Lisbon – three of the best marisqueiras

A marisqueira is a dedicated seafood restaurant and Lisbon has some of the best I’ve ever been too. I visited three; Cervejaria Ramiro (the most famous), A Marisqueira do Lis (just as good) and Mar do Inferno (my favourite). You’ll find them all on my Lisbon map. Click on the links for recipes and more info.

Mar do Inferno, Avenida Rei Humberto II de Itália, Cascais,

Besides the good seafood and the great service, this was my favourite because unlike the others it’s actually next to the sea. For me it was the end point of a lovely long walk along the coast from Cascais, the pretty seaside town to the west of central Lisbon (see next post). Make sure you book ahead to get a table on the terrace with a sea view.

Mar do Inferno is named after the local tourist sight, the Boca do Inferno (Hell’s Mouth), a rocky inlet next to the restaurant in which the incoming waves churn and writhe.

The standout dish was their Gambas Fritas com Picante (A), spicy fried prawns made with a tiny dash of pil pil hot sauce, which I have since tried to recreate many times at home with varying degrees of success.

The scallops and oysters from Albufeira in the Algarve were nice enough too (C+) but I recommend asking the knowledgable waiters for their suggestions. If you’re lucky (they were sold out when I went) they may have some Bruxas de Cascais, a local crustacean that I hadn’t come across before.

I finished with a glass of sweet Madeira called Barbeito Malvasia 10 Year Old Reserve which was the perfect accompaniment (A) to a slice of Queijada de SintraCasa do Preto“, a delicious regional cheesecake (B+). I followed it with a glass of Aguardente Adega Velha XO 12, an eau-de-vie from the Vinho Verde region aged in french oak barrels for an average of 12 years (B).

Cervejaria Ramiro, 1 Avenida Almirante Reis, Intendente,

A local institution since 1956, Ramiro was already the most famous marisqueria in Lisbon before Anthony Bourdain’s visit sent its popularity off the scale. I avoided the evening queues by getting in as soon as they opened in the afternoon. A local friend says she much prefers the less frenetic lunchtime atmosphere.

I loved the Amêijoas a Bulhão Pato, a Lisboan dish of clams in a sauce made with top quality olive oil, garlic, coriander, dry white wine and lemon juice (A).

But my favourite was, again, the Gambas a la Aguillo, prawns in garlic butter with a touch of chilli (A).

Also excellent was the Sapateira Casco, the carapace of the brown northern Atlantic crab (as opposed to Santola, spider crab), stuffed with crab meat and roe mixed with a mayonnaise sauce (typically containing mustard, beer, paprika, and hard-boiled eggs).

These were served with piles of Pão Torrado, toasted and heavily buttered muffin-like bread, for mopping up the juices.

I finished with a Crema Catalana (like Crème Brûlée but made with milk) and a glass of Carvalho Ribeiro & Ferreira Aguardente Velha Reserva.

A Marisqueira do Lis, 27B Avenida Almirante Reis,

Just up the street from Ramiro, I came to Marisqueira do Lis in late August (when Ramiro was closed for holidays) and found it to be just as good. Again there is usually a queue, but I got in as a single diner by starting with a drink at the bar and then procuring a table via a friendly waiter.

I had to have the Percebes (goose barnacles) (B+) which I had fantasised about since first trying them in Vigo ten years earlier (still my best experience, post here). You have to snap off the heads and pull out the soft tube-shaped barnacle inside. Admittedly they’re an acquired taste as it’s akin to eating a mouthful of seawater, and many people will be also put off by the price, but once you’ve tasted them super fresh and understand that barnacle divers risk their lives to harvest them, you’ll appreciate why.

And I had the wonderful Amêijoas a Bulhão Pato again (A).

The absolute stars of this entire post however, despite costing even more than the percebes, were the Carabineros a la Planca, large scarlet prawns cooked over salt on a griddle and doused in melted butter. You could suck the heads but I learned it’s also good to squeeze the brains out over the shelled prawn, and of course mop up all the juices with Pão Torrado (A+).

The choice of ‘brandy’ here was again Carvalho Ribeiro & Ferreira Aguardente Velha Reserva. Nice enough, but the Spanish still edge if for me.

In each of these three great marisquerias, I asked the waiters to recommend a suitable wine, and they all came up with the same bottle, Soalheiro Alvarinho ‘Clássico’, which is indeed the perfect accompaniment for seafood.

Think it’s time for a walk…

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