Favourite Lisbon Foods

When I was researching Lisbon I was utterly fascinated by one dish in particular, the francesinha, a Portugese sandwich originally from Porto. Made with bread, ham, linguica, sausage, steak or roast meat, covered in melted cheese and a thick tomato and beer sauce. 

Got that? Let me say that again. 

STEAK SANDWICH COVERED IN CHEESE AND GRAVY.

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I'm never big on sandwiches. I don't even like pizza (whaaat? Gasp, yes, horrors, we can't be BFFs, I don't like pizza). But this sandwich caught my eye because GRAVY. When does tomato and beer gravy not sound awesome? 

Lisbon has the Asian concept of a "hawker center" right in its city center that's opened by Time Out. The Mercado da Ribeira brings together about 50 of the city's most famous and beloved restaurants in one single place and it's where Shawn and I spent a good few hours agonising over what to eat because FOMO. This wasn't the gem of our find on this trip, but we'll start here. 

Francesinha puxa-carroca com carne assada by Chef Miguel Castro e Silva

Mercado da Ribeira, 481, Av. 24 de Julho, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal

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This was the sandwich of my dreams, if I ever dreamt of sandwiches. It was the perfect combination: the rich gravy soaked up in the bread and layers of meat and was perfect for swiping a french fry through. If anything it's one of those recipes I'd dream about recreating at home (and failing miserably). The tomato and beer gravy wasn't as overpowering as I thought it would (and hoped to) be. It's actually a very nice balance and something you wouldn't feel disgustingly full with after, but rather deliciously satisfying. 

Grilled Octopus by Cozinha da Felicidade 

Mercado da Ribeira, 481, Av. 24 de Julho, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal

Named after Chef Susana Felicidade and literally translating into "Kitchen of Happiness", this was our pick for trying some famed Lisbon seafood, fascinated with Felicidade's take on octopus. Shawn loves squid while I'm nonchalantly ambivalent about this ingredient till I taste it. Hit or miss, I find. The octopus was absolutely tender and while the dish wasn't absolutely mind-blowing I enjoyed it tremendously, my experience with octopus so far being of the calamari kind. 

Naco de bacalhau, batata, grelos com flor de sal e azeite by Sea Me

Mercado da Ribeira, 481, Av. 24 de Julho, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal

Consistently ranked as one of the best restaurants for seafood in Lisbon, Sea Me's menu didn't quite excite us. We tried this roast codfish with potatoes, turnip greens with fleur de sel and olive oil and it was as imagined: really great, fresh, simple fish. It didn't particularly taste very exciting but having such a great quality meal for €10 (USD11.20) did put us over the moon. 

Conserveira de Lisboa

Mercado da Ribeira, 481, Av. 24 de Julho, 1200 Lisboa, Portugal

This isn't a fresh food joint, it's the opposite if anything. But these cans contain some of the most amazing fish in a variety of flavours: sardines in spicy tomato sauce, tuna in olive oil, mackerel with onions, eel and octopus. We fell for the packaging first but later on were captivated by the fish itself. It's nothing like the canned fish you find in supermarkets, this is another level altogether. This shop is the replica of the 85 year old original Conserveira de Lisboa and carries three brands: Tricana (bigger fillets of fish), Minor (small fish varieties), Prata do Mar (exclusively Portuguese fish). Each tin goes upwards of €2.50 (USD2.80) and they seem fairly pricey, but of everything we bought from Lisbon these were our most precious buys. We've cracked this open for friends when we host drinks, and paired with a good sourdough it's always a crowd pleaser. 

Fabrica das Enguias

Rua da Prata 66, 1100-419 Lisboa, Portugal

in the canning vein of things this shop does the best eel in escabeche sauce. They have a standalone boutique that sells only this one type of eel and the quirky stall is decked floor to ceiling with these cans.  

Quermesse

Rua da Glória 85, 1250-001 Lisboa, Portugal

I love seafood, so being in Lisbon is really a seafood lovers' dream. For days you'd hardly run into anything remotely resembling Western landmarks such as steak or burgers, and I certainly didn't miss seeing chicken done a thousand ways on the menu. Meat took a backseat at every turn and I couldn't be more intrigued. The one place we did try steak and beef stew was Quermesse, highly recommendation for its modern take on Portuguese foods. We had the Roasted Padrón peppers (€4.75/USD5.30) entrées, beef steak in Quermesse sauce: garlic, mustard cream or chilli, (€8.50/USD9.50) and pork cheeks in Estremadura red wine sauce with lemon risotto (€9.95/USD11). Honestly this wasn't our best meal by a long shot but we did enjoy the padron peppers and pork cheek. 

Cervejaria Ramiro

Av. Almirante Reis nº1 - H, 1150-007 Lisboa, Portugal

Now back to regular programming: seafood. This place is affectionally known as the "seafood temple", and they're not wrong. Although one of our more expensive meals (about USD100+ for two people), you cannot go wrong here for the best seafood in Lisbon. We spooned buttery crab roe onto warm, crisp toast; gently coaxed large grilled prawns out of their shells and scooped hot prawns out of seething garlic and hot olive oil. It was absolutely indulgent and very memorable. What we didn't try was the bifana, which is a pork sandwich you typically end the meal with that plenty rave about but we were too full to embark on.  

Restaurante Lusitânia

Rua da Glória 22B, 1250-001 Lisboa, Portugal

We stayed at the Sofitel on the Avenue da Liberdade which was lined with shops and made for a great walk during the day. One evening we strolled through the back lanes of this stretch and discovered a row of eateries, small mom and pop restaurants that peppered the street. We wandered up to Lusitânia, studying its menu of sea bass, grouper, mackerel, cuttlefish, golden bream, hake, monkfish, cod cooked in a dozen ways; have it roasted fried, in a stew with beans or grilled with rice, french fries, in cheese pasta or with vegetables. Homely foods get me all the time; every single time. We had some very delicious meals cooked by famous chefs but I remember Lusitânia best for the earthy, hearty meals we had here. Main dishes went upwards of €7.50 (USD8.30) which was absolutely decent and we ate here twice just to try a round of fish dishes. 

Pastéis de bacalhau by Queijo Serra da Estrela

Rua Augusta, 106 e 108, Lisbon 1100-053, Portugal

Codfish cakes of this sort I'd never tire of, and it's one of the better snacks I can see myself indulging with all the time. But they're a speciality only found in Portugal, and they're delicious. The bacalhau (codfish) is shredded and mixed with potatoes, eggs, parsley, onion and deep fried to a lovely crust, making it crunchy on the outside and creamy on the inside. This stall serves them up along the Rua Augusta shopping stretch, so it makes for a great place to stop for a snack and drink. You can find this quite easily throughout Lisbon. 

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A few times we stopped by pubs for drinks, tapas items like fish-stuffed red peppers in tomato sauce would find its way onto our tables. Not the best looking to document but absolutely delicious. What's your favourite foods from Portugal? 

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