Old is the New New in Lisbon

Taberna do Chiado, LisbonWe’ve told you about Lisbon’s new kiosk cafes serving long-forgotten drinks, but that’s just one example of how the city is nostalgic for what it has always done best over time. The same owner of those kiosks is also responsible for “A Vida Portuguesa,” a shop selling Portuguese products that every Lisboeta remembers from their grandmother’s house and tourists love for their authenticity. In fact, shops bringing the traditional to modern times are a new trend, as in the case of the new Jimmy Portuguese Styleshop that we also told you about recently.
Then there are the restaurants which are bringing back the “taberna” and “tasca” spirit. Those roughly translate to “tavern” and a traditional, very informal, usually family-owned neighborhood restaurant serving home-style cooking. The new tabernas and tascas place traditional touches in contemporary spaces and serve slightly more refined versions of classic Portuguese dishes. One of them is Taberna Ideal in the Santos district (Rua da Esperança 112-114), only a few months old but that is packed every night by crowds sharing traditional dishes and some excellent desserts. It has a very welcoming and relaxed ambience, which is also what Taberna do Chiado is hoping for. Also a few months old, this restaurant is located in the city’s trendiest neighborhood (Calçada Nova de São Francisco 2A), but instead of fusion cuisine it serves time-tested Portuguese dishes in a very contemporary-designed space. That formula apparently works, and the same owner has taken over an old “tasca” in Bairro Alto, transforming it into a new bar serving tapas-sized food as you drink. The name is “Tendinha da Atalaia” (Rua da Atalaia, 4), and you can listen to loungy sounds as you take bites of cheeses, prawns, or sausages, and have a beer, wiskey, or a wide range of alcoholic beverages. The decor was kept simple, adding only the names of Lisbon’s poets throughout much of the walls.
Yet another new old-is-new space is Tasca da Esquina, a restaurant in the Campo de Ourique neighborhood, on a corner where the popular “tourist tram 28” passes by towards the end of its journey. The man behind it is Vitor Sobral, a well-known chef who’s been at the acclaimed Terreiro do Paço restaurant downtown which is temporarily closed due to the construction works in Comercio Square. At this new restaurant, Sobral transforms “petiscos” (a Portuguese equivalent of the Spanish tapas) into full-blown dishes and serves them in a sophisticated yet informal environment.
While contemporary spaces offering fusion cuisine or the biggest international fashion labels quickly become favorites among the city’s hippest and youngest crowds, these new businesses offering a taste of a more authentic past are gaining an equal number of fans. And for tourists they are even more attractive, as they can be the quintessential Lisbon experiences.