Summer is one of the liveliest seasons to visit Lisbon, especially in June, as the city plays host to its most popular annual festival, the Festas de Lisboa. Throughout the month, thousands of people take to the streets of Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhoods for music, dance, processions and street entertainment, while the smell of grilled sardines fills the air.
However, if you have been unable to attend this year’s festival, Lisbon has much more to offer the dedicated fish lover than just sardines, whenever you visit. As a seafaring nation, fish and seafood are a staple on menus throughout the country and Lisbon is no different. Some of the most popular local dishes – and where you can enjoy them – are found below.
Bacalhau (dried salted codfish): Lisbon’s major delicacy, it is said that there are 365 ways of cooking ‘bacalhau’, one for each day of the year. Some of the more popular codfish dishes in Lisbon are “bacalhau á bras” (fried with onions, potatoes and bound by scrambled eggs); “bacalhau com natas” (with cream) and “bacalhau á Gomes de Sá” (baked with potatoes, onions, boiled egg and olives).
Caldeirada (fish stew): Made either with seafood, codfish or any other fish, the ‘caldeirada’ is a fish stew which will give everybody a taste of the sea. This traditional stew is cooked with vegetables and spices, such as the famous piri piri sauce, layered in a pot and cooked slowly over low heat, resulting in a dish that is finger-licking good!
Amêijoas à Bulhão Pato (clams): Cooked with garlic, olive oil and white wine, clams are one of Lisbon’s favourite starters. Their delicious taste comes not only from inside the shells but also from the sauce which goes with them – get some bread ready for mopping up the plate!
THE PLACES TO EAT
Lisbon’s dining scene is one of the most exciting in Europe – here are three great choices to savour the abundance of fresh fish and seafood offered up by Portugal’s coastline.
Restaurante D’Bacalhau: As its name suggests, this eatery, located in Parque das Nações, serves a wide variety of codfish dishes – including a ‘codfish mix’ platter for those who find it too difficult to choose. Other seafood options, such as shrimps, grouper and octopus, are also on the menu. www.restaurantebacalhau.com
Restaurante Doca Peixe: Situated in one of the fashionable warehouses of Santo Amaro Docks, overlooking the 25 de Abril Bridge, this restaurant serves all kinds of fish bought directly from the nearby market. Options include traditional clams, lobster and Portuguese oysters. Complete your meal by having a cocktail at one of the neighbouring trendy bars. www.docapeixe.com
Restaurante Eleven: Owned by talented chef Joachim Koerper – acclaimed as one of the most important masters of ‘Mediterranean Cuisine’ – this Michelin-starred restaurant offers high-end fish dishes in a minimalist setting overlooking Edward VII Park. ‘Scallops carpaccio with oyster vinaigrette’ and the ‘sea bass fillet with aubergine caviar’ are just beautiful. www.restauranteleven.com
When it comes to wine, go local! Just 30 miles from Lisbon and home to the Sado Estuary, the Setúbal Peninsula is one of Portugal’s most important wine producing areas, with vineyards occupying an area of around 9,000 hectares.
Expressive and aromatic
The regional wines under the designation “Peninsula de Setúbal” are known for their fruity and elegant structure. As a general rule, they have an excellent aging potential!
White, rosé or red?
White and rosé wines are ideal for fish and shellfish dishes, including the caldeirada (fish stew) and amêijoas (clams); however, for bacalhau (codfish), both whites and light to medium reds (which are not fruity) will pair just as well.
For a sweet aftertaste
Finish your meal with a dessert wine. The famous Moscatel de Setúbal is traditionally considered as the best option, a sweet white wine made with local muscatel grapes.