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Apr 7, 2011 11:24 PM

Vegetarian foodies in Lisbon...for 8 days.

We're going to be in Lisbon for 8 days (and then we'll have a couple of nights in Sintra). We're that sometimes unfortunate combination of vegetarian (no meat or fish, but diary is fine) and passionate about brilliant food. We've eaten in lots of fab place and are generally of the view that a holiday isn't a holiday without lots of tasting menus! I've been reading the suggestions on the board but am still not terribly clear on where we should be going. This is particularly the case as I usually think vegetarian restaurants are to be avoided as they can fall into the hippy / worthier than thou camp... There are a few comments that Portugal isn't terribly vegetarian friendly, but I am hoping that it won't turn out to quite as bad as this headline suggests. I'd be really grateful for suggestions. Certainly Restaurante 100 Maneiras has been mentioned several times to me as a good option and is therefore on the list. Also Tavares. I see Alma has been recommended, as has Quinta dos Frades to someone else asking a similar question - anyone with any recent experiences? But in any event that still leaves quite a lot of nights...!

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  1. @ Mollybolt

    First, here are some resources for explaining more about how to deal with being a vegetarian in Lisboa, and it come from Restaurante Terra, a vegeratian/vegan restaurante in Príncipe Real. You should definitely dine there for lunch or dinner at least once. I've also included a list of vegetarian restaurants in Lisbon, yet many of them are Indian/Goan restaurants.

    I think some of the places that you have identified such as 100 Maneiras, Tavares, Alma, and Quinta dos Frades would be fine, yet some of these are very touristy and pricey; particularly 100 Maneiras and Tavares. Still, with advance notice they might be able to make something special for you if you wanted to go this route.

    Since Portuguese cuisine heavily relies upon fish, pork, game, etc. it can be challenging to eat right on the spot without giving the restaurant/chefs enough time to prepare. Tons of stocks, wine, and other animal/fish products are used even in cooking rice, potatoes, etc. How are you with wine? That is also a key ingredient in tons of dishes too. I have a work colleague here in Lisboa who is "vegetarian" but she eats fish, so that makes things a lot simpler for her.

    Maybe if you could give some idea of what you would like to eat/try, I might be able to make some suggestions rather than the typical and somewhat predicatable places like Tavares, etc. Sure, they often have good food, but you won't encounter many locals (if that is a concern).

    Boa Sorte!

    2 Replies
    1. re: vinhotinto75

      I'm a vegetarian (no meat/fish, but ok for dairy) who has visited Lisbon at least 10 times--but mostly for only a few days at a time. And I must say, it is pretty difficult to find vegetarian food in Portugal.
      That said, every year I look forward to going to the Gulbenkian museum's Modern Art Centre--for the art, and the buffet they serve at lunch (the modern is a separate building from the main one). For about 8 euros, you can choose a plate of 4 or 6 items. Although there are plenty of meat and fish dishes, I can always fill my plate with veggie ones, and they are truly fresh and delicious. They also have yummy massive slices of cake, puddings and fruit. It's also a great atmosphere, filled with hip Portuguese families. There is always a line up on weekend, but it goes by quickly, and there is always somewhere to sit.
      Portugal also has the most amazing cheeses! Go to any grocery store and you will find cow, sheep and goat's milk cheeses--the variety is incredible! Around the corner from the Gulbenkian is El Corte Ingles, which has a massive grocery store in the basement with a giant cheese section at very good prices (at least for a Canadian). check it out for sure.
      However, I'm sure Vinhotinto75 can suggest a better cheese market...?

      1. re: illy

        I have some vegeteriant friends (and clients), I book in advance and inform about the special needs.
        We do that mainly in medium -high end restaurants and the result is very good (sometimes even for me) with top quality ingridents.

    2. Thanks for all the comments, suggestions and links so far.

      Wine is fine (life's too short to get obsessed to that degree - though I know that this isn't the view which respectable vegetarians take!). Love cheese!

      I wonder if anyone could suggest somewhere where a local would take someone for a special occasion, where we might also be able to get (or persuade the kitchen to make) vegetarian food?

      Whilst it instinctively seems wrong to eat food from - say - India when I should really be focussing on Portuguese cuisine, I really just want to make sure we eat some of the best food that Lisbon has to offer, despite our vegetarianism, and if that's Indian or Goan that's brilliant.

      We'll be staying in the Bairro Axo area for at least some of the time, so a couple of suggestions in that area - touristy though it be - would also be gratefully received.

      Gulbenkian sounds great, and we'll definitely go there. Is it better to go on a weekday or at the weekend? I would think the weekend, despite the queue...?

      Thanks v much for your help!

      1 Reply
      1. re: mollybolt

        @ Mollybolt

        First, I assume you mean Bairro Alto, and while it has some tourist elements, Lisboa is still quite genuine and not overwhelmingly touristic like many European Capitals. Still, like and city, there are some excellent, yet underwhelming places in the Bairro Alto.

        Here are some suggestions for the Bairro Alto and surrounding adjacent areas like Príncipe Real and Praça das Flores.

        Sinal Vermelho (Rua das Gáveas)
        Lisboa à Noite (Rua das Gáveas)

        Both these places are owned by the people and they feature excellent regional Portuguese dishes. Lisboa à Noite is more refined, while Sinal Vermelho is a bit more casual, yet equally good. Wine lists are quite good too. I would suggest if you want to go here, or any other place, that you email, call, or stop in well in advance to ask if they can accommodate vegetarians. Again, be wary that the use of stocks and non-vegetarian products is very common in restaurants.

        Some other Bairro Alto suggestions:

        O Caracol (Rua da Barroca) Very old-school with a fine wine list

        Tavares (Rua da Misericórdia) Very Chic and run by a Michelin Star Chef; albeit overrun with tourists

        Respublica (Rua da Misericórdia) Simple, yet refined restaurant associated with the 25 de Abril Association

        Terra (Rua da Palmeira) The formerly mentioned Vegetarian/Vegan restaurant in Lisboa.

        Estrela Morena (Rua da Imprensa Nacional) Tiny place serving Luso-African, more specifically Cape Verdean, cuisine. Fantastic and affordable, yet not "upscale" at all. A nice lunch spot.

        Here are places outside of the Bairro Alto that I like to take visitors/guests for a more "upscale" meal when they visit Lisboa, however I'm not sure how vegetarian friendly they will be, thus I again urge you to email well ahead and such.

        Ibo Restaurante (Cais do Sodré) Wonderful restaurant with excellent Portuguese food with a Mozambican twist. Great views, wine list, and service. If you email them they will most certainly try to accommodate your dining needs. This may be one of your better options.

        Charcutaria Francesa (R. Manuel Bernardes) Despite the name, this is fine Portuguese cuisine and a very classy atmosphere and ambiance. Again, try emailing if you are interested ahead of time.

        There are tons of other places of other price ranges that I take visitors, friends, and family all of the time, however I'm apprehensive to list so many of them since I doubt they would offer anything noteworthy for vegetarians. Again, there are also the newer "upscale" places like Largo, Assinatura, Clara Chiado, Alma, etc. that might be willing to accommodate. I seem to recall Quinta dos Frades having vegetarian options on their menu a while ago.

        Go to Gulbenkian on a Sunday since the regular museum and the aforementioned Centro de Arte Moderna (Modern Art Centre) have free admission to the general public on Sunday. Here is the info for you in English. I've eaten in the restaurant a few times, yet I'm not very much a fan of buffet food, however it is cheap and cheerful.

        Please feel free to let me know if you have any questions.


      2. So, we're here! We came via Tbilisi (Georgia) and Kiev, which posed vegetarian food challenges in many ways (cheese pie overload if nothing else!). Staying on Av de Liberdade for the next two nights. Had lunch at the Gulbenkian today (dodging the rain at the same time). We have dinner at Mezzaluna tonight (and possibly a pop into Enoteca). No idea about tomorrow! Then we're off to Sintra for two nights, then back here for dinner at Tavares on Wednesday and at Ibo Restaurant on Saturday night. I also plan to go to Estrela Morena (though it doesn't sound like a place one has to book?).

        This leaves us one night staying in the Av de Liberdade area (tomorrow, Easter Sunday) and three nights in the Bairro Alto to decide on dinners for.

        I would be very grateful for suggestions for anywhere in Lisbon where we should go to eat tomorrow (given that I know Sundays are difficult anyway). It can be anywhere. I'd thought of Chapito, which seems to be open, though it does seem more of a lunch place? I thought one night whilst we are in the Bairro Alto area we should go to see fado, but am guessing we should try and eat elsewhere. Grateful for views on that? Am trying to determine where else to slim the list of places to go to. I have emailed Lisboa a Noite to try to book (no response yet, which may mean they are reeling in horror at vegetarianism!). I had wondered about adding onto the list Casa Nostra? Someone recommended to me Viagem de Sabores but the reviews I've found haven't been great - any views? I'm think I will try and see if Charcutaria Francesa fancy taking us, though their website is deeply uninformative! and the name sounds distinctly unpromising.

        I can't find any mention of Respublica on google (probably my poor googling) and would be grateful for any pointers.

        Finally, I'd like to book somewhere lovely for lunch for our last day in Lisbon (which is a Monday). Anywhere in Lisbon (or even out of it) would be fine. A great view would be nice (but as vegetarians we can't be too fussy!).

        For interest, I emailed 100 Maneiras and they said that they couldn't accommodate us because of the vegetarianism. Which is entirely fair enough, but worth knowing (since I think others have had more success there?).

        I am v grateful to you for all your help, which has been amazing.