When I think of Lisbon, I often envision little crumbling Pasteis de Nata and codfish. So, of course, I wanted to taste them both in one of the most emblematic places in the city.
Café Lisboa, owned by Chef Jose Avillez, one of the references in Portuguese cuisine, is just the perfect place to do this. Part of the Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos, right in the heart of the city, Café Lisboa provides a wonderful setting for sampling traditional Portuguese cuisine with a twist.
While they have a rather gorgeous terrace outside, we preferred the bygone era atmosphere inside. Brass chandeliers, comfortable red velvet chairs, and gilded walls were all we needed to feel welcome.
The incredibly friendly staff spoke perfect English and came up with excellent wine suggestions for each dish, like Infinitum and Grainha. I always find this super useful, because, let’s be honest, unless you are a wine expert, you are prone to mess up the wine pairing more often than not.
My husband ordered the Portuguese Cheese and Charcuterie Platter, a dish he loves to have whenever the opportunity arises. It’s like a little game he plays, comparing this rather basic European dish from one country to the next.
It’s always nice to see the smile on his face when he discovers a new or unusual flavor that he hasn’t tasted before. Like, in this case, it was the Terrincho Velho cheese, a cured handmade cheese with a creamy skin made with paprika and the merendeira cheese, a soft and flavorful sheep’s cheese. Because let’s be honest, cheese is not just cheese and that’s why we love it.
Me, on the other hand, went for the Octopus Tartare, a beautiful plate made with tomato, onion, garlic and ginger mayonnaise (I LOVE ginger everything!), and of course octopus, which in spite of the name of the dish, was boiled and minced. Nevertheless, it was incredibly delicious and an amazing choice.
For the second course, I had the Brás Style Cod With ‘Exploding’ Olives, ‘one of Chef Avillez favorite dishes‘. This dish had three great selling points. First of all, it came highly recommended, kind of Chef Avillez’s darling, the only dish on the menu highlighted in this way. Second, the ‘exploding’ olives really piqued my interest. And third, it seemed to be present on every table.
My, oh, my, was it out of this world! While there were quite a few codfish dishes on the menu, I’m absolutely convinced I made the right choice here. The flake cod mix was interesting enough, a nice twist to a traditional Portuguese dish, but the exploding olives were not only a total surprise but an amazing and memorable experience too.
Simply put, the exploring olives were the highlight of my dinner. I expected some sorts of spicy olives, Instead, I was taken on a trip into molecular gastronomy. While the whole experience is difficult to put into words, think boneless spherical olives filled with green olive juice that explode when you bite into them.
They are absolutely amazing, like nothing I’ve tasted before. They have a liquid texture inside and they taste like olives 2.0. I totally recommend you stop by Cafe Lisboa if only for this dish.
My husband went for the Pastel Lisboa, a traditional puff pastry filled with stewed beef, served with a side dish of rapini rice. Loved the almost spherical shape of the pastry but the true protagonist was the stewed beef, a true delicacy in its own right.
To satisfy my sweet tooth, I ordered the Hazelnut dessert, described as a ‘life-changing dessert‘ and for good reason. Thing hazelnut ice-cream, hazelnut foam, freshly grated hazelnut and fleur de sel. It was a perfect combination, although to be honest, I could have had a couple more servings of hazelnut foam on its own, as it truly was so incredibly divine I was left longing for more.
I also accompanied the dessert with a glass of Madeira Wine Blandy’s Alvada 5 Years. As far as I can remember, this was my first time drinking Madeira wine and I was completely smitten. Maybe a trip to Madeira is around the corner?
My husband finished off with a traditional Pastel de Nata, a warm and light custard pastry sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon and prepared according to Chef Avillez special recipe.
In most coffee shops, pastel de nata is served accompanied by coffee, but pairing it with a glass of Port Wine Graham’s Tawny 20 Years, was even better. It seriously felt like this is how pastel de nata was meant to be enjoyed, accompanied by a glass of Port in a classy atmosphere.
Of course, you can stop by Café Lisboa for a latte or a glass of wine only (they have an amazing selection of Portuguese wines!), or have lunch or dinner like we did. But if you want to take your Lisbon experience a step further, you should certainly attend a theater play at Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlos followed by dinner and drinks at Café Lisboa. That’s what we plan to do next time we are in town because let’s be honest, there’s no such thing as spoiling yourself too much, right?