The stylish Royale Café, the interior of which has been designed by the restaurant's owner — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Not surprising, perhaps, as this bijou eatery – located in the heart of the city’s elegant Chiado quarter – is owned by a design professional whose attention to detail transcends the kitchen to embrace a stylishly understated salon.
The restaurant's interior follows a minimalist Scandinavian design concept — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Architect-turned-restaurateur Ana Faro has successfully run Royale Café for nearly 10 years. Over that period, the restaurant has garnered a reputation as a culinary rendezvous point, an informal place to eat, drink and relax.
The look is purposefully Scandinavian, where clean lines, lots of wood and bright neutral colors have conspired to create a mood of minimalist wellbeing.
Faro oversees a handpicked team of dedicated staff, like-minded individuals who share her enthusiasm for good food, fine wines and breezy joie de vivre. She also designs the restaurant’s menu, but it's Chef Dolores Lopes who delivers the goods.
Eating at Royale Café, diners are introduced to imaginative cooking that draws on traditional Portuguese recipes. Lopes also turns towards the Mediterranean and North Africa for inspiration. (Try the hummus dip with tahini, garlic and Greek yoghurt drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.)
The hamburger at Royale Café makes for a popular lunchtime choice — Photo courtesy of Ana Faro / Royale Café
Lopes' creativity is exemplified by Cod Espiritual, a fish dish wrapped in filo pastry crowned with shrimp, served on a bed of mixed crunchy leaf salad and bathed in a coriander sauce. Yummy!
A popular standby is the Hamburger Royale, an exotic alliance of protein in pita bread with tzatziki, bacon and melted cheese under a poached egg.
Main dishes include tasty purple salad with stuffed and garnished sweet potato — Photo courtesy of Ana Faro / Royale Café
For non-meat eaters, the purple salad – a beguiling medley of sweet potato stuffed with goat’s cheese and tomato garnished with sesame seed and fresh coriander – is a great veggie alternative. Follow this up with a slice of dark, rich Royale chocolate cake, and you’ll understand why indulgence need never be a dirty word.
Royale's chocolate cake, with forest fruits — Photo courtesy of Ana Faro / Royale Café
Drink options are heightened by a connoisseur’s choice of wines, including fine reserves and some interesting artisan beers. Royale Café can also be described as a teahouse: Oriental green tea, Earl Grey and a host of infusions are available. But on hot days, be sure to order a glass of their special tangy lemonade mixed with fruits of the forest.
Reclining in your chair and taking in the restaurant’s mellow vibe, it’s hard to believe that Royale Café was born out of a dilapidated 19th-century townhouse long fallen into disrepair. As an architect, Faro recognized the building’s potential for refurbishment and set about transforming the forlorn structure, gutting the interior and knocking out walls.
She preserved one uniquely Portuguese detail for posterity: the original solid stone portal, replete with filigree ironwork, set back in the hall.
The building's original 19th-century portal, reflected through a mirror placed in the lobby — Photo courtesy of Paul Bernhardt
Royale Café is open daily for lunch and dinner. Sunday brunch is certainly worth considering. (The omelettes are mixed using cheese from São Jorge in the Azores.)
A garden terrace at the rear of the building features a lush verdant plant wall and offers the best seats in the house, snapped up quickly during balmy summer days. Tables are also set on the esplanade out front.
Lately, Faro has introduced a very English concept to the menu, delicious scones for “mornings and warm afternoons." Served with butter and jam or a choice of other fillings such as honey or ham, this is arguably the simplest and most civilized way of dining out at Royale Café.
Very English! Royale's scones are served with butter and jams — Photo courtesy of Ana Faro / Royale Café