It has a massive bustling dining area and looks like a tourist trap when you walk in, but I had some of the best roast octopus tentacles I've ever eaten there. The portions are massive, so I'd recommend ordering half portions.

            Then there are the port wine bars. My favourite is Vinologia on Rue Sâo Joáo 45 which is run by a French guy and his incredibly knowledgeable staff and stocks only wines from small producers,all of which they sell by the bottle if there's anything in particular you fancy taking home with you. It's tiny though, so it's worth stopping by early(ish).

            The Solar do Vinho do Porto which is found at Rua de Entre Quintas 220, very close to the Palacio de Cristal, is also a lovely place to watch the sun set and relax with a port. Mostly ports from more commercial wineries, but they have an impressive selection of vintages by the glass available.

            Hope this helps, even if it does come almost a year after you asked!

        2. Olivier in Bairro Alto in Lisbon 35 Rua do Teixeira 1200-459

          One of the best meals of my life. The location was impossible to find - not one cab driver knew where to go so make sure you have it mapped out before you leave. We were in 3 cabs that night and were an hour late b/c none of them knew the small street it was on...

          Dinner was a 10+ course tasting menu. You don't order... The food and service were incredible. Octopus carpaccio was off the charts.

          Here's the website: http://www.restaurante-olivier.com/ho...

          2 Replies
          1. re: rosiemac75

            I'm going to be in Lisbon in a few months - this place sounds great! The website doesn't have prices though - do you recall how much the tasting menu was per person? Thank-you!

            1. re: ciaociao

              I highly recommend it. We had such a good time speaking with the owner and his sister about the food, that we ended up staying for 4 hours and doing a port tasting at the end of the meal!

              So unfortunately I have no idea what we spent b/c 1) all of the port tasting added to the bill although I am sure they didn't charge us nearly the amount we drank and 2) given the amount we drank, I am not quite sure I even signed my name legibly to the bill.

              Wish I had better info for you. Although I do recall I wasn't outraged by the bill and given the experience would have probably paid more...

          2. About restaurants in Algarve you just have the rigth information.

            About Lisbon and surrondings

            High end
            Eleven One michelin star with a german chef. Nice food with lack of something(emotion). you must go. better at dinner.

            Tavares the second oldest restaurant in iberia peninsula, a new and young portuguese chef (28 years). good experience. Very heavy decoration.

            Valle flor at pestana palace hotel. Very nice place. Some mix fields about the food.

            Panorama at the roof of Sheraton. Modern with a young chef.

            Near Cascais
            Fortaleza do Guincho One star michelin. French cuisine

            Porto Santa Maria Also one star. Very traditional. Seafood and fresh fish.

            Medium range

            Lisbon

            Virgula, Portuguese

            Luca, italian/japonese

            Cop,3, portuguese, trendy

            Terreiro do Paço, portuguese, overrated

            Mercado do peixe, for fish, overpriced

            Cascais

            100 Maneiras portuguese- international very good

            Out of lisbon there are some very good recomendations. let us know the places you intent to visit

            nuno

            3 Replies
            1. re: nuno61

              We really enjoyed Porto Santa Maria too. Had some kind of whole white fish baked/steamed in a salt crust and it was absolutely delectable.

              1. re: nuno61

                We just returned from a cycling trip in Portugal. Fab! For a blowout dinner we decided to try Eleven in Lisbon. A lovely room, great view.
                Overall we felt the experience was less than what should be expected at a starred Michelin restaurant. We all chose the Eleven tasting menu with additional wine parings at 75 and 35 Euros respectively. While the food was good, especially the Carpaccio, we found it lacked some level of "Oh Baby!" you would expect at such a place. The wines were nice but they were very stingy pours. Over the course of a 3 hour meal I would expect at least one top up. In fact, one of our group asked for an additional glass. His was poured while the other three sat there with empty glasses!! Far better to order wines on your own especially if your group is large enough.
                As the reviewer mentions above there was some lack of emotion or fun to the evening. The sole exception was the lovely hostess who came by to chat with us on two occasions.
                Overall we were disappointed with the experience and would not recommend it or return.

                1. re: chiefscout

                  Sorry about your experience. I am off to Portugal this weekend, for a week. We will be in Lisbon, Figueira da Foz and Porto. This is my first trip to Portugal, can you give me anymore food feedback, dishes to try, etc. Thanks so much in advance.

                  Glad your overall trip was great.

              2. I'd go to the Algarve. Albufiera area. Vila Joya is an ABSOLUTE MUST. One of the best meals of my life was there. I've eaten in several ** Michelin restaurants and this one was probably the nicest of all of them. The hotel looked phenominal, too, though we did not stay there.

                1. A new one in Cascais, Belvedere in Hotel Real Villa Italia. One of best meals in Portugal .

                  1. We had the great fortune to stay with a very close friend and her family in Central Portugal on their farm. This was a fabulous experience. Her mom is a wonderful cook who makes her own goat's cheese every morning. Her dad makes wine, and their olives from their farm produce a fruity rich olive oil that you could drink.The fish monger drives a little truck around the town on certain days - I've never had sardines so fresh. Then there are the fig trees scattered throughout the land, there is nothing as fabulous as picking a ripe fig off a tree and popping it whole into our mouth! (but watch out for ants)

                    My take on Portugal is this: If you want fancy expensive restaurants, stick to the Algarve, Lisbon and maybe Porto. But the joy of Portugal is the rustic "everyday" cuisine that can be found in so many places all over the country. If you are feeling adventurous, go into any place that looks local, and order whatever looks fresh or good, or that others are ordering. I like to try different preparations of Baccalao, and I also love Presunto, the Portuguese version of Prosciutto or jamon serrano. Get whatever seafood looks fresh, because it likely is very fresh! Try the Cataplana dishes. Order some of the local portuguese wines - We have ordered bottles in restaurants that have cost 1-2 Euros and been blown away by the quality/price ratio (and wept, knowing we'd never have wine this cheap and good back home). The food is honest and non-pretentious, and delicious in a home-cooked way. And even if the rare meal is terrible, it is usually so reasonably priced that I can't even get too upset. Portugal is still very inexpensive compared to many of the European countries. And you can find little gems of restaurants in many little towns. The food is simple, the atmosphere is rustic, but everything tastes like it was made with love and respect for the ingredients. It is a fun way to eat...

                    There is an excellent food guide to Portugal, I believe it is by Lonely Planet. They talk about all the local specialties. It is a great guide to eating in Portugal. Well worth taking along.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: moh

                      You have it figured out perfectly my friend. This is my first post, but long-time reader of these boards. I'm Portuguese and I've spent a good amount of summers in my childhood in Portugal (like most of us Portuguese-Americans). I've been to all the major places, the Algarve, Lisboa, Porto. The food is ok, but sometimes too much of a tourist trap. You need to tell them NOT to bring you bread or olives because they will charge you 5 euros for it!
                      This is noticed most down in Lagos in the Algarve. If you go to the Algarve I reccomend bypassing Lagos on the western side of the Algarve region. Go to a small town called Sagres, all the way down N268 I believe. Amazing. I almost hate giving this place away, its beautiful, empty, still feels real. The best is spending nights watching the fishing boats come in while drinking an espresso and having a good Brandy.
                      I still remember last time I was there I bought a fishing pole and caught a bunch of Mackerel, brought them to my hotel to give to the hostess to take home, and they invited us over to have dinner!
                      The seafood is so fresh there too, because it's literally coming right off the boat and into your plate.

                      In terms of the food, my fondest experiences were up north on the Spanish Border in the city/town of Chaves. Small but still beautiful with castles and old architecture. Lots of small cafes and restaurants where you can drink endless bottles of homeade wine and delicious home cooked food. Also don't overlook the chicken stands on the side of the road that BBQ. I'm craving that right now! It's funny that I really remember that comfort food more than anything else.

                      I feel you should check Porto out, because of it's location in the country. And despite religion I'd recommend going to Fatima, it's pretty intense and the food along the way I remember being very very good.

                      I apologize I'm lacking specific places, its been a few years since the last time I was there! But check out Chaves and maybe Sagres depending on what you're doing.

                    2. Portugal is a foodie's heaven, yet it's so often overlooked. (btw: two thumbs up for Lonely Planet's World Food Portugal guide)

                      We were in Portugal last summer for holidays & after Lisbon, drove north along the coast about an 1 1/2 hour's drive (beautiful drive, by the way) to Peniche - a little surf town with a cool friendly vibe & lots of great seafood places & very affordable. My husband is into surfing & this town apparently is one of the best places in Europe for surfing due to it's unique peninsular shape which practically ensures good surf everyday. But we are on a foodie website, and I have to say, the seafood was great & so incredibly fresh. You know you're in a seafood town, when practically all of the seafood restaurants are closed on Monday.

                      One meal in particular I remember was at a restaurant there called Portinho D'Areia- located away from the town centre & overlooking the beach where we shared a "Cataplana de marisco"...delish!...a big stew served in a copper pot of lobster, shrimp, mussels, clams, with tomatoes, onions, peppers & sherry (i think) which gave it a slightly sweet finish. But every meal that we had out, we really enjoyed. Another night I tried the acorda na broa ...a very yummy bread soup with garlic and shrimp...though I could barely get up from the table afterwards, it was so heavy in my stomach.

                      Some restuaurants there also do a "servico de Petiscos" usually late in the afternoon from around 3-7pm when they serve appetizers..usually seafood (at least in Peniche).

                      Have a look here: www.cm-peniche.pt for more general info. The little island of Baleal (connected by a narrow road) is a particularly nice area to stay.