Lisbon – three traditional Portuguese fine dining restaurants

I love old-fashioned restaurants with old-fashioned service and Lisbon has an abundance of them. Below are reviews of three that I particularly enjoyed. You’ll find them, and many others, on my Google map.

Solar dos Presuntos, 150 Rua das Portas de Santo Antão,

A famous restaurant located in an atmospheric spot next to the Lavra funicular terminus. They specialise in Minho cuisine, food from the most northerly Portuguese province, famed for it’s food and wine (caldo verde, vinho verde etc).

The walls are covered with photos and caricatures of the famous writers, journalists, politicians, actors, footballers, architects, engineers and businessmen who have eaten here.

The interior is much bigger than it appears from the outside with more tables and an impressive wine room on the second floor.

As is the case in most traditional Portuguese restaurants, some nibbles arrive automatically at the table as soon as you are seated. I was saving space and money (you pay for what you eat), so I left the ham and olives, but couldn’t resist tucking into the Queijo de Azeitão, a sheep’s cheese that was named one of the 50 best gastronomic products in the world in the 2014 Great Taste Awards.

I’m sure their standard charcuterie is fine but I was on a hunt for the best stuff, so I ordered a plate of their Varanegra acorn-fed bolota ham. I was so glad I did as it was the best I’d ever had in Portugal and as good as anything I’d ever eaten in Spain (their Alentejo and Extremadura provinces share the same Jamón Ibérico culture, but are divided by a national border). The tiny specks of white fat are a sign of top quality.

For the main I had their famous Polvo à Lagareiro, octopus in the miller’s style, so called because it is doused in olive oil (produced in an olive mill). It’s a classic national dish which I’ve eaten a few times, but this was the best ever, beautifully tender and cooked to perfection.

Obviously their top notch organic olive oil was also a key ingredient and this was perhaps the best I’d ever tasted in Portugal. I got the waiter to show me the bottle the kitchen were using; Azeite Biológico Virgem Extra DOP by Quinta São Miguel do Seixo. A 500ml bottle costs 12€ on their website.

To drink I went with an Alentejo red suggested by the waiter, a 2017 Syrah called Vinha de Saturno, which was very good.

To finish a slice of their sublime Tarte de Lima (lime tart)…

…which I had with a good glass of Madeira, the wonderfully named Bastardo Reserva Quatro Pipas by Barbeito. Bastardo is the Portuguese name for the Trousseau grape varietal in case you were wondering, perhaps named for its meagre harvests.

A shot of Adega Velha brandy (€10) and a Bica (espresso) finished things off and brought the bill to €130 before the tip, which I was happy to pay given the quality I’d experienced.

I had some superb service from the lovely chap pouring in the pic above, but my regular waiter was a bit miserable. Still , that didn’t dampen a superb meal. I’ll be back for some of the other tempations on their menu, perhaps the Arroz de Lagosta e Gambas (lobster rice with prawns) or their Cozido (stew, served only on Wednesdays).

This next place is a little out of the centre in Carnide, not far from the Benfica stadium…

Adega da Tia Matilde, 77 Rua da Beneficência,

I came here primarily for the food, which is excellent, but also because it was the favourite restaurant of Eusébio, the legendary Portuguese footballer.

Known as the “Black Panther” or “O Rei” (“The King”), he is considered one of the greatest players of all time, as well as Benfica’s best player ever.

It’s a big restaurant of several rooms with wine shelves for walls.

To start I had the Gambas a Aguillo (prawns in garlic). They were nice but a little bland and benefitted from a few splashes of piri piri.

The main was superb, Cabrito no Forno (roast lamb, not kid despite the name), served with spinach, rice and baby roast potatoes. With it another Alentejo red called Coutada dos Arrochais which married well. Both were recommended by my excellent waiter.

He suggested I had some cheese before dessert. It was nice but I was a little suprised to see them served on Jacob’s crackers (an Irish staple).

For dessert, Tarte Folhada de Maçã, or apple pie made with puff pastry, which went down well with a glass of Tawny port.

Finally my usual glass of Aguardient Velha (aka brandy), this time a Reserva by CR&F, a popular choice for many waiters and certainly one of the better ones I’ve tried. I got a bottle of the Reserva Extra for around 40€ from the airport when I was going home.

By now I was best pals with my waiter…

… and he gave me a tour of the restaurant, including the table where Eusébio ate his last meal. The table is always set but no one is allowed to sit at it; a permanent memorial for the great man.

My bill came to a reasonable 90€ before tip. Adega da Tia Matilde is an excellent spot with good food, geat service and lots of history that I’d happily visit again if I can. Time Out recommends “the pataniscas (fritters), the stews, the Coelho à caçador (stewed rabbit), the cod Isabel’s way, the feijoada à transmontana (beans and meat stew), and the crème brûlée”, so there’s lots more to try.

Finally, back in town, but not particularly near anywhere else, is this steak restaurant…

Café do Paço (Advanced A), 62 Paço da Rainha,

This is lawyer territory; lots of people in suits sitting at secluded tables in a dark red room. It’s quite formal, but the waiters were friendly enough. Due perhaps to its off-the-beaten-track location, there wasn’t a tourist in sight when I visited. I came for two reasons, firstly to try their Peixinhos da Horta, which translates as ‘little fishes from the garden, but are actually green beans coated in batter, a dish which is said to have inspired the Japanese to create Tempura in the sixteenth century. They were very nice, being freshly-fried, but the Japanese have taken the ball and run off with it as far as I’m concerned.

The second reason I came is they are reputed to make one of the best steaks in town and I had a craving for meat after eating so much (fantastic) seafood (post here). I went with their classic Bife de Lombo con Três Pimentas; sirloin steak in a cream sauce with three peppers, with Batatas Fritas e Espinafres, chips and spinach, on the side. With a decent Douro 2018 red to glug with it, the waiter-reccomended Vinhos Borges Lello Reserva, all my buttons were fully pressed.

Three top gaffs, all of which I’d love to revisit 🙂

Good restaurants at the cheaper end next…

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