Lisbon in London

Lisbon in London

London’s Piccadilly Street that leads to one of the city’s most famous squares (Piccadilly Circus) used to be called Portugal Street. Although it has changed its name, there is still another Portugal Street in Westminster today. There is no particular reason why that street was given that name, except maybe for the fact that Portugal and England signed the world’s oldest alliance between two countries (for more about it, see Wikipedia’s article: Anglo-Portuguese Alliance). Among many other historical events, that alliance led to the marriage of Portugal’s Catherine of Bragança to King Charles II, with her becoming the Queen of England and introducing her adopted country to the 5 o’clock tea.

Today London is home to a sizable Portuguese population, mostly originally from the island of Madeira (also known as the birthplace of that famous FIFA World Player of the Year playing in Manchester, Cristiano Ronaldo). Naturally, the cosmopolitan capital also offers a number of Portuguese restaurants, including the famous Nando’s fast food/spicy chicken restaurant. It was actually born in South Africa, started by a Portuguese immigrant named Fernando Duarte. There are now branches all over the world, but more famously in London where there are over 50 of them, and that’s as close as you’ll get to Lisbon’s Bonjardim – O Rei dos Frangos while in the English capital.

Although codfish and seafood is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Portugal’s cuisine, the country is also known for its grilled chicken with “piri-piri” sauce, made with a spicy chilli Portugal brought back from its colonies. The best place to try it in Lisbon is at that Bonjardim Restaurant, or you could get a sample of it hot off the grill at one of London’s “Nando’s.” It’s not the same thing, but close enough.

If you know anything about Portuguese food, you probably have also heard about Lisbon’s music. Listening to Fado at a restaurant is one of Lisbon’s top tourist experiences, but you can get that in London too. Head to O Fado, a Portuguese restaurant in Knightsbridge that got a 4-star review in Time Out London Eating & Drinking Guide 2009. It’s the oldest Portuguese restaurant in the city, where low lighting sets the stage for some Fado singing.

But arguably the best Portuguese restaurant in London is Portal. It’s an elegantly-designed space that also adds some French flavors in the cuisine, although the menu lists many of the Portuguese classics such as Leitão à Bairrada (suckling pig). Going just for a cocktail at the bar is also possible, where you can choose the very Portuguese “White Port Cocktail” or a “Ginginha Velvet.”
For traditional Portuguese pastries at any time of the day, head to Lisboa Patisserie. Portugal’s famous custard tarts are good there too, but to try the real thing you have to go to Antiga Confeitaria de Belem in Lisbon.

See also:
Lisbon in New York
Lisbon in Paris
Lisbon in San Francisco