Menus for midnight — Lisbon's favourite late-night restaurants.
By Paul Bernhardt
Lisbon Local Expert
Lisbon thrives after dark and there are plenty of late-night restaurants catering for hungry insomniacs. In a city renowned for its nightlife, an evening out means eating out, and there’s an appetising choice of midnight menus to tempt the seriously wide-awake. The steak in pepper sauce served at Café de São Bento is a house speciality, and here you can dine till 2am. Another after-hours culinary institution is Galeto, a funky 60’s diner in the city’s Saldanha district that rustles up tasty comfort food almost around the clock. Meanwhile over in Príncipe Real, the delicious steaks at La Paparrucha are served with memorable views of the capital that are especially evocative at night. Some of Lisbon’s best seafood is prepared at Ribadouro – a favourite city-centre haunt for theatregoers seeking post-show sustenance. Taberna Moderna, located near Santa Apolónia, wins with its low light gin bar ambiance. Late night revellers with a nose for a good wine should head for By the Wine, where the regional gastronomy is matched with a fine selection of reds and whites. Larger groups however should seek out Kais, an unusual restaurant converted from a waterfront warehouse situated near Cais do Sodré. The nearby Portugalia also overlooks the river and enjoys a loyal clientele, while another local draw is the cavernous Cervejaria Trindade in Chiado – always busy after midnight. And tucked away in Alfama is Santo António de Alfama. Half the fun is finding this lovely late-night venue among the winding streets and narrow alleys.
Santo António de Alfama
Tucked away deep in Alfama, Lisbon's oldest neighbourhood, is this charming and wonderfully decorative restaurant. The pretty courtyard intimately set over cobblestone at the front belies a voluminous interior, with no less than three floors that can cater for larger gatherings if necessary. The menu errs towards traditional Portuguese gastronomy from the country and the ocean, and there's an impressive wine list to match. The desserts, meanwhile, are mouth-watering. The decor reflects a warm, homely feel that's somewhat incongruously heightened by dozens of black and white photographs of famous personalities from the world of entertainment (how many can you name?) (+351 21 888 1328)
A cherished culinary institution and a noted cultural landmark, this cavernous beer hall and restaurant enjoy an illustrious history. The building stands on the site of a former monastery, later a brewery. The beer is no longer made on the premises but it's still served with gusto along with a delicious selection of traditional Portuguese fare. Several rooms -- the atrium, dining hall, and the Maria Keil room -- are set under vaulted ceilings and decorated with outstanding azulejo (tile) panels depicting Masonic-inspired mosaics of exceptional craftsmanship. Dishes like tasty octopus salad and an amazing variety of shellfish options enhance the dining experience. So too the tender juicy steaks that are prepared using secret recipes handed down over generations. A range of Portuguese beers, including the restaurant's own special brew, plus international lagers, complement a select wine list. (+351 21 342 3506)
This smart riverfront eatery belongs to a national chain of restaurants beloved by the Portuguese. Specialising in fresh fish and seafood but also serving succulent meat dishes, The Cais do Sodre venue faces the river not far from Alcantara and is known for its shellfish specialities such as "Espinho" shrimp from Portugal's northern shores, grilled tiger shrimp and mantis shrimp, with crab, king crab, lobster and spiny lobster. The seafood platters house specialities. The roasted cod with jacket potato is a popular and healthy dish. Portugalia is noted for its range of beers and ales, and there's a great wine list too. A children's menu keeps youngsters happy. (+352 21 342 2138)
Fashioned out of the shell of a former 19th-century engine warehouse, this cavernous restaurant in one of the landmark features on the docks mid-way between Cais do Sodre and Alcantara. There's an industrial quality to the interior, with the design drawing on the building's history. The menu is international haute cuisine and features dishes like asparagus risotto, deep-water rose shrimps in champagne sauce, and grilled Iberian black pork tenderloin. The arm-long wine list is impressive, with Portuguese labels at the fore. Kais is particularly suited to large groups, but for smaller parties go downstairs to the rustic-styled Adega do Kais, where grilled meats are the speciality. (+351 21 393 2930)
By the Wine JMF
Traditional Portuguese and southern European gastronomy enlivens the menu at this rustic-chic wine bar. Besides the Iberian flavoured cuisine the restaurant is also known for its enviable selection of wines from noted producer Jose Maria da Fonseca. The food comprises regional delicacies, typified by dishes like salada de mexilhoes (mussels in brine with tomato, red onion and peppers) and quesadilla 'Chiado', shoulder ham with provolone cheese, red onion and capers. Their 'Bellota" sausage boards feature appetizing ensembles of Spanish and Portuguese spicy chorizo and cured ham. The cheese boards feature Italian, Spanish and Portuguese cheeses. Dessert choice is modest but includes treats such as torta de Azeitao. (+351 213 420 319, +351 964 469 565)
The bar serving this delightfully offbeat restaurant has nearly 80 different varieties of gin to tempt diners -- handy if you end up waiting for a table. But very often this is the drink of choice for customers choosing to eat at this extremely popular dining venue. It's not that the wine list is in any way inferior, but with such a bewildering array of gin at hand, it's rather fun to experiment with the food. The menu is tapas orientated -- delicious Spanish finger food is the speciality. But there's also an interesting sushi-esque choice as well as Portuguese-Mediterranean fusion options, dishes like beef Carpaccio and duck, braised tuna and mushroom risotto. (+351 21 886 5039)
One of Lisbon's premier fish and seafood restaurants, Ribadouro has been around since 1947. The menu lists a veritable feast of ocean cuisine, options like jumbo shrimp, Algarve prawn, tiger shrimp, oyster, king crab and crayfish. The seafood platter is famous for offering these delicious delicacies in one gigantic serving garnished with lemon and garlic. But if you're up for something lighter, then the pesticos (snacks) are just as mouth watering. Try the prawns or clams in olive oil and garlic, lots of garlic. Fish dinners feature the house special -- bacalhau a bras: flakes of grilled codfish serves with egg, onion, parsley and matchstick potato fries. The restaurant is also a beer house (cervejaria) and customers are welcome to pop just for a drink. (+351 21 354 9411, +351 936 520 721)
This highly regarded Argentinian restaurant is famed for its choice of succulent parrilla-grilled steaks, anything from sirloin and tenderloin to rump and flank. Serving options range from a juicy tenderloin wrapped in puff pastry with wild mushrooms and bacon to a delicious mixed meat kebab -- sirloin steak, cap rump, bacon, onions and peppers. The menu also lists a selection of pasta and fish dishes. As you'd expect, the extensive wine list features several Argentinian labels including a full-bodied Finca Flichman Misterio Syrah red. The restaurant's other claim to fame is the fabulous views (totally Romantic at night) across midtown Lisbon from the window tables and outside terrace. A bar allows for drinks before dining, or as a late night hangout. (+351 (0)21 342 5333)
Located in the city's Saldanha district near Campo Pequeno, and well off the tourist trail, late-night Galeto is the nearest thing to a genuine American diner in Lisbon, and the original mid-60s décor is a real eye opener. The long bar snakes around the entire floor with swivel stools set alongside -- great for a solitary snack. The booths, meanwhile, can seat groups of four. They've been feeding the sleepless here for nearly 50 years and it remains a celebrated comfort food destination. The service will never win any prizes for finesse, but dishes like the juicy burger and French fries will keep even the hungriest visitor fuelled till dawn. (+351 21 354 4444)
Café de São Bento
Famed for its classic Café de São Bento steak -- succulent mignon fillet smothered in a rich homemade pepper sauce -- this historic eatery (over 30 years old) is a Lisbon late night treat. The ground floor is styled in the Victorian manner, all leather-bound stools, plump upholstered seating and heavy wood panelling, and the ambiance is deliberately traditional and exclusive, almost like a gentleman's club. Complementing the signature steak dishes is a menu of equally delicious starters -- regional hams, cheeses and even smoked salmon served with rucola and garnished with honey and lime vinaigrette. Desserts include a tangy lemon sorbet enlivened with a shot of vodka! A wide range of wines, many from the Douro, heightens an already imaginative drinks list. (+351 213 952 911)
About Paul Bernhardt
Paul Bernhardt cut his teeth as a press photographer in England before leaving the UK to settle in Portugal, where he has lived for over a decade, and where he started to focus on more travel-related topics. He has journeyed the length and breadth of his adopted homeland and its islands, interacting with locals and photographing a fascinating range of subjects.
Paul waxes lyrical for a number of specialist travel magazines, blogs and websites, and Lisbon is a frequent subject. In fact, he never tires of rediscovering this most beguiling city, usually over a coffee at his favorite downtown café.
Read more about Paul Bernhardt here.