The return of the Lisbon “Taberna”

It had become extinct over the last couple of decades, but the Lisbon taberna is back, at least in name. Several new restaurants call themselves “taberna,” recalling the day when traditional home-style meals were served in family-owned eateries that were more than simple taverns. They were excellent value for money with no pretense, perfect for the entire family or simply for a glass of wine. After the trend of fusion cuisine and Wallpaper magazine-style interiors, Lisbon is now bringing back the taberna tradition. Here are a few places that try to do it:

1300 Taberna, Lisboa
1300 Taberna

1300 TABERNA
Rua Rodrigues de Faria, 103
Closed Sundays and Mondays

In a series of former warehouses you’ll find traditional Portuguese cuisine with a good dose of creativity, served in a spacious interior decorated with a mix of objects and styles.

TABERNA MODERNA
Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, 18
Closed Sundays and Mondays

This “modern taberna” wants you to share your meals so it serves the food in big dishes for everyone at the table to grab as they enjoy a glass of wine. Although the menu is in large part Portuguese, you’ll also find an equal number of Spanish choices.

TABERNA TOSCA
Praça de São Paulo, 21
Closed on Sundays

One of the first of the modern tabernas, it has a very contemporary interior but serves the traditional petiscos that Portuguese grandmothers used to make, accompanied by glasses of wine.

TABERNA DO CHIADO
Calçada Nova de São Francisco, 2A
It’s only a “taberna” by name. It’s a very contemporary space in the trendy heart of Chiado, although it incorporates some traditions such as wine barrels and long wooden tables where a mix of Portuguese and Spanish cuisine is served.

TABERNA IDEAL
Rua da Esperança, 112
Closed Mondays and Tuesdays

It’s one of the best places for “petiscos” and it was one of the first to bring them back as full meals. The interior looks older than it actually is, decorated with old furnishings.

TABERNA VINTAGE
Rua Monte Olivete, 63
Closed Mondays

This small space in the Principe Real neighborhood presents a list of traditional petiscos that are mostly an excuse to enjoy glasses of wine from a variety of labels and at various prices.

TABERNA DA RUA DAS FLORES
Rua das Flores, 103
Closed Sundays

A chalkboard lists the dishes of the day, always based on the freshest ingredients available at the market. It’s open throughout the day from lunch to dinner, making it also a stop for a light meal in the afternoon.

TABERNA PORTUGUESA
Calçada do Combro, 115
Closed Sundays and Mondays

Not far from the landmark Bica funicular is this small restaurant with reasonably-priced food. It follows old traditions, as does some of the decorative pieces.

Christmas 2012 in Lisbon

Christmas in Obidos

OBIDOS

The Tree on Comercio Square
The Christmas lights are already up on the main streets of Baixa and Chiado, and the tree will be lit up in Comercio Square throughout the month of December. This year it will be 28 meters tall (over 90 feet) and will be a “high-tech” tree with real-time video projections of passers-by. It can be seen until January 6.

“Confeitaria Nacional”
Just a short walk from Comercio Square, through Rua Augusta, you’ll reach Figueira Square where you’ll likely find people lined up outside Confeitaria Nacional throughout the month. That pastry shop sells the city’s most famous Christmas cake, “Bolo Rei.” You don’t necessarily have to go for that — you can simply enjoy a warm cup of coffee or tea and observe the festive ambience.

Free Christmas Concerts
December is the month of free Christmas concerts in several of Lisbon’s churches, and this year they’re taking place from the 7th to the 22nd. The first one (on the 7th) is at 9:30 PM in São Roque Church, then there’s one at 4PM at Marcês Church on the 8th, also at 4PM in São Nicolau Church on the 9th, at 9:30PM in Estrela Basilica on the 14th, at 4PM in Graça Church on the 16th, throughout the day at the São Jorge Cinema on the 21st, and at 4PM in São Domingos Church on the 22nd.

The Christmas Village
Many travelers to Lisbon also choose to visit medieval Obidos and in December there’s a big reason for that. It turns into a “Christmas Village” with snowmen, ice skating, Santa Claus and family activities. It’s happening from December 7 to January 2nd.

What’s New in Lisbon’s Restaurant Scene

The end of the summer brought a few changes to some of Lisbon’s best-known restaurants, from new concepts and chefs to new addresses:

Meson Andaluz, Lisbon

MESON ANDALUZ
Travessa do Alecrim, 4 – Chiado
Tel: 214 600 659
For many years this was arguably Cascais’ favorite Spanish restaurant. It’s now moved to the center of the capital, down the hill from Chiado. The interior dates back to the 1700s with brick stone arches but you’ll likely prefer to sit outside on the terrace. Although the wine list includes Spanish and Portuguese wines, the food is all traditionally Spanish or what it advertises as “the best tapas in Lisbon.”

CHAPITÔ À MESA
Costa do Castelo, 7
Tel: 218 867 334
It’s one of the city’s most popular restaurants, always full of locals and tourists who are drawn to the spectacular views of Lisbon. It helps that it’s also just a short walk from the castle but the quality of the food has also kept it as a top choice in the city. Now it has a new chef (one of the most acclaimed after years at a few fine dining restaurants) and promises a more refined cuisine. That doesn’t necessarily mean more expensive, as this restaurant always had higher-than-average prices but more creative selections on the menu.

Estorias na Casa da Comida, Lisbon

ESTÓRIAS NA CASA DA COMIDA
Travessa das Amoreiras, 1
Tel: 213 860 889
It was the first restaurant in Portugal to get a Michelin star and after 35 years in service, it recently closed for a major renovation. Its three different dining areas (including a courtyard) now feature an elegant combination of classic furnishings and more contemporary design, and offer different dining experiences. You may now go just for a glass of wine and a lighter meal, or for the full menu of contemporary Portuguese cuisine.

UMAI
Rua da Misericórdia, 78 – Chiado
Rua da Cruz dos Poiais, 89 – Bairro Alto
Tel: 213 958 057
A small space hidden in a corner of Bairro Alto close to São Bento Palace quickly became known as Lisbon’s best Asian restaurant. The owner is actually Portuguese but an experienced specialist in the foods of the East, mixing the delicacies of Thailand, Vietnam, China, Japan, India… That small space still exists but now focus on just Japanese food (yes, sushi but also more than that), and a bigger space has opened in Chiado. That’s where all the Asian specialties will now be served, offering fine quality at reasonable prices.

Olivier Avenida, Lisbon

OLIVIER AVENIDA
Rua Júlio César Machado, 7
Tel: 213 174 105
Unashamedly pretentious, this restaurant was made to impress, both in ambiance and cuisine. Large teardrop chandeliers hang above a blingy décor that’s just had a small makeover. It’s now a combination of what it calls a mix of “French Romanticism and the New Gothic” but whatever that means it’s simply an excuse to attract those looking for a see-and-be-seen place where well-presented food is served. Late at night from Thursday to Saturday it becomes the “Avenida Cocktail Lounge” for after-dinner drinking and mingling.

10 Lisbon Restaurants for Portuguese “Petiscos”

Petiscos, Lisbon

What are “petiscos”? You could call them “tapas” but that would be Spanish. Petiscos are also small plates, originally served between meals, often to accompany a drink, but more recently they’ve become a trend in Lisbon’s restaurants which are turning them into full meals. Taking a note from the international success of Spanish tapas, there are now several restaurants specializing in petiscos, usually with a “everyone shares them at the table” concept. Here we present the ten places you should try:

ADEGA VICTOR HORTA
Rua Cais de Santarem, 6
Not far from the famous Casa dos Bicos is this “adega” (wine cellar) which produces its own wine and prepares petiscos in its wood oven. The kitchen opens to the rustic-style dining area, so you’ll leave smelling of smoke but it’s still one of the most recommendable dining experiences for those looking for a special night of local traditions.

TABERNA MODERNA
In addition to Portuguese petiscos you’ll also have Spanish tapas in a spacious room that also has a bar serving dozens of different gins. It’s quite a popular spot at the moment.

PHARMACIA
Rua Marechal Saldanha, 1
Facing one of the city’s viewpoints by the Pharmacy Museum, this restaurant’s décor is inspired by the pharmacies of the past. The menu lists a number of petiscos which young crowds seem to enjoy accompanied by Portuguese wines.

TABERNA TOSCA
In a neighborhood of small traditional family-run restaurants this one stands out for providing a contemporary touch to the traditional petiscos. You’ll want to avoid it if you’re vegetarian, but meat lovers will enjoy the place and the wines accompanied by cheese.

TABERNA DA RUA DAS FLORES
Rua das Flores, 103
Open throughout the day for a mid-day snack or a full meal, this space recalls the old local grocery stores and taverns. It’s a charming place for petiscos following some long-forgotten recipes.

DE CASTRO ELIAS
When one of Porto’s most successful chefs moved to Lisbon, he opened this place as his first restaurant. Located not far from the Gulbenkian Museum, it’s a good choice for a lunch of petiscos. Look for the clams with butter beans (“ameijoas com feijão manteiga”) which is a classic of the chef.

TASCA DA ESQUINA
The chef is one of the city’s most acclaimed but instead of fine dining the restaurant offers refined versions of traditional petiscos. Here the concept isn’t so much sharing but ordering them individually at surprisingly reasonable prices considering the quality.

TABERNA IDEAL
Rua da Esperança 112-114
This restaurant is packed every night by crowds sharing traditional dishes. It was the first one to revive the petiscos concept a few years ago and is still quite popular. It doesn’t take bookings so show up early.

PETISCARIA IDEAL
Rua da Esperança, 100
Almost immediately next door to Taberna Ideal, this one has the same owners and also serves a menu of petiscos which you are encouraged to share. The décor curiously mixes pages of old books, pots and pans. It also does not take bookings.

ARTIS
Rua do Diário de Notícias, 95
It’s not exactly a restaurant, it’s a wine bar, but it serves excellent restaurant-style petiscos. Although many go for the flaming chouriço (sausage), there are a few other choices to accompany the wines.

The Bifana: Portugal’s Tasty Meat Snack

Bifanas de Vendas Novas

 

What comes to mind when you are asked about typical Portuguese dishes? Bacalhau (cod), and the many different ways it can be prepared? Chicken with “piri piri” spicy sauce? Soups, grilled fish or cozido à portuguesa (a stew of different meats and vegetables)? Or a desert such as the tasty custard tarts called “pastéis de Belém”?

Well, today we present to you a simple sandwich that any local you care to ask would say is typically Portuguese – the “bifana”. The bifana is so popular in Portugal that McDonalds here have even launched the McBifana in recent times. So what is it? Basically a slice of pork steak in a roll of bread, the pork having been lightly sautéed, sometimes with garlic and/or other spices, so that the meat is warm and juicy. The bread roll is usually distinctly crusty, puffy and floury, and the whole thing is often eaten as a snack for lunch, sometimes with a bowl of soup.

The Alentejo region of Portugal is well-known for the quality and variety of its gastronomy, and it is said that the bifana originated here in the town of Vendas Novas. Most locals will tell you that the best bifanas are from this area, and supposedly they are a cut above those made elsewhere.

The Bifana de Vendas Novas then, is made from select pork fillet and is marinated and then cooked in a secret sauce. The bread roll is lightly toasted which, together with the special sauce and juicy meat, makes this a truly delicious and appetizing snack.

If you want to try the famous bifana from Alentejo, it’s no longer necessary to visit Vendas Novas, you can sample this tasty sandwich right here in Lisbon. Almost any café or bar will have bifanas on the menu, but if you want to try the one from Vendas Novas, go to the Bifanas de Vendas Novas kiosk in the Colombo mall in Benfica, one of Portugal’s largest shopping centres. Here you can try the original (and supposedly the best) bifana, together with other traditional dishes and soups.

Bifanas de Vendas Novas: http://www.bifanasdevendasnovas.com