Chef concierge • June 2017
The head chef at London’s Chiltern Firehouse loves returning to his hometown of Lisbon to discover exciting new places and revisit old haunts for peerless pastries and fresh seafood. Here he shares some of his favourite foodie spots with The Club
Breakfast spot worth getting up early for
Going out for breakfast isn’t really a tradition in Lisbon. Instead we’d go out for coffee and pastries mid-morning. But do look out for bolos quentes – late-night ‘clandestine’ bakeries that sell pastries and chorizo bread fresh out of the oven to the public, before delivering the rest to Lisbon’s patisseries. It’s an excellent way to try the city’s famous pastries as they’re at their best at 5am, which might be just when you’re on your way home from a night out.
Best ‘grab-and-go’ eaterie
Manteigaria on Rua do Loreto makes the best custard tarts (pictured) in the city. You can watch the staff preparing them from fresh. I always pop in there, grab a coffee at the counter and eat a few tarts – they’re never more than 30 minutes old.
Weekend brunch worth battling the queues for
Pastelaria Garrett in Estoril, on the coastal train line just outside Lisbon, is a great place to go at the weekend. It’s my favourite eaterie for salgados (fried finger food) – these guys serve some of the best folhados (a savoury puff pastry) and rissois (shrimp croquettes) around.
Best lunch spot for taking care of business
Bica do Sapato is an old favourite of mine with one of the best settings in Lisbon. It’s quite high-end and is popular with some of our regulars at the Chiltern Firehouse. It’s right on the riverfront, the food is fantastic and the service grand. It’s a real place to see and be seen – lunchtime is the best time to go.
Where to impress on a date
Lots of exciting places for a special meal have popped up in recent years, but I recently discovered Loco (above). It really reminds me of my former London restaurant Viajante, with a blind tasting menu in a beautiful setting. The chef, Alexandre Silva, is super creative – his food really touches on the cuisines of Portugal. The way Loco does fine dining is just to my liking: creative, tasty and, most importantly, fun.
Foodie souvenir to take home
We have a long tradition of tinned fish in Portugal, and Lisbon now has some great shops dedicated to the delicacy, such as Conserveira de Lisboa, which stocks produce from all over the country. A tin from here is the perfect souvenir and certainly travels a lot better than a bag full of cheese.
Local independent that deserves to stay in business
Ginja is a special sweet-cherry liqueur, and a unique tradition for Lisboetas. I’d strongly recommend stopping at A Ginjinha on Largo de Sao Domingos, a tiny place serving up the liqueur, to try a shot – or indeed any of the quiosques (kiosks). They have a strong cultural connection to the city.
Dining experience worth leaving town for
Fortaleza do Guincho (pictured) is a hotel with a very traditional one-Michelin-starred restaurant on the west coast, around 40 minutes’ drive from the city. It has trained most of the top Portuguese chefs and has a special place in the hearts of many in the industry. The location is fantastic – Europe’s most westerly point, right on a beautiful beach by the Atlantic.
Where to sample the freshest seafood
There are amazing seafood restaurants all along the coast, but Cervejaria Ramiro is unbeatable. The seafood is incredibly fresh – I love the carabineros (prawns), percebes (goose barnacles) and whole crab.
Nuno Mendes is founder of Taberna do Mercado, Spitalfields, and head chef at Chiltern Firehouse, Marylebone, in London
Interview by Rachel Truman