Ah…Lisbon, with its hilltop charm and sun-baked beauty. A capital city that has seaside magic and city cool in equal measures. One weekend in Lisbon and you’ll be checking Skyscanner for the next cheap flights to bring you back. You’ll be screaming to friends that they must go and daydreaming of happier times when you were last there.
And the food. It’s good. Really good. With simplicity at the heart of most of its best loved dishes, it’s easy to spend your Lisbon time grazing as you go. But there are certain foods you simply can’t leave Lisbon without having stuck your bronzed face in and these are it.
1. Pastéis de Nata
Don’t let Nando’s fool you. The real deal custard egg tarts are about a million percent better than anything you’ve ever tasted before. Filled with a rich, creamy custard and surrounded with flaky pastry perfection, you can’t walk down any street without spotting these little baked tart tempters in every shop window. Resistance is futile.
2. Steak Prego
Another classic that we think we all know and love. Until you get to Lisbon and all previous incarnations suddenly seem trite and worthless. Essentially, this is a steak sandwich, but the Portuguese elevate it by marinading rump steak low and slow with flavours like oregano, bay, chilli and red wine. They then stuff it into their version of a bread bun, called a carcaças. And just like that, the humble steak sandwich becomes royalty.
3. Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato
To go to Lisbon and not gorge on seafood would be like going to Vegas and not placing a bet. Fresh seafood is in abundance and the epitome of what makes it so good can be found in this Portuguese version of clams in a garlic white wine sauce. With simplicity at its core, sweet and plump clams swim in a happy sea of broth that you better believe needs to be mopped up with bread at the end. On a hot Lisbon night, there ain’t much better.
4. Jamón Ibérico
Who doesn’t love a plate or three of thinly sliced, sweet, fatty ham? Spain does it great, but Portugal does it even better by stuffing said ham of the gods into savoury cones. Mini snacking perfection which just means you can pop more into your mouth quicker. Bonus.
5. Grilled Sardines
And we’re back to the simple fish that Lisbon does so well. Picture it – you’re sitting by the sea, glass of white wine in one hand, bite of succulent sardine in the other. Maybe some crusty bread to go with it. Maybe some music playing faintly in the background. What is missing from this picture? Absolutely nothing.
You can sample most of these Portuguese treats, and many, many more at Time Out’s Mercado da Ribeira, where the main market hall has been turned into a food lover’s dream destination, bringing together some of the city’s favourite food shops and restaurants. More info can be found on Time Out’s website.