Long gone are the days when the pinnacle of a culinary tour of Portugal culminated in custard tarts and codfish. While Lisbon still offers plenty of opportunity to savour these traditional delights, it would be a crime to leave the city without sampling its new wave of contemporary, cutting-edge eateries. From classic dishes transformed into modern masterpieces at Assinatura and 100 Maneiras to the truly avant-garde menus at Cantinho do Avillez, here are some of the best places to sample modern Portuguese cooking in the capital.
A concept by prolific local chef José Avillez, Mini Bar opened inside the São Luiz Theatre in 2014, complementing the stage performances with some culinary theatrics. One of the most exciting examples of modern Portuguese cooking in the capital, the menu here is split into five “acts” and two tasting menus, “Menu Now On” and “Epic Menu”. The bite-size edible cocktails are a great way to kick off the evening (Green apple and spearmint Margarita, anyone?) before moving on to dramatic entrees like the tempura avocado with dehydrated kimchi and coriander. Don’t worry, there’s still some codfish hidden away here, too.
With only 30 seats, 100 Maneiras is an intimate, monochrome restaurant famous for its innovative ten-course tasting menu. Taking traditional dishes and giving them a gastronomic flourish, you can expect a more sophisticated sort of bacalhau here, served with coriander aioli and red pepper coulis. Other showstoppers include the Império do Sol (poached egg with potato foam, cornbread ‘sand’ and sliced truffle) and Terra quente – slow cooked pork belly with celery purée and chayote confit.
As lively at lunch as it is at dinner, Assinatura offers modern Portuguese cooking courtesy of creative head chef Vitor Areias. The heart and soul of the food here lies in traditional local dishes, which are then transformed into contemporary masterpieces worthy of the most discerning of palates. The bacalhau at Assinatura comes with glazed pumpkin and “São Miguel” cheese foam, while the seafood feijoada proves a popular lunch item. Head downstairs to the intimate Chef’s Table for private dinner parties.
A seriously on-trend eatery, Cantinho do Avillez is one of four restaurants in the fashionable Chiado neighbourhood run by local chef José Avillez. Designed by architect Ana Anahory, the interiors mix industrial décor with vintage furnishings, making it a popular spot for the creative community. The Portuguese cooking on offer here reflects the restaurant’s ethos as a place where, “tradition and modernity go hand in hand” – giving classic Lisboa cuisine a thoroughly modern makeover. Menu highlights include the partridge pies and the flaked cod with breadcrumbs, egg and ‘exploding’ olives.
Located amid the lush gardens of the Parque Eduardo VII, Eleven occupies a prime position in the heart of Lisbon’s business district. With celebrated chef Joachim Koerper at the helm, if there’s one place you’re guaranteed to find superb modern Portuguese cooking, this is it. Take a seat beside the enormous windows and enjoy the views out over Lisbon and the River Tagus while you work your way through the creative tasting menu. Or you could simply stick to lobster, there’s an entire menu dedicated to this most exclusive of crustaceans.
Dine amongst luminous jellyfish (yes, really) at one of Lisbon’s most renowned restaurants, Largo. Famous for its contemporary Portuguese cooking as well as its elegant interiors, it’s located in an old convent right by the opera house. Headed up by celebrated Portuguese chef Miguel Castro E Silva, menu highlights include the Ravioli de bacalhau and the cod marinated in soy sauce and port – a nod to Nobu’s famous dish, but maybe even better.
A family break to sunny Lisbon. Make it an Easter to remember.