The refined interior of Casa do Bacalhau — Photo courtesy of Casa do Bacalhau
Located east of the city center in the Beato district, Casa do Bacalhau is dedicated to this humble staple. Cod is arguably the most popular choice of fish in Portugal, and the restaurant has no less than 25 dishes on its menu where bacalhau is the principal ingredient.
The Portuguese acknowledge cod as their “faithful friend.” Such is the country’s affinity with this healthy and nourishing foodstuff. As if to celebrate the affectionate sobriquet, Casa do Bacalhau’s kitchen references centuries-old recipes from around the country for inspiration and draws on time-honored cooking techniques.
By the same token, the restaurant has always displayed a progressive streak, and complementing the more traditional dishes are a number of contemporary takes on the regional cookbook that are both surprising and inventive.
Casa do Bacalhau's kitchen combines traditional cooking methods with contemporary style — Photo courtesy of Casa do Bacalhau
At its simplest, Casa do Bacalhau is a place to eat (Or should that be slurp?) tasty fish soup – canja de bacalhau – a broth bursting with flavor and full of goodness. They also do a wonderfully wholesome vegetable soup. An alternative appetizer is their homemade pastéis de bacalhau: deep-fried fishcakes using cod, potato, eggs and parsley.
You could dine here nightly for a month and still not sample every cod dish on the menu. But there are one or two exemplary dishes that really do stand out for their taste and creativity. A house speciality and a favorite with the locals, cataplana de bacalhau com ameijoas do Algavre (a bubbling cod stew mixed with Algarve clams) represents traditional homemade cooking at its best. Then there’s the empada de bacalhau com grelos salteados (piping hot cod pie with sautéed turnip tops).
And if you want to experiment, the curried cod with white rice lends an exotic accent to the dining room.
Evening light lends the restaurant a romantic ambiance — Photo courtesy of Casa do Bacalhau
Wine is an important element of any good meal, and the restaurant’s cellar does it customers – and Portugal – proud.
There are over 100 labels to choose from, including a selection of little-known but very deserving wines from the Algarve. Of course, white wine is usually the preferred choice with fish, but if you’re bewildered by the arm-long list, have a word with your table staff; they’re all sommeliers in waiting!
The restaurant's interior features an original ceiling dating from the 18th century — Photo courtesy of Casa do Bacalhau
Casa do Bacalhau is housed in what was once the stables of the 18th-century Palácio do Duque de Lafões. Tables are set under the original vaulted ceiling replete with ancient brickwork. The architecture adds a certain romantic air to the restaurant, which is particularly alluring at night, when candlelight flickers across the room.
The palace still stands, and despite the out-of-town location, its carnation pick walls provide a landmark for anyone wishing to dine in the "House of Cod."