Monday, 9 September 2013

The Dublin Diary on Tour - Lisbon

The decision to go to Lisbon was an easy one. Last year we visited Porto and were impressed by the beauty of the city, the friendliness of the people and also, most importantly for me, the food and drink. You can check out some of the interesting dishes we had here.

The plan for this year was to spend three days buzzing around Lisbon before heading to Sintra for a night and then to Cascais on the Estoril Coast for some relaxation. All went to plan beautifully but we found that relaxation was just not for us and we craved to be back in Lisbon. It's a wonderful vibrant city with great nightlife and thankfully only forty minutes from Cascais by train, an added bonus was that the trains run late into the night!

I love Portugese food. It's not very elaborate but it's fresh and plentiful. The cuisine draws equally from the land and the sea, the simple preparations release the natural flavours of the produce. Below are a few of the standout dishes we had, each one was as delicious as the next.


This really fresh sea bream was delicious. It was simply brushed with oil and then grilled. It was a lovely meaty fish though trying to take it off the bone was difficult for me, I'm not an expert at such things!

Sardines are synonymous with Portugal and these ones certainly tasted better than any I've had before! The bones weren't really a problem with these as they are so small you can just eat them along with the flesh!

I always regret ordering prawns for the simple reason that I am incapable of removing the little buggers from their shells. What's the trick? These ones were very tasty, done on a grill and covered in oil. God help the people at the table next to me, I'm sure they got splattered at least once. 

Salt cod or bacalhau was once, and still is, a mainstay of the Portuguese diet. I thought it was strange how the old traditions have been retained even with the introduction of refrigeration. A popular way to cook salt cod is with grated potato and egg like in the picture above though Portuguese people claim there is a salt cod recipe for every day of the year!

This octopus salad was one of my favourite dishes. I've only ever had octopus served like calamari so it was nice to try something different. It was light and refreshing and surprisingly didn't taste fishy at all.


The Portuguese have their own kind of chorizo. It's very similar to the Spanish version but I think it's slightly more fatty ... but it's very good fat ... mmmmhh ....

Portugal also have their own version of blood sausage. It's less grainy and more spicy than our black pudding. I would say it's closer to the French boudin noir in it's texture and flavour. In one place it was served with pineapple! Wow! What a flavour combination!

The Portuguese are very fond of putting egg on top of things! This is a spicy pork sausage, the texture on the inside is actually really soft and tender. In a strange way the two went well together! 

As I said there's a fondness for egg on things! This is Bitoque (bee-tock) or Portuguese Steak. It's basically sirloin steak pulverized to within an inch of it's life and flash fried. It was fun sitting in the restaurant listening to the hammering coming from the kitchen. 

This is bitoque in bread. Basically the place we went to had no menus, the waiter just said "we have steak on a plate and steak in the bread" M opted for the plate (above) and I opted for the bread. It was so so good but best of all was the price. Both dishes, plus an order of fries and two 40cl beers came to €15.95. Amazing! 

Nearly all main courses in Portugal seem to come with fries and to be honest I was getting a bit sick of them so I was delighted one night when the waiter arrived with these deep fried potato slices! 

Chickens on the rotisserie in Jardim de Frangos in Cascais. Literally the Chicken Garden. The waiters here are incredibly rude and abrupt but still people queue for it. It's full every night. It was fantastic! If you are ever in the area you must check it out! 

Half a rotisserie chicken from Jardim de Frangos. A think of beauty according to himself! 


Portugal is famous for it's custard tarts or Pastéis and the best ones come from Belem about 6km from the city centre. There's always a queue, even just to get some tarts to takeaway!

Pastéis de Belem are flaky pastry cases filled with a gloppy vanilla custard. They are best served warm with some cinnamon and powdered sugar on top!

You can get custard tarts all over Portugal but the best ones come from Pastéis de Belem. I'm not even sure if they make anything else!


Portugal has this odd little custom of Couvert. Basically the waiter will bring some plates to your table when you sit down. They usually hold bread, cheese, butter and olives, sometimes pate and ham too. You're only charged for what you eat and when the waiter brings your main course he usually takes what you haven't eaten away. I think it's a really cool idea and each restaurant's couvert is slightly different so it was fun to see what would arrive in each place.

Small little salt cod fish cakes sometimes arrived as couvert or you could order them off the menu. They were a great snack with a cold pint of beer. Check out the funky glass in the picture!

We had no idea what these were when the waiter put them down in front of us. I still don't know the name of them! At first I just popped them in my mouth but the waiter showed me how to peel the skin off. Much more palatable. They are some kind of pickled bean.

Strawberry jam with cheese. Who'd have thought it would be so good? Not me but by heck it is!


Porto have Port and Lisbon have Ginjinha (gin-gin-ya). It is a liquor infused with cherries. To me it more or less tasted like liquid Christmas pudding! I loved it. I could have drank it all night! At 70c a shot it would have been a cheap evening! 

One of my many shots of ginjinha with some cherries in it. Tchim-tchim! 

If you've gotten this far you might think that our trip to Lisbon was a culinary success without hitch but you'd be wrong! We had one hiccup! We chose a place from our guide book which promised authentic Portuguese cuisine. We weren't disappointed but unfortunately their entire menu was in Portuguese! We pondered it desperately hoping that something would look familiar. In the end we just pointed to something and hoped for the best! What arrived was liver and chips for him and chicken sausage with egg for me. Neither was what we were really looking forward to but we ate it anyway! On the plus side the place looked really cool as you can see from the picture below! 

I absolutely fell in love with Lisbon and it's people. I know it's a city I'm going to visit again and again. In fact I've already checked out the prices of flights for later in the year! 


  1. Great post Laura! The beans are called lupin beans. My mam used to buy them all the time at the portuguese shop :)

    1. Ah brilliant! That actually rings a bell now, the waiter must have said that! :) I wonder are they in any way related to the lupin flowers we grow here?

  2. I was there for New Year a while back and loved it.

    According to my guidebook, ginjinha is the world's most localised drinking culture.

    1. Funny thing, when we were there I said to my boyfriend that I thought it would be a great city to spend New Years in.

      I regret not bring a bottle of ginjinha home but it probably wouldn't be the same!

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