Contemporary casual

Where To Eat In Lisbon Now: 9 Top New Restaurants


Ever since I moved to Lisbon, I’ve been keeping a list of my favorite restaurants. It’s growing faster and faster. Every year or so, I publish a little love letter to some of my new favorites. And as soon as I publish it, a new one pops up. Last year, the day after the article appeared, I went to Sítio de Gente Feliz, and it turned out to be one of my favorite places of the whole year.

Pandemic or not, there’s a lot going on here. First, there are the reboots and reinventions from chefs who used the time off to rethink what they’ve been doing. Take, for instance, the much anticipated reopening of the Michelin-starred Feitoria, which had been closed for almost all of the pandemic. Chef João Rodrigues took a page from the Eleven Madison Park playbook and embraced plant-based cooking, creating two purely vegetarian (mostly vegan) tasting menus and decreasing the animal protein on the omnivorous menus, replacing it with interesting flavors like fermented broccoli “marrow.” 

In other hotel restaurant news, chef Nuno Mendes returned from London in July to kick off the new menu at his reopened Bairro Alto Hotel Restaurant, keeping classics like the goose barnacles on toast (still the only barnacles that I like in all of Portugal) and adding novelties like monkfish and liver on toast with saffron and fennel broth. And at the neighborhood restaurant BouBou’s, chef Louise Bourrat came up with a new menu that celebrates vegetables and goes all in on sustainability. 

And then there are the new additions. Eating in Lisbon has never been better. 

Ofício

Ofício, the new, casual project from the team behind the wonderfully intimate fine-dining experience at the Art Gate (another of my favorites from late year) bills itself as a tasco atipico—atypical neighborhood restaurant. Super-creative chef Hugo Candeias worked with executive chef Micael Duarte and chef Rodolfo Lavrador (both of whom worked with Mendes) to devise a menu of sharable cold dishes, hot dishes and finger food. There are excellent plates involving spider crab, sea urchin and stingray with a vivid green herb sauce, but honestly, they had me at the sea vegetable tacos. 

Cavalariça Lisboa

Cavalariça chef Bruno Caseiro and pastry chef Filipa Gonçalves (two more Mendes alumnae) never expected to open a restaurant in the posh, seasonal town of Comporta, but that was the opportunity that came along. They ended up creating one of the most intriguing and enjoyably unfussy places to dine in Portugal right now. But Lisbon was always their goal, and for now they’re in a delightful temporary space—watched over by a white taxidermied unicorn—while they wait to move into their new home. They brought with them some of their classics from the beach town, like the toasted brioche with chicken liver parfait and orange chutney, and pork shoulder croquettes with clam emulsion and mustard, but also added new city dishes and seasonal variations like roasted organic Hokkaido pumpkin with sweet chestnut, barley and buttermilk. 

SEM

Nose-to-tail has been a trendy phrase in the restaurant world for a decade now, but what about gill-to-fin, or root-to-flower? The new restaurant SEM (“without” in Portuguese) is out to normalize them all. The proprietors call it an exercise in systemic change, because everything starts from their relationship with farmers and producers in Portugal who are working at the forefront of regenerative agriculture. “The industry calls them suppliers. We call them partners,” reads the manifesto. But rather than dogma that gets hard to swallow, the zero-waste dishes on the menu at SEM—starting with melon with lardo and tomatoes with fennel and sauerkraut granita (for example, based on today’s menu) and ending with turkey, rose dukkah and shiitake and apple, kombucha and buttermilk ice cream—are a pleasure to eat. 

Lobo Mau

The under-the-radar Lobo Mau is the endeavor of chef Hugo Guerra, who made a name for himself working at resorts around the country. Out now to work on his own terms, he’s devised a menu of classic, playful and always flavorful dishes that look beautiful and give priority to local ingredients. The vegetarian tacos with watercress mayonnaise, edible flowers and wasabi peas are a standout, as are the salad of perfectly fresh tomatoes and plums, and the roasted savoy cabbage with cauliflower cream (officially a side dish, but a main in my book). Bonus points for the pretty, sun-filled dining nook with tropical wallpaper. 

Ameaça Vegetal

After the pandemic forced the closure of the upscale fish restaurant Pesca, chef Diogo Noronha set out in a different direction. His new virtual “flexitarian” restaurant, Ameaça Vegetal (“vegetable threat,” but more of a provocation), aims to please vegetarians, vegans and also omnivores (the fried oyster sandwich is a favorite) with thoughtful, ingredient-driven food for delivery or to go. Along with Damian Irizarry and Marta Fea (ex-Pistol y Corazon), Noronha is part of the new Foodriders collective, which lets fans bypass UberEats and order directly from them. Better yet, they can pick up their roasted cauliflower on focaccia, roasted beets with tofu and millet, or artichoke confit with soybeans and bok choy at the kitchen and chat with the cooks at work.

Provincia

The newest entry from the crowd-pleasing (but also consistently high-quality and delicious) Grupo Non Basta, Provincia is a celebration of rural Italian Mediterranean cuisine. The dining room is unusually handsome, with sexy red fringed pendant lamps, a bookcase decorated with Portuguese antiques and a sinuous bar as the focal point. The menu makes good use of local ingredients—oysters from Setúbal, squid from the Azores—while going all in on Italian recipes like feather-light green ravioli with celery, leek, mushrooms and lemon, and a satisfying pizza with smoked mozzarella, mushrooms, taleggio and fresh truffles. 

Drogaria

Even with its worldly flavors and cosmopolitan vibe, Drogaria is a passion project and a homecoming for its proprietor, Paulo Aguiar, who grew up in the neighborhood and remembers when the space was a shop for household goods and social hub. He’s updated that idea for today’s increasingly international Lisbon by redesigning the space as a gorgeous Art Nouveau and Art Deco hideaway, and bringing in talented chef Daniel Sousa, who worked at a Michelin-three-star in Macau. Here, he’s doing creative, contemporary interpretations of Portuguese cuisine, like bruschetta with cured sardines and pepper salad on Gleba bread (“Santo Antonio on our plate”), Azorean-style caldo do pico with market fish, saffron and aromatic herbs, and duck rice with barley and beetroot.

Terraço Editorial

With all respect to chef Rui Rebelo (who worked with Ferran Adrià, among other international star chefs), I’m not recommending this one entirely for the food. Rather, while the food is simple, straight-ahead and better than it needs to be, one of the main reasons to go to Terraço Editorial, atop the Pollux housewares store, is that it has one of the best—and best-kept secret—views over the old center of Lisbon. The other reason is to taste wines from small Portuguese producers. The list has…



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