Lunch in Lisbon can be a memorable experience. With so many restaurants in different locations to choose from, where do you decide on a place to eat? If you appreciate a river view with your order, grab a terrace table at Restaurante Espaço Espelho d’Agua, located on the Belém waterfront. On the other hand, if you’ve been exploring the city’s Chiado district why not drop by Pizzaria Lisboa for a taste of Italy, or the wonderful Sea Me where the menu lists a veritable ocean harvest. Also in the vicinity is the charming Royale Café. For those staying in and around the Alcântara neighbourhood there’s the trendy LX Factory to discover and where you’ll find the offbeat Cantina LX. Back in the city meanwhile is the popular Floresta do Salitre, located on a side street off Avenida da Liberdade. Sightseeing is all part of the Lisbon experience and if after taking in the city’s castle you fancy eating in the Castelo district, opt for Chapitô à Mesa: the food’s delicious and the downtown views spectacular! Fancy Spanish-style tapas? At Mesón Andaluz they come from as far as Madrid to sample a menu – a great complement indeed! Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhood, Alfama, is a fantastic to discover, but you can work up quite an appetite while doing so. In that case pause at the homely Bistrô & Brechó Gato Pardo, a tiny restaurant that resembles an old-fashioned front room and where cats are adored. And for another lunch option with fabulous views, bag a table on the esplanade at Portas do Sol and chill out in languid comfort.
Portas do Sol
If you're looking for lunch with a fabulous view then the "Doors to the Sun" are worth opening. This trendy café-restaurant crowns a lofty terrace in Lisbon's historic Alfama district. The panorama over the terracotta rooftops and chalk white church domes is truly memorable, and the river beyond adds a suitable backdrop. The food here is excellent, the menu erring towards light and easy meals, wholesome and nourishing. The pasta of the day is worth trying, and the mini burgers made with traditional Portuguese sausage and topped with egg are always popular. The restaurant interior exudes a bright and breezy ambiance, but it's the spacious esplanade that draws the crowds. This is prime real estate and outside tables are quickly snapped up. Seating arrangements include charcoal coloured sofas and plump beanbags. (+351 21 885 1299)
Bistrô & Brechó Gato Pardo
Mario and Werner love cats. It's why they named their restaurant after a feline (the bistro's logo resembles a domestic cat but with the spots of a leopard). This place is like walking into someone's front room, and the domestic ambiance is tangible. Vintage wooden furniture is used throughout, with leather-clad chairs and an old sofa adding to the lived-in appeal. Werner is from Switzerland so he's embellished the menu with a selection of crêpes, both sweet and savoury. The international flavour is further enhanced with dishes like ravioli funghi porcini. Portuguese options include prato tira-gostos com pão, and the kitchen always offers a dish of the day. When it gets really busy (especially Tuesday and Saturday lunchtimes due to crowds visiting a nearby flea market) tables are set outside on the sidewalk. From here, diners can gaze at the trams trundling past São Vicente de Fora church. (+351 934 696 871)
The mouth-watering selection of tapas at this enchanting Spanish restaurant is on par with anything Madrid can rustle up. Tasty appetizers listed include pumpkin soup with curd cheese and wild fruits, garlic prawns bathed in virgin olive oil, and piquillo peppers stuffed with cod. The 'Classic' menu inspires with dishes like lamb shoulder over a carrot and pimento pardon (green Galician pepper) purée. These main courses, and some desserts, appear at the table served not on a plate but instead on a wedge of slate – a delightfully simple and effect presentation. Wines include a Duende from the Alentejo, made by one André Herrera de Almeida, who just happens to be the son of the restaurant's owner, Ilídio. Mesón Andaluz's interior blends a contemporary design signature with original 19th-century walls, but an outside terrace allows for al fresco dining – great for lunch in warmer weather. (+351 21 460 0659, +351 939 502 803)
Chapitô à Mesa
Chapito is Lisbon's famed circus school and performing arts centre located a couple of minutes' walk from Castelo de Sáo Jorge. Its restaurant is one of the quirkiest in town, a colourful and vibrant eatery set in a mustard-hued townhouse. Tables are also set outside across a courtyard and a small covered terrace, and diners are treated to a spectacular downtown panorama. Food is deliciously appetising – the menu lists fresh crunchy salads (try the mackerel and boguerones) all bursting with goodness, seafood dishes such as octopus and sweet potato, and assorted toasted sandwiches and tempting desserts. Specials of the day are chalked up on a blackboard. Wine is served by the glass as well as by bottle – a dry white works wonders on a hot day! Given its location and the quality of service, a meal here is excellent value for money. Furthermore, the vibe is offbeat, eclectic and seriously friendly. All this under the same hat! (+351 21 887 5077)
Floresta do Salitre
Don't be surprised if you end up waiting to be seated lunchtimes at this lively little restaurant: Floresta do Salitre is a favourite with lisboetas seeking midday sustenance, and local office workers – secretaries, admin bods and probably even their managing directors – snap up many of the tables. The food is typical Portuguese fare, homemade and served promptly with minimum fuss. They're big on seafood here, with a delicious array of grilled fish options embellishing a menu that also lists food from the countryside – lamb, chicken and pork dishes variously prepared and representing different regions of Portugal. Complementing the gastronomy are wines sold by the glass or available by the bottle. (+351 21 354 7605)
Located west of the city centre at Alcântara's LX Factory complex, Cantina LX exudes a shabby chic atmosphere where a miss-match of hand-me-down chairs and tables are set in a former warehouse space to lend the restaurant a delightfully informal, almost haphazard canteen appearance. The food is wholesome and refreshingly uncomplicated, and for the most part traditional Portuguese. At its simplest, you can order wood oven-baked chicken with roasted new red potatoes (cooked in full view of diners). There's also the interesting swordfish with tomato rice ensemble. The lunch menu changes every day so you never quite know what to expect. Occasionally they'll design a country themed menu – cuisine from Turkey was a recent hit. For dessert, see if the apple pie is up. Simply delicious! (+351 21 362 8239)
Chef Dolores Lopes is justifiably proud of the menu she's created for this elegant bistro. The cuisine speaks of healthy and balanced eating, of textures and flavours typical of Portugal and southern Europe. Appetizers draw on Mediterranean influences, with options like Greek Tzatziki and North African hummus. Her culinary prowess is further exemplified by contemporary arrangements of traditional Portuguese recipes to produce "Magusto" chicken thighs stuffed with chestnut and smoked sausage and octopus with potato and turnip greens, to name just two dishes. The "Royale Desserts" include an indulgent chocolate cake with forest fruits and ice cream. Some excellent wines (try the Fartote from the Douro) complement the food, and the restaurant also has a selection of artisan beers. On Sundays and Bank Holidays the kitchen rustles up a fine brunch. (+351 21 346 9125, +351 93 861 1370)
In English Peixaria Moderna means "modern fish market", and this is exactly what this stylish eatery functions as. The selection of seasonal fresh fish and seafood is outstanding, and rather than hidden away in the kitchen the "catch" is displayed across a balcony on the restaurant floor. The idea is that customers choose their meal as if shopping at a market, with a member of the waiting staff on hand to help with making the decision. And it can be a tough call. The choice is bewildering, with dozens of different fish and shellfish caught in various grounds along the Portuguese coast providing a tempting ocean harvest. Sea Me is also a sushi bar so if you prefer, you can turn to Japan for tempura, sashimi and other delights from the land of the rising sun. (+351 21 346 1564)
One of Lisbon's busiest chefs still finds time to run this smart pizza joint, and his reputation alone guarantees a flavour-packed dining experience. José Avillez owns several eateries in the city, including the celebrated Belcanto, distinguished with two Michelin stars. But catering to gastronomy's top-tier clientele has not meant abandoning his street credentials and fuelled by his passion for food, the young Portuguese chef created Pizzaria Lisboa not only as a celebration of Mediterranean cuisine, but as a homage to the Portuguese capital. Indeed, each pizza is named after a city district (except for one called "28" after the number of a tram), which means there are plenty to choose from. A selection of tasty pasta and risotto dishes further enhances the menu. And if you're still not convinced, any restaurant that has among its starters beef carpaccio with foie gras shavings sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and is served with a truffle aroma is certainly worth a look in. (+351 21 155 4445)
Restaurante Espaço Espelho d'Agua
Lunch at this wonderful eatery is served with an inspiring view over the river. Diners however are also treated to an extraordinary piece of history in that the restaurant is located in an art deco building dating from 1940. The space reflects the original period décor and carefully refurbished additions, including a terrace that sits over a splendid water feature. The cafeteria serves a variety of wholesome snacks plus a selection of more substantial dishes, including lunchtime specials. If you prefer to dine in a little more style, the restaurant proper features a menu of traditional Portuguese cuisine and a select wine list. And of course you can always opt for drink the esplanade while soaking in the balmy waterfront atmosphere. (+351 21 301 0510)
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.
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