It started with an article in The Guardian – Portugal hadn’t even been on our radar but suddenly there was this place which promised amazing seafood (ooh, you had me at goose barnacles) and so we booked pretty much on the basis of that.
Leao d’Ouro showed great custom service. We turned up Thursday but no tables were available so booked us in for Friday. When Friday came round they had us down for Saturday. Don’t panic! They popped out and came back with a table from next door which was set in no time.
It was all about the seafood in there so we went for a platter. I was pretty giddy when it arrived- it was a real feast for the eyes! A whole lobster, giant charred prawns, clams in white wine and garlic, oysters (still not keen but hubby happy happily ate the rest), more prawns, crab and dressed crab.
Indulge me for a moment as I go off piste to tell you about the first time I was faced with a plate full of crabs. It was our honeymoon, the Maldives. We’d arrived at lunch and headed to the restaurant. I assumed the crab I ordered would be meat. I was wrong. Hungry and faced with a plate full of small crabs which had been swimming around moments earlier, I very nearly cried. I went hungry, but husband showed me how to use the tools and I vowed never to be beaten by a crustacean again!
Back to Lisbon. I picked that crab clean and felt rather proud of myself! The charred prawn was outstanding and we cleared the platter. Highly recommended.
I was really looking forward to indulging in Portuguese custard tarts and so we went to Pasteis De Belem which claims to be the best / oldest / original maker of the pastel de nata in Lisbon. I queued dear reader, yes queued. I don’t do it normally as a rule but we were there and I wasn’t leaving without one. No pic as they were scoffed on a bench while still warm! Hubby even indulged and he doesn’t do custard. They come with little packs of icing sugar and cinnamon but they didn’t need them. Warm, luxurious custard and delicate pastry. They were good but I must admit, not as good as my Nan’s from my childhood.
Our last night in Lisbon took us to Grapes and Bites; a gorgeous wine bar in the Bairro Alto area where you sit round little tables or port barrels and enjoy some great Portuguese wine and small plates of food listening to a handsome guy on a guitar. Hubby loved the sausage which was like chorizo without the bite (bit bland for me), but the oozy warm cheese served with red wine jam (oh yeah, forget bacon jam, there’s a jar of this baby in my cupboard right now!) was a winner with us both. The red wine from the Duoro region was a great choice too. The Portuguese definitely do reds better than whites in my opinion.
For pud we rolled down the hill a few doors to Tease: Lisbon’s Rock n Roll Bakery. Well with a name like that I had to go in didn’t I! I was initially disappointed that they only had cupcakes (not a fan, almost always too sweet) but actually these hit the spot. Andrew had a really nice strawberry chocolate one. The icing and cake both carried the strawberry flavour and there was a gooey chocolate middle. I chose an after eight mint one in homage to my recent cake club creation and it was rather good too. Oh and they serve booze. So if you long to have a mojito and cupcake combo, it is on the cards there!
A few miles up the road from Lisbon is Sintra, and it is very different. Nearer the coast, and surrounded by forest and lush green hills. We picked our hotel, Lawrences, based on it supposedly having a great restaurant. The hotel restaurant was a little staid and dated for our tastes but the food was lovely. I had some really tasty local black pork; grilled and served with a pear poached in port and some port jus. The sweetness of the pear, port and sweet potato puree were just the right match for the richness of the pork. Dessert was a crème caramel on steroids! They call them convent cakes because the nuns used to make wine, and egg whites were used in process. They had tonnes of yolks let over so made them into the most rich puddings you have ever tasted. The tradition was passed on locally and now you can get a convent cake wherever you go in Sintra. We had to have a lie down after finishing that!
We spent a day mooching around the coast and popped into Azenhas Do Mar for lunch. Again, this was as a result of the Guardian article- I was in search of percebes or goose barnacles. Alas, we were out of luck, it is growing season the lovely waitress explained as we sipped the world’s best homemade lemonade, so they don’t catch them when they are growing and breeding. Oh well, we plumped for baby lobsters and, in total contrast, giant scarlet shrimps. The lobster was delicious, the shrimp were too but they were over priced for what they were. But it was worth every penny to sit in a restaurant built into the rock so you are practically over the Atlantic waves. Even on a hot, calm day like when we visited, the ocean is so dramatic it’s mesmerising.
Something we saw everywhere we went was ginjinha– a cherry liqueur. Apparently, it’s the local equivalent of White Lightening i.e. the down and outs tipped of choice! But I really liked it, and couldn’t help thinking a glug would be great in a creamy hot chocolate so I’ve brought a bottle home so I can see if my inkling is right!
Overall, loved Lisbon- the place and of course the food. If you’ve had any great meals out in Lisbon or Sintra I’d love to hear about it!