Lisbon – One of the Loves of My Life
Who goes to the same city several times?! As you know, this girl right here, especially if I am in love with it. And I am in love with Lisbon. You would be mad not to be! Granted I’ve only been twice so far…I could go once a year if possible. The first time I blessed the city with my presence was back in summer 2011. Luckily we arrived during the Feast of St. Anthony, otherwise known as the Feast of Sardines. The city smelled of fresh sardines grilled on the streets at almost every corner. I had no idea sardines could taste so yummy, on its own and between bread. You forget about the bones, well during most of the bites you do. The city was full of celebrations that started pretty much at sunset and ended at sunrise. The night scene is spectacular, if you are into that. It was crowded but everyone was polite and friendly, including the tourists (hahaha). I remember it like it was yesterday because I had so much fun, exploring and eating with the locals.
I recently had a milestone birthday and decided to celebrate it in Lisbon. Among my party group was my traveling partner – sister, my best friend since elementary with her hubby, and new good friend from Sheffield. Stepping out of the airport, it was like I never left! In fact getting into the city, it has changed tremendously for the better with new developments and revived developments. We stayed close to the city center at an Airbnb. A really nice one except for the lack of towels, toilet paper, and body wash for everyone. These should be pretty standard with adequate amounts, especially if you’re staying for 4 nights with 5 people in the apartment.
There’s plenty of rich history in Lisbon. One of the touristy places we visited was São Jorge Castle, which was built by the Moors and includes the castle, ruins of the former royal palace, and part of an elite neighborhood. I couldn’t really tell what was what. Guess my imagination wasn’t working that day. Bairro Alto, a central district of Lisbon, is a must hangout spot. It’s totally different night and day; very boho-chic. Next there’s the Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo with the iconic yellow funicular that connects Rua do Loreto, Rua de Sao Paulo, and Calçada do Combro. I walked up that son-of-a-gun and boy was I out of breath by the time I reached the top. It is a beautiful view from the top, though. So it’s worth it!
For some odd reason I wanted to visit the zoo. Although I do fancy some animal watching now and again. My party indulged me and came along to Jardim Zoológico de Lisboa (Lisbon Zoo). It was just an adventure getting there, but my comedic crew kept it fun. The zoo is pretty cool with the typical animals. I especially enjoyed the giraffes, lions, and tigers, oh my. There were so many types of monkeys and the way they were displayed was a bit intimidating and scary. Some were just swinging around in the open but “fenced” in. All in all, we had fun.
We also explored the music scene through live Fado, a type of popular melancholic Portuguese music usually accompanied by 1 or 2 12-string guitars, violas, and/or 8-string bass. We ended up at Mascote da Atalaia where we had a reservation that we almost didn’t make it. They had the nerve to try to turn us away because they didn’t have our name on the list. If you go here, be sure to call to confirm your online reservation. Anyway the music was beautiful as it flowed from this lovely woman. I didn’t understand a word but it was so harmonious and the audience was so into it.
Now onto the food. The cuisine is amazing and you do not feel guilty eating loads because of all the hills you have to overcome to get anywhere. Don’t get me wrong, there are some flat areas. I especially enjoyed stopping at every (damn near every) bakery that had Pastéis de Nata (Portuguese tarts). I had to try them all to compare of course. Before I forget, most of the restaurants bring or have bread with packets of butter and other “snacks” on the table to tempt you. If you eat any of it, you will be charged. Save your calories for the real deal. I did warn you.
Sinal Vermelho: It’s an authentic Portuguese spot located in a great area – Bairro Alto, Bica and Cais do Sodré – at a highly visible corner. There’s generous seating inside and outside, but I do recommend getting a reservation if you’re visiting during a busy season. The service is great and the prices are fairly reasonable, although there may be a bit of a wait. I’ve been here quite a few times and each time was nice. I’ve tasted the grilled chicken with fried potato rounds and the rabbit seasoned with wine and garlic served on mashed potatoes. Give this restaurant a try and let me know what you think.
Pistola y Corazon: If you happen to be craving genuine tacos (we do all the time!), then stop at this taqueria! The atmosphere is pretty cool and the decor is quirky. The service is amaze and friendly. The lunch menu was filled with Mexican street food options galore, e.g. tacos, quesadillas, tortas, oh yaaaz! Check out the dinner menu for even more goodness. There a few options for combos, but the popular one is the 3 Tacos Ricos for 9 euros. With this you get a fresh juice of your choice; 2 quesadillas (corn tortilla filled with cheese with a side of refried beans and either queso or black beans; and 3 tacos of your choice. Of course I chose the 3 tacos deal and had the melon agua fresca de sabor, quesadillas served with refried beans; and my tacos were the de cochinita pibil (slow roasted pork marinated in achiote, lime and orange marinade topped with pickled red onions) tinga de res (shredded beef in chile arbol, chile guajillo and clove salsa) and de lengua (braised beef tongue topped with grilled pineapple). All of it was AMAZING, reminding me of home – Texas. My cocktail was even tastier…just remember it being tequila goodness.
Time Out Market Lisbon: This market has all you could ever want! It is the first born of Time Out markets, opening in 2014. With over 20 restaurants and food stalls, you can find anything from gourmet burgers to sushi. During the times I went, which was either around lunch time or pre-dinner munching (which is around 5pm because dinner is usually around 9pm), it was crazy busy with tourists and locals. The seating is vast but you have to be like a hawk watching for a good clean spot to sit and eat. I suggest nominating a buddy to secure the table while the others get the food. If you love those pastéis de nata, grab you some from Manteigaria. I tried a double-decker burger with fries from Honorata, salmon sashimi combination from Confraria, and croquettes from Croqueteria. It was all on-point and delish. By the way, Time Out has nightclubs and concerts…check out their calendar on their website. FYI there are three opening up in the US (Miami, Boston, and Chicago). I almost forgot to give my recommendation — GO HERE, especially if you’re travelling with a bunch of foodies.
Pão à Mesa com Certeza: Wandering the streets of Príncipe Real (dramatic huh), me and the bffs landed at this spot. There was something about this place that drew me in. It was probably HUNGER. And boy were we LUCKY as F. We were seated pretty much immediately at what seemed to be a hopping spot with lots of laughter and smiles all around. I ordered the Portuguese hen on a bed of fries with a side of random carrots. It was a whole, roasted to perfection baby hen chopped up and the fries were skin-on and crispy like I love them. Even the carrots were delightful. The BFF had a lovely creamy pumpkin and pesto risotto and BFF’s hubby had the “Mirandesa” roast beef with baked potatoes and creamed spinach. Of course I had to taste their dishes and I wanted to eat theirs too. But I decided to let them eat. The service was great and the ambience fantabulous. Check this place out if you’re strolling around Principe Real. Even if you are not, get over there anyway.
Lateral Cais do Sodré: Despite the loud ladies at the table next to us who were obviously drunk from their hen (bachelorette) outing, this is a very cool spot to venture to. The staff were very attentive and helpful with recommendations on what to eat and drink. We ordered a pitcher of sangria of course and boy did it not disappoint. The table ordered the 12 oz grilled burger with mozzarella, cheddar, bacon and egg, special braised tuna teriyaki with wasabi mayo and teriyaki sauce, Lisbon burger with mozzarella, lettuce, tomato, and mushrooms, and Lateral burger with cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, bacon, and caramelized onion. The sides were mostly rustic fries and sauteed spinach all around. For dessert, there was the trio of mini temptations: almond pie with vanilla ice cream, raspberry cheesecake and hazel chocolate mousse with whipped cream. The other options didn’t sound tempting, so we got 2 raspberry cheesecakes. Everything tasted yummy including the desserts! The ambience is pretty fun and you get some flirting in with who seemed to be the manager. It makes for some nice entertainment hahaha. Check it out!
Nunes Real Marisqueira: You cannot visit Lisbon without eating seafood. So of course I had to have my birthday dinner at this highly recommended seafood restaurant in Belém. It was recommended by a fellow foodie in Lisbon, so I trusted it. Walking in, you see huge aquariums in the front middle area with deliciousness swimming around and it was heavy with the locals which is a plus. With a reservation, we were seated right away. Our waiter was quite entertaining. I even got him to sing a birthday song to me after a few pleases. I’m not sure what he was belting out but we enjoyed it. We ordered the sea bass fresh from the sea caught that day (Fuck I hope so hahaha) grilled with salt. Before it hit the grill, the waiter presented the large sea bass to the table. We also ordered a big ass plate of fries (the biggest ever), squid on spit with shrimp, and grilled prawns. And for dessert, I had lemon meringue pie. Overall the experience was awesome and the food was amazing! Some may consider it pricey, but it’s well worth it, at least just once.
Sala de Corte: This restaurant is temporarily closed as of when this blog was posted, as they are moving to a new location near PinkStreet. I thought I’d share my thoughts on it anyway. I had the Portuguese prego fillet on bolo do caco bread with Dijon mustard mayo and hand cut fries. It was cooked to perfection – medium rare for me. It was one of the tastiest steaks I’ve had in awhile, although in a bun. Almost forgot to mention that they served beef empanadas as a snack and it’s free — BONUS ‘cause they are sooo good. The others had ribeye, picanha, and filet all medium rare with cool sauces like truffle mayo and garlic-herb butter. Apparently the steaks are cooked in a Josper grill/oven hybrid which heightens the flavor and juiciness of the meat. Hopefully they’ll reopen in their new location by the time you get a chance to visit!