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Lisbon and Porto

I'm from the Toronto, Canada board and we're planning a trip to Spain/Portugal, landing in Barcelona and driving west into Lisbon and then up to Porto 2 nights each in early Sep. I'll post a Spain question later but looking for restaurant recommendations for both of these wonderful Portuguese cities. Looking for must try, can't miss recommendations that exemplify local cuisine. Thanks in advance!

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  1. Here's my report from last summer. Loved loved loved Portugal - all of it. You'll have a great trip.

    1. @ syoung

      I live here in Lisbon, so after searching the archives let me know if you have questions and I will be happy to help.


      8 Replies
      1. re: vinhotinto75

        Thanks vinhotinto75. Hope you know Porto as well... we've narrowed to the following for Porto for now:

        O Paparico
        Bull & Bear
        Foz Velha

        Are these good? Any others you recommend? For time being, we're thinking of going directly to Porto and skipping Lisbon this trip. Trip is in Sep so still in plannig stage.

        1. re: syoung

          Consider Pedro Lemos in Porto. We had a really lovely meal there.

          1. re: Nyleve

            Thanks Nyleve, we'll try for a reservation at Pedro Lemos. Any other suggestions, especially of local favorites or comment on one of the 3 above I found?

            1. re: syoung

              Don't know anything about any of the other restos. But we spent a few nights in Porto and I have to say it was truly a highlight of our trip. At Pedro Lemos we had a tasting menu with wine pairings - our server looked like Mr. Bean so we remember it as the Mr. Bean dinner - it was fantastic. Also in Porto, we hopped a few of the Port wine houses and absolutely loved the experience. Calem had an awesome tour with tasting - I still have a soft spot for Calem port when I see it. I don't know how great a port winery it is but we loved every second of it.

              1. re: Nyleve

                Yeah, we're thinking the same thing and have decided to forgo Lisbon and staying longer in Porto and probably do a day trip of the Douro river. I'm a bit of a wine geek and thus it's Porto over Lisbon and visiting a few Quintas. I've had 1996 Calem Vintage Port and it was OK. I'd like to visit Taylor's and a few of the Symington Family port houses. Please let me know if there are any wine houses you visited that's a can't miss.

                1. re: syoung

                  The truth is that I'm not knowledgeable enough about wine to give you recommendations that would be based on anything but our own eccentric experiences (often based on things that have little to do with the wines themselves). But we did visit Taylor in Porto and, if nothing else, it's in a beautiful location overlooking the river, with lovely gardens. The ports we tasted were delicious but I can't remember which ones they were. We stayed away from Sandeman because it was so crowded and because the tour guide was wearing a costume. I suggest you make a list of houses you want to visit and just methodically hit as many as you can. They're all close together and walkable.

                  We also spent a few days up the Douro at a stunning estate. It was a very weird old winery owned by a Spanish widow. The food was odd but the location was awesome. Took a drive up to Pinhao one day and visited, among other places, Fonseca - gorgeous spot, excellent (free) tour of the vineyard and tasting. Really an unforgettable trip altogether.

                  1. re: Nyleve

                    Thanks Nyleve, this is helpful! Intend to visit Finseca as well. Did you have to book the tastings with each winery in advance or did you just walk in?

                    1. re: syoung

                      None of the wineries we visited required any sort of pre-booking. All the port lodges in Porto (Gaia) were open and running tours all day. Some - I believe - may be closed on Sundays so you should be aware of that. But the rest seem to be happy to see whoever walks in the door. Calem charged a nominal fee for the very good tour and tasting, Taylor didn't charge anything for the tasting but we showed up late in the day. Other houses charged a small amount for individual pours of various ports according to whether they were vintage or whatever. In Porto, the port lodges are all within easy walking distance of one another so you can just start at one end and keep going until you get tired.

      2. LISBON:

        Cool Experiences:

        Solar do Vinho Porto – Barrio Alto - The port wine institute. You sit on large sofas and order tastings of port from their extensive port menu – by the glass prices start at .90 Euro and they sell every single bottle to buy and take home

        Shopping on Rue Do Carmo - Barrio Alto - (Don’t miss Lluvaria Ulysses– for a pair of custom fitted gloves.)

        Coffee at Brasileira Café – famous for their coffee and interesting pastries- Biaxa/Chiado Metro stop

        Wine tasting at Sala Ogival -Terreiro do Paço- 1100-148 Lisboa. You walk in and you fill out a form and choose from 25 bottles of wine to taste and rate.
        In exchange for the ratings and input, the wine tastings are free.

        Food/wine shopping at El Cortes ingles - the store is literally IN the Sao Sebastio ,metro station. They have a wonderful supermarket and also a specialty food/wine shop

        Shopping on Avienda da Liberdade – the main drag (Louis Vuitton, Prada, etc)

        The view from Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcantara - a garden with a panoramic view across the city to St. George's Castle and central Lisbon. Take the Yellow tram up from Av Liberdade to get here.

        Restaurants we loved:

        Pap Acorda –Barrio Alto - one of the best known hot spots for traditional Portugese ingredients in a unique/funky setting

        Doca a Piexe. or Doca6 – Docas (take a cab) - in an area call the “Docas” – which are a recently built line of about 10 restaurants under the red “vasco De Gama” bridge, all with outdoor seating- but these two are the best. They serve Seafood (good for lunch after spending the morning in Belem)

        Mezza Luna –Metro Marques de Pombal - fantastic trendy Italian food and it is owned by a man from Long Island.

        Bonjardim - Metro Restauradores - very casual- good for lunch - Best roasted chicken on the planet.

        Sinal Vermelho – Barrio Alto - Traditional Portugese food in a trendy/eclectic atmosphere

        Lisboa A Noite – Barrio Alto - Portugese fare- traditional yet hip

        Sacramento- Barrio Alto - chic and open space- cool décor and great food

        Notable Bars:

        Ritz Four Seasons–have a glass of wine or cocktail at their gorgeous bar (they allow cigar smoking)

        Solar do Vinho Porto – The port wine bar I mentioned above

        Pavilhao Chines- Chinese pavilion bar. Very kitchy bar with table games. Fun after a dinner out. Great inventive cocktails. You have to knock to get in.

        Barrio Alto Hotel - great hotel/location and fantastic drink selection

        1 Reply
        1. re: missmar79

          What a great list! My wife and I are heading to Lisbon in a couple of days where we will spend two days before driving down to the Algarve. Just trying to decide WHICH places to visit in our short stay.....

        2. syoung: We were in Porto about 3 years ago. We had a great time going to different bars that advertised serving assorted ports. We got our information from a few guide books and off the web and we were amazed with the vast amount of information we gleamed from these tastings. You are in for a real treat!

          6 Replies
          1. re: Deborah

            Thanks Deborah! Yes, we intend to do some bar hopping and have been reviewing both paper and web guide books/sites. Any suggestions of what to do in Porto? We're planning a Douro river day cruise and will probably be driving around the area to places such as Viseu, Braga, Guimarães and Vila Real. Any suggestions food/wine or anything else that's a can't miss in around Porto would be much appreciated!

            1. re: syoung

              There is a steam train running up river from Regua to Tua via Pinhão, so close to the Douro you feel you can touch the water. I took it a few years ago (some of the Port Quintas have their own mini-station, they just flag the train). Found a nice report on http://www.fodors.com/community/europ...

              1. re: monchique

                Thanks monchique! The steam train sounds like a good idea... so much to do and so little time. We're thinking of a day cruise on the Douro river so if anyone has any suggestions on what or where to book, please do chime in and we'd be very greatful!

                  1. re: monchique

                    Monchique/ Vinhotinto - I have read all the posts on Lisbon dating back to 2010. Can you advise please whether Tavares and Eleven is worth a visit even if it is for lunch? I understand the Eleven dropped out of the Michelin guide based on a post from Monchique. Thank you

                    1. re: blownd

                      Tavares still holds its Michelin star, but the chef who obtained it has left... They have a 35 Euros menu for lunch which I understand is correct for the price and the restaurant itself is worth looking at for its Maxim's mirrors.
                      I did not much liked the arrogant service and inept sommelier at Eleven when I last went 2 years ago, but am told the attitude of the staff has slightly improved since. And the view over Lisbon is nice ...
                      Have you considered Tagide? http://www.restaurantetagide.com/welc... . Classic Portuguese cuisine in very civilised surroundings.

          2. Reporting back after the trip...

            We ended up going to 4 places

            Traca - This was recommended by our hotel concierge as authentic Portuguese and was decent but not great. I think this is a new restaurant. We were served by the owner's sister who was the only person who spoke some English.

            Five Oceans - This was also recommended by the concierge as a good fresh seafood restaurant near the shipping port on a street where many seafood restaurants are located. Again, food was decent but not great. Service was excellent.

            Pedro Lemos - This was recommended here and elsewhere as a higher end restaurant. Unfortunately for us, it was a major disappointment. My appetizer came late after everyone else had finished. Reason was the waitress forgot. Two of the 6 of us ordered Tuna grilled to medium rare and it came way overcooked. When we noted this to the waitress, she said sorry and then left without offering any recourse. This is unacceptable even for a mom and pop restaurant. As well, we had to pour our own wine which is fine but not for a supposed high end restaurant with prices to match. Overal = FAIL.

            D. Tonho - located on Cais da Ribiera overlooking the Douro River, this restaurant arguably had the best food of all the restaurants we went to in Porto. The service left much to be desired as the maitre d was quite arrogant and rude and the waiter looked like he hated his job.

            We also visited a few of the Port Lodges and had a good time. Many were within walking distance of each other though the hilly streets (especially to Taylor's and Graham's) was a bit of a chore. Interesting that buying port wine (esp. Vintage Port) was cheaper here in North America than at the lodges.

            Our hotel (InterContinental) was new (opened in July) and was excellent in almost all aspect. Their breakfast, in particular the portuguese tarts, was fantastic.

            Overall, we all thought food quality was well below what we had in Spain. Maybe Lisbon would've represented Portugal better.

            4 Replies
            1. re: syoung

              Oh sorry you had such a poor experience at Pedro Lemos. I think it was me who recommended it so effusively. We did have a really wonderful dinner there - I guess that's just the way things go sometimes. All in all, loved Porto and Portugal. I don't think you can compare the cuisine of Portugal with Spain - they're very different. The best food we ate in Portugal - with the exception of Pedro Lemos - was rustic and simply prepared, depending more on the freshness and quality of the ingredients than the technique. Many of the ingredients are, of course, similar to Spain but the preparation is apples and oranges.

              1. re: Nyleve

                I think maybe our bad experience was a one off and much of it could've been mitigated had the waitress did her job properly. Many people recommended it, so please do not apologize and your help to recommend was very much appreciated and I thank you kindly.

                While I agree that Spanish and Portuguese cuisine are apples and oranges, I think you can still make a judgement in terms of the quality of the way the food was prepared, especially in the best restaurants that are suppose to represent the best. For example, Chinese and French cuisine are even more different, but the quality of food preparation of the better restaurants in, say, Hong Kong and Paris are both absolutely top notch by any standard. I think Spain is in the top notch category as well, but our experience in Porto was notches below. Like I said, maybe Lisbon would've represented better.

                1. re: Nyleve


                  Thank you for the suggestion of Pedro Lemos. It was without doubt the best meal that we had in Porto. We also dined at Peperico, Shis and Buhle. I noted a previous post regarding the Sommelier. But the gentleman performing this role did so with much enthusiasm.

                  For those of you planning for a trip to Portugal, several personal Learning include to allocate more time in Porto than Lisbon. Our accommodation at Porto in particular truly made the entire trip memorable. Words cannot express the customer service, level of attention and many, small gestures that the team made that invoked a magnificent customer experience. I strongly urge you to consider www.4rooms.org a place to stay.

                  1. re: blownd

                    Whew. Glad to hear you enjoyed your dinner at Pedro Lemos. We also enjoyed Porto more than Lisbon - not sure why. Maybe it was all the port...