Translated, O Bom, O Mau e O Vilão means "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly." This, of course, is the title of one of the most famous westerns ever made. But mention the same name in Portuguese, and you’ll probably be directed to a bar in Lisbon's Cais do Sodré neighborhood, a spot that’s playing a leading role in the area's nightlife renaissance.
Actually, there’s nothing at all bad or ugly about this informal and surprisingly understated hangout, and depending on whom you chat with, the name refers to the subjectivity of modern art or simply the strength of a hangover.
The cocktail bar at O Bom, O Mau e O Vilão — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Inside, the vibe is laid-back and easy, an ambiance enhanced by the retro-style furniture that decorates the half-dozen or so rooms; O Bom, O Mau e O Vilão is big on space! Adding character is a series of contemporary artworks illustrating the walls.
Essentially, O Bom, O Mau e O Vilão is a cocktail lounge. The baristas are seasoned mixologists, and they know their Manhattans from their margaritas. The house special is named after the bar, a potent and spicy concoction made from Captain Morgan rum and flavored with ginger and basil.
The drink choices extend to gin – nearly 20 different types among the spirits selection – and wines and beers are also served.
Music plays an important role at The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Guest DJs provide a mood-defining soundtrack, anything from funk, soul and acid jazz to indie sessions and vintage beats from the '50s and '60s. Some nights feature live music sets, usually jazz guitar orientated – think Django Reinhardt – or just an evocative piano and saxophone duo.
O Bom, O Mau e O Vilão occasionally screens films, usually art house productions and music documentaries: it recently showed D.A. Pennebaker’s Ziggy Stardust. Working on so many creative levels, the bar has been likened to a sort of cultural center. Indeed, its broad appeal has attracted a diverse clientele, and O Bom, O Mau e O Vilão sits well with the eclectic nightlife that characterizes the Cais do Sodré party scene.
Like many of the bars and clubs in this district, O Bom, O Mau e O Vilão was born out of a refurbished private residence, in this case a solid townhouse set near Lisbon’s riverfront. One of the chill-out rooms used to be a kitchen, and you can still admire the original azulejos tile panelling decorating the alcove where the oven once stood.
At the front of the building, an elongated section of the house has been designated a smoking zone, and several large windows provide natural ventilation. A fantastical jungle-themed mural painted on the walls of the lobby greets visitors, and the whacky fresco sets the tone perfectly for the night ahead.