A new wine bar in Lisbon is fast becoming a vibrant and creative hub for artists, writers and musicians. Vestígius, housed in a refurbished dockside warehouse in the city’s Cais do Sodré district, draws an eclectic and intelligent crowd lured by a connoisseur’s wine list, a menu of tasty petiscos ("snacks") and a diverse live music program. And the bar’s bohemian character is further accentuated by the fact that the space serves as an art gallery and library.
With the restaurant working on so many levels, one might wonder if Vestígius wine bar suffers from an identity problem. But owner Esmeralda Fetahu describes the fledgling venue simply as a cultural center, where wine, gastronomy, art, design and literature can all be appreciated under the same roof.
The interior of Vestigius wine bar — Photo courtesy of Vestigius
The wine bar’s waterfront location is reflected in its maritime-themed interior design. Esmeralda has salvaged elements from disused and abandoned boats to decorate the lounge - iconic items like rope ladders, engine room components (used as table bases) and even unwanted life jackets.
Complementing this 'all at sea' look is a deliberate mismatch of retro chic furniture in various styles – Classical, Regency, Art Deco, etc, – that keeps the eyes working overtime. Coordinated is definitely not the word to use here.
Wines have been selected by resident sommelier João Chambel. As expected, Portuguese labels hog the limelight, with the Dão, Douro and Alentejo regions well represented. But Chamble has also thrown in some interesting Old Europe and New World reds and whites for the palate to ponder. Sold mostly by the bottle, customers can also try by the glass.
Accompanying the wines is a quirky, quick-fire menu of traditional Portuguese finger food. Consultant chef Ruben Trindade Santos has also drawn on the ocean for inspiration, using fresh cod, tuna and octopus for many of the tapas-style dishes and offering familiar couvert like cheese, olive and soft, flaky flor de sal.
But he changes tack with his mini gourmet pizza surprises, delicious bite-sized treats oven-baked on the premises. The menu is lent an international dimension, with guest chefs from overseas invited to share their country’s most emblematic recipes: Helt Araújo from Angola recently wowed diners with his spicy African muamba stew.
Essentially a nightlife venue, Vestígius gets moving on Friday and Saturday nights with live music. And like everything else about this place, the soundtrack is varied and offbeat, anything from homegrown Portuguese rock and mellow fado to funky jazz and world music.
The collection of books in the library covers a range of cultural topics – the history of art and architecture, for example, and country profiles of Lusophone countries, places like Brazil and Mozambique.
And those with a particular interest in art can browse the gallery, where rotating exhibitions of painting, photography, sculpture and design are held on a monthly basis.