This ten room guesthouse perched atop of a steep cobbled hill feels like a home-from-home, bottles of locally produced wine are de-corked next to a plate layered with homemade cakes and a collection of glasses, each one uniquely different, bidding you to share a glass and a bite with fellow guests. Concrete stairs twist through the three-storey building, lit by bulbs cradled in hand blown glass of blue and green hues, leading you all the way up to the attic room that offers sweeping views of the city, from the surrounding park to as far as The Ponte 25 de Abril. Maria, the lady behind this beautiful, achingly charismatic space is well versed in designing atypically aesthetic guesthouses, each detail artfully refined yet unfussy. Most of the ceramics laid around the house are created by Maria herself inspired by traditional Portuguese pottery, hand painted plates are modelled on the leaves that hang from branches in the nearby park.
There is a feeling that the space is brought to life by the community Maria surrounds herself with, large prints by friend and resident artist Juan Baraja occupy the walls, providing the ideal backdrop for contemplation when sitting at the large wooden table that is also constructed by a friend of the guesthouse and local carpenter.
Breakfast is a treat. Sitting at the sprawling communal table covered in a floral linen cloth touched by the morning sun, housekeeper and cook, Erika, brings bread and cakes still warm from the oven, accompanied by a daily-changing dish of local produce, yoghurt with fruit, and a carafe of squeezed orange juice. The stillness of the lounge, interrupted only by soft morning conversation and the pour of coffee is delightfully calming. Each of the ten rooms are all beautiful and follow a similar suit that is premised on minimalist lines and contemporary aesthetic, yet spun with a warm intimacy created by second hand furnishings and authentic hospitality.
Unfortunately, Mi Casa en Lisboa closes at the end of March, Maria will be moving to Porto to spend more time working on personal projects and continuing to cultivate their alternative location, My Home in Porto. Having spent time with Maria I believe her spirit and energy will follow her in all ventures she pursues, and the outpost in Porto is of no exception.
Leopoldo Calhau, another dear friend of Maria’s, is preparing to open the doors to his new restaurant this April, ‘Taberna do Calhau’. In anticipation of the opening Leopoldo created a number of dishes he is currently developing for the menu, all focused on locally sourced ingredients from independent producers. His humble approach to cooking blends the traditional with the experimental, reviving Portuguese cuisine with global culinary relevance. The aesthetic of the restaurant is curated in a similar vein; Leopoldo has adopted the contents of a traditional taberna just outside of Lisbon, wooden stalls will line a marble countertop, and staff will dress in casual white branded tees in the spirit of Lisbon’s colloquialism and un-fussiness.
The eight course meal was put together by Leopoldo using ingredients mostly cultivated by his friends and family. The smoked chicken sausages served with mustard were of saintly status, commonly known as alheira, first created by the Jews of Portugal who would stuff their sausages with chicken meat to mask their religion and avoid being expelled from the country. In addition, the migas prepared by Leopoldo took a traditional shepherds dish, comprised of leftover breadcrumbs, to unrivalled levels, and left me seeking the dish in every restaurant we visited over the duration of our trip. Despite all dishes being enticingly delicious, the cod neck with broken corn and flecks of coriander was the highlight, ineffably creamy yet light and fresh.
Taberna do Calhau will be an extension of Chef Leopoldo’s personality, I don’t doubt that the nostalgic yet innovative environment Calhau intends on creating will bid locals and tourists alike to keep returning for his inventive take on Portuguese tradition.
One of our favourite dining experiences in Lisbon, this small eatery housed in an assuming, small building only a stone’s throw away from the city’s oldest railway station Lisboa Santa Apolonia, epitomises local cuisine. This taberna is premised on simplicity: diners can choose from either house red, house white, or beer brewed on site. The menu is scrawled on a blackboard looming above the twenty five or so repurposed chairs that are quickly filled with guests a mere 10 minutes into their lunchtime service. We ate the Pasteis de Bacalhau accompanied by a towering plate of perfectly crisp fries, and the lamb stew with Migas. We struggled to secure a table at lunchtime, so be sure to book ahead.
The brainchild of Hugo Brito, Boi Cavalo was set up in a former butchers in Alfama, and represents the synergy between prestigious technique and culinary tradition. Brito and his team of chefs have created an environment that aptly balances the complexities of fine dining with unpretentious eating, making for an incredibly indulgent meal spared of the ostentatious air. Boi Cavalo works solely with a seasonal six-course tasting menu, adapted daily in light of availability and preference, the price is modest at €40 per head with the option of a wine pairing for an additional €25. Highlights included the lamb tartare wrapped in mint leaves and mackerel rillettes, paired with Quinto do Gago Rose, and the black pork shoulder served with a drop of 2015 Vidente from the Dao region.
For a truly unfussy, no-frills Lisboan affair after a day of zealous white wine drinking, head to Casa Cid. Chequered plastic tablecloths lay atop of canteen-style rowed tables and chairs, beer is served on tap for a euro a piece, and punters spill onto the street into the early hours. Their version of the Portuguese Bifana is great, and the Polvo a Lagareiro is aptly oily and laden with garlic, served with crushed new potatoes. Despite having been serving locals since 1913, family-run business Casa Cid is threatened with eviction due to government led redevelopment, providing all the more reason to avoid the Time Out market across the road and support the traditional eateries.
This small grocery store located between the bustling neighborhoods of Cais do Sodre and Santos, is a mascot of all produce hailing from Portugal. The shop only recently celebrated their one year anniversary yet have already built a blossoming community around the store as a leading force in Lisbon’s independent scene. The store exclusively features small producers and has an impressive selection of natural and organic wines to accompany locally produced charcuterie and cheese, choose to eat in or take to the nearby coastline for sundowners. They also host regular events focused on the producers they are partnered with, announced via their instagram platform.
One of the lesser known architectural treasures of Lisbon, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation was conceptualised in 1969 by architects Pedro Cid, Jervis d’Athouguia and Alberto Pessoa in ode to the businessman and philanthropist. The austere concrete structures are contrasted by their landscape, likened to a lush botanical oasis filled with water pools and bamboo forests. The space acts as a cultural point of interest and hosts the late Calouste Gulbenkian’s expansive art collection.
Every Tuesday and Sunday the Feira da Ladra flea market spills through the Campo de Santa Clara, and the roads and packed with vendors and bargain seekers. There are equal amounts of junk and treasure, a man selling vintage glassware and candelabras was pitched up next to a vendor with microwaves and exercise cd’s aplenty. The slightly unhinged, destabilising chaos of Feira da Ladra is precisely what makes it so charming and unmissable. Head there early for bargains, and spend the afternoon drinking coffee in the sunshine and overseeing the ensuing chaos from a nearby cafe.