Archive for October, 2009

Lisbon’s 5 Best Brunches

Monday, October 12th, 2009

Lisbon brunchOne of the things first-time visitors to Lisbon notice immediately at the end of the day is that the Portuguese dine much later than elsewhere in Europe. The Iberian custom of dining at 8 or 9PM is pushed even further on weekend nights when it’s not unusual to book a restaurant for 9:30 or 10PM. After a long meal followed by the obligatory cup of coffee, and lots of talking in between, it’s possible to find yourself leaving a restaurant at well past midnight. That’s very early in Lisbon time, meaning that a bar (usually in Bairro Alto) is the next destination for a caipirinha or a special cocktail. When all is said and done, it’s around 3 or 4AM, and for many young people with plenty of energy left, it’s time to hit the clubs by the riverfront. That means that they’ll also wake up very late in the following morning (or afternoon), and that’s what may explain the rising trend of the weekend brunch in Lisbon.
Until not too long ago there weren’t many options in the city for the meal combining breakfast and lunchtime food, but that has changed dramatically over the past couple of years, and there are now many attractive places to choose from if you find yourself being dragged through the night during your stay in Lisbon and wake up well past your hotel’s breakfast time. Here are 5 of the best brunch spots in Lisbon:

This gourmet shop/cafeteria across the street from Santa Apolónia Station was one of the first to introduce the brunch concept in Lisbon and remains one of the most popular. Every Saturday and Sunday between 10AM and 4PM there are two menus to choose from, served indoors or at the very pleasant terrace facing the river. Expect freshly squeezed juice, bread and croissants, yogurt with muesli, and/or scrambled eggs. Also expect to wait in line for a table if you show up closer to the usual lunch time.
(Avenida Infante D. Henrique, Armazem B Loja 8 – Alfama)

This current favorite café in the Chiado district offers Viennese ambience and flavors. For 8.90 euros, you may get Austrian bread with cold cuts, cheese, eggs, and yogurt. A few tables are placed by the door outside on good-weather days, and there are international publications and the newspapers of the day available inside.
(Rua Anchieta, 3 – Chiado)

The most expensive and sophisticated brunch in Lisbon is at this café in the Altis Belem Hotel. It faces a marina halfway between the Discoveries Monument and the landmark Belem Tower, and offers a special meal for 30 euros (drinks not included). Sit at one of the outdoor tables and enjoy the pleasant surroundings as you sample a rich buffet of meats, cheeses, fruits, breads, and pastries.
(Doca do Bom Sucesso, Belém)

Just like Kaffeehaus mentioned above, “Pois” is an Austrian-owned café. It is found around the corner from Lisbon’s medieval cathedral in the Alfama district and offers one of the most laid-back ambiences of any café in the city. Decorated with old, mismatched furniture, its brunch includes tea, coffee, or hot chocolate, fresh fruit juices, and a variety of cheeses, hams, and breads. All for 10 euros.
(Rua Ṣo Jọo da Pra̤a, 93-95 РAlfama)

The recently-renovated museum of sacred art also houses a café in a wonderful Asian-inspired courtyard. Between 10AM and 6PM on weekends you may have a fruit juice, coffee, or tea, with eggs, bacon, toasted bread, scones, cheese, and hams. The total cost is 10 euros.
(Largo Trindade Coelho, 21 – Chiado)

For more ideas and choices for a light meal in Lisbon, see GoLisbon’s cafés recommendations.

From the Beach to the Center of Lisbon: The New “Aqui Há Peixe” Restaurant

Friday, October 9th, 2009

Restaurante Aqui Há Peixe

It was one of the best-known beach restaurants on the Lisbon Coast for over a decade, but it’s now moved to the center of the city. The exact previous location was the beach of Comporta by the increasingly-sophisticated Troia, and it was known to serve the freshest and most perfectly-cooked fish. While the sand and the sea may be gone, its new location allows Lisbon to have the flavors of the ocean at any time of the year without having to go the beach. It’s all found in the Chiado district and the fish arrives every morning to be served later in the day on your plate. Freshness and quality come at a premium so prices are slightly above average from what you’d expect in Lisbon (a quick glance at the menu posted at the door showed that the cheapest dish is 15 euros although I’ve also been told that there are some at 13 and 14 euros). Because I haven’t yet dined there, I can’t really confirm anything, but considering its reputation, I’ll have to do that sooner or later. Having also taken a look at its dining room, it looks informal and unpretentious, much like that of the previous location. Apparently also unchanged from the past are its famous desserts such as the passion fruit mousse and chocolate cake. It all therefore sounds like a very welcomed addition to Lisbon’s restaurant scene, especially in Chiado which is known more for its international menus than for its seafood restaurants.

Address: Rua da Trindade, 18A
Phone: 21 343 2154
Closed on Sundays

Lisbon’s Chiado is Throwing a Party this Week

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

Festa no ChiadoStarting this Saturday and until the following one (the 17th), Lisbon’s Chiado district will be throwing a party. It takes place on the streets and inside several of the area’s theaters, churches, and cafés which will be stages for everything from themed guided tours of the neighborhood to music concerts. The very first event is a book fair on Rua Anchieta from 10AM to 5PM on Saturday, while a particularly interesting highlight during the week is a series of informal meetings of authors discussing their books (one book per weekday). Everything is meant to remember Chiado’s past (and present) role as the cultural heart of Lisbon, and to bring even more people to the center of the city.
Here’s the full schedule of events for the entire week (available only in Portuguese):

A Star-Studded Estoril Film Festival Returns to the Lisbon Coast this November

Wednesday, October 7th, 2009

Estoril Film FestivalFrancis Ford Coppola is the latest name to be announced as one of the guests of the upcoming Estoril Film Festival. The director of the “Godfather” films and “Apocalypse Now” joins other famous personalities such as David Cronenberg (“Crash,” “A History of Violence”), Juliette Binoche (star of “The English Patient” and “Chocolat”), and David Byrne among others in the Lisbon coast for the third edition of what is becoming Lisbon’s most important film festival. This year it takes place between the 5th and 14th of November, and in three years it has been able to attract major sponsorships which in turn guarantee the organization of a big-budget world-class film festival.
Coppola will present his latest work entitled “Tetro,” while competing for the Best Feature prize will be 12 films. Many others will be screened, mainly to honor directors in retrospectives. The entire programming is already available online at the official website, and tickets (3 euros per screening) will be available starting on November 5th at selected places in Lisbon and Estoril.
For those unfamiliar with Lisbon and its coast, Estoril is found by the beach just outside the capital, and just a short train ride away. It gained a glamorous reputation during WWII and retains a faded grandeur today. Its Hotel Palácio has always attracted celebrities, including Ian Fleming, who was inspired by the Estoril Casino next door to come up with his James Bond character.

Xico’s Restaurant Review

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

Restaurante Xico's, Lisboa


Any restaurant in Lisbon located on the waterfront is worth a try even if just for the location. So it had been months since I’ve been meaning to go to Xico’s (pronounced “sheecos”), located halfway between Comercio Square and Santa Apolonia Station right below Alfama by the river. The exact spot is Doca Jardim do Tabaco, a row of old warehouses now converted into restaurants. Xico’s is found on the upper floor of one of those warehouses, and below it and next to it are a number of other restaurants, although none as inviting. From what I had been told and seen on its website, the restaurant would have an attractive contemporary interior mostly in white, as well as a terrace facing the river, and that’s exactly what I found. I chose a table on the terrace and despite already being October, the night was quite pleasant and warm. Everyone else who showed up later also chose the terrace, with all the outdoor tables being taken by 9PM. There was still plenty of space available in the dining room, but if you enjoy al fresco dining, I suggest you either book a table in advance or show up early.
The menu has a slightly different concept, offering different dishes every day of the week. Only the two specialties “Bacalhau à Lagareiro” (poached cod with baked potatoes) and “Entrecôte Café de Paris” are served any time you wish. I went for the safe bet, the cod, although with this essentially being an Iberian restaurant there was a variety of Spanish-style tapas to choose from. Instead of the usual big cod loin, the fish arrived sliced and shredded, while the sangria chosen by everyone at my table came with the right balance of fruit and alcohol. So the main course did not disappoint, but the desserts were the highlight of the evening. I chose the lemon and mint mousse topped with wild berries and it was one of the best desserts I’ve had in a while, although non-mint fans may not enjoy the stronger mint flavor over the lemon. I also tried some of the passion fruit pie ordered by a friend of mine, and it was equally good. My part of the bill was 25 euros, which was quite reasonable. I must also highlight the service which was very professional and the staff friendly and welcoming.
Xico’s (the official name seems to be “Xico’s Rio”) is therefore a relatively inexpensive choice on the waterfront, a restaurant to be discovered among the trendier options nearby (“Bica do Sapato” or “Casanova“). It also includes a bar where you can sample a variety of Portuguese and foreign wines, making this a place to consider for a business lunch or a more relaxed dinner.
It closes on Mondays and Sunday nights.

Lisbon Restaurant Week is Back

Monday, October 5th, 2009

Lisbon Restaurant Week

Lisbon Restaurant Week is once again giving everyone the opportunity to try some of the best menus in the city at special prices. This second edition takes place from the 8th to the 18th of this month and this time there are over 40 restaurants taking part in the event. Each restaurant will present their best dishes or some creative innovations which will include an appetizer, entrée, and dessert. They’ll all be 20 euros, one of which going to charity.
Some of the participating restaurants include the acclaimed Eleven, Olivier, and Mezzaluna that were also part of the previous edition, but several new restaurants have been added to the list for the first time.
Also new will be the first edition of the Porto Restaurant Week between the 21st and 31st of the month. For a guide to the best restaurants in Portugal’s second city, see our GoOporto guide: Porto Restaurants.
Only a few of the Restaurant Week menus will be available per day, so make sure you book your table in advance and let them know you’re interested in the special menu.

Lisbon Updates – Openings and Closings

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

O Terraço, Lisbon

Here are some updates on a few previous posts on this blog.
The first one is that O Terraço, one of Lisbon’s beloved terrace cafés has just closed and in a few months a new restaurant will take its place. Fans of what used to be one of the city’s most attractive hangouts have started a petition to keep it alive, but the plans for the future restaurant and renovation of the building it stands on top of, are already practically set in stone. While the terrace had its numerous fans, I have heard others say that such a privileged space is worth much more than just a café, although the fear is that its future incarnation may be less “democratic,” catering to a more upscale clientele with high prices which younger crowds can not always afford. The café that just closed attracted locals and tourists in almost equal number, the prices were reasonable, but for many the snacks and drinks menu could also have been more varied. Others felt the service was way too slow, but perhaps going to a café offering loungy seats and such a fantastic view is supposedly for a long stay with no rushing. So perhaps the future restaurant will gain as many fans as the café, and will certainly be a much eagerly-awaited opening. If you’re from Lisbon and this was your favorite terrace, keep checking this blog for updates about its future.

Another closing was that of Luca, one of Lisbon’s trendiest restaurants which GoLisbon once ranked among the city’s 10 best to try. It started as an Italian restaurant, then it was described as “Mediterranean,” and eventually added a separate section for tapas. Apparently the Italian chef who gave his name to the restaurant has decided to leave Portugal, so a new restaurant with a new concept will take over its home very soon.

One other update is in relation to our Colcci Caffé recommendation. This café above a boutique in Chiado has just expanded its hours on weekend nights, and is now open for dinner on Fridays and Saturdays now opens for breakfast and closes after lunch. Similarly, the Berardo Museum has also just announced that its Saturdays will be longer, remaining open until 10PM starting on October 10. Remember that this museum is always free and holds one of Europe’s most acclaimed modern art collections.

Finally, Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara which is one of Lisbon’s favorite viewpoints, has reopened its kiosk cafés under new management, with the lower terrace offering a new “wine bar” kiosk where you can sample Portuguese wines accompanied by cheeses and cold cuts. It’s available from 10AM to midnight from Sunday to Wednesday, until 2AM on Thursdays, and until 3AM on Friday and Saturday.