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Informal eateries – casual dining in Lisbon



Looking for a place to eat, somewhere laidback and informal? Casual dining in Lisbon offers up some appetising options, a choice of cafes and restaurants that serve delicious food in a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere. Casa de Pasto in the city’s Cais do Sodré district attracts a young, fun-loving crowd who appreciate the whacky décor as much as the inventive menu. Up in Bairro Alto meanwhile, the smart new Cevejaria do Bairro gets them going with a mouth-watering menu of fresh fish and seafood. A more rustic theme greets diners at Maria Catita, a traditional Portuguese restaurant located in the Baxia neighbourhood. Similarly, back in Principe Real, Tascardoso is known for its menu of regional fare. If you’re exploring Lisbon’s Alcântara area check out the LX Factory complex where there are a number of eateries including the charming and offbeat Café do Fábrica. On the other hand, if pizza’s your thing, grab a table at Mercantina in Chiado and dine like an Italian. Not far away is the quirky Adega de São Roque the interior of which is festooned with football scarves and fado music posters – very local! Lisbon has its own Hard Rock music shrine on Avenida da Liberdade, where the Hard Rock Smoke House serves up tasty American comfort food and the requisite rock memorabilia. For a rather more refined ambiance, amble over to Chiado and the lovely Café no Chiado. They have a terrace that faces the opera house and a tramline arrows past the front door. But if you really want to let your hair down while eating well, drop by Hennessey’s Irish Pub for some good old pub grub and a pint of the black stuff.  

  

 

 


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Cais do Sodré/Santos
Hennessey's Irish Pub
Photo courtesy of Photo © Paul Bernhardt


A boisterous night out is guaranteed at this lively Irish bar, especially on live music nights when diners are encouraged to join in the chorus of traditional folk ditties and other Gaelic classics. The tasty pub grub includes pie, pasta and Portuguese staples such as cod stew and other fish dishes. Whenever possible, the kitchen sources locally produced ingredients and shies away from anything resembling fast food. The pub is on two floors, with the upstairs a little more conducive for those wishing to enjoy their meal in relative peace (the main bar is on the ground floor). Hennessy's is big on sport and several TV screens are placed on walls throughout the premises allowing various tournaments and competitions to be screened simultaneously. There's also free WiFi. Naturally, the beers flow easily on these occasions, including the ubiquitous Guinness.

Recommended for Casual Dining because: A great place to unwind with friends for a carefree night out, Hennessey's is what you'd expect from an Irish themed bar and restaurant.

Paul's expert tip: It can get crowded and noisy when a major sports tournament is being screened, and St Patrick's Night is simply a riot of fun and frolics.

Read more about Hennessey's Irish Pub →


Owned by the National Centre of Culture, this historic dining venue tucked away in a quiet corner of Chiado is a favourite meeting point for city intellectuals – artists, writers and musicians, among others. The restaurant is styled under an arched, block-stone ceiling and enclosed by colourful walls and bookshelves brimming with literature. An attractive outside terrace faces the number 28 tram track and looks over Lisbon's opera house. The eclectic menu numbers fresh tempting salads, vegetarian risottos, various steaks and seriously healthy fast food – check out their hamburgers with green pepper and fresh spinach. Desserts include belt loosening Belgium chocolate cake and lemon meringue pie. The prata do dia – the day's specials – are always good value.

Read more about Café no Chiado →




The Hard Rock Café Lisboa is already known for its international menu, but its Southern & Smoked options celebrate the traditional recipes of America's Deep South. This is comfort food at its finger-licking best, with an authentic menu of BBQ specials prepared by smoke king Isaac Tiger. He draws his inspiration from the rural kitchens of Kentucky, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama and Mississippi to produce plates such as gut-bustin' hickory-smoked ribs, chicken wings, and pulled chicken sandwich, all served with ample sides of sweet coleslaw, spicy Cayenne peppers, hot jalapenos, melted cheese and other trimmings, and garnished with all sorts of fabulous sauces. Isaac works his magic using the slow smoke cooking system and fuels his oven with cedar, maple and oak as well as hickory to obtain that distinctive country-style flavour.

Recommended for Casual Dining because: Chef Issac uses a smoking oven that costs thousands of dollars, so diners know they'll be tucking into the real deal.

Paul's expert tip: For a real treat, go for the hickory-smoked BBQ combo – ribs, chicken and pulled pork, with fries, homemade muffin and coleslaw. Awesome!

Read more about Hard Rock Smoke House →


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Bairro Alto/Principe Real

The wooden deck terrace outside this typical Portuguese restaurant provides a delightfully al fresco lunch setting on one of Lisbon's most attractive streets. The food is traditional, the menu listing a decent selection of meat and fish dishes, with house specials for two persons comprising seafood plates such as squid cataplana with clams. Alternatively, order soup and salad if you don't want to fill yourself up. When the weather's playing up, a table inside will reveal Adega de São Roque's true colours, in fact dozens of them. The interior is a veritable shrine to football, with shirts, scarves and pennants from Portuguese and European clubs festooning the walls and ceilings. The restaurant also pays homage to Portuguese culture, especially fado and bullfighting, with prints, mementoes and artefacts adding to the decoration that provide a wonderfully traditional atmosphere at night.

Read more about Adega de São Roque →


With its pinewood chairs and tables, an industrial canteen veneer and dolce vita ambiance, this smart new pizzeria has quickly charmed its way into Lisbon's casual dining scene. Illustrating the Italian verve is a panel of black and white images depicting Roma and Napoli in the 1960s – all Fiats, Piaggios and Sophia Loren. The menu sizzles with pizza, pasta and risotto, with all sorts of combos available. Fish and meat dishes – dal mare e dalla terra – complement the list, and vegetarians are well taken care of. Wine choice is divided between Italian and Portuguese labels, and there are beers, spirits and decent cocktails served at the bar.

Read more about Mercantina →


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24 de Julho & Docas/Alcantara

If you're exploring Lisbon's Alcântara district and find yourself in the LX Factory complex, seek out this delightful little tavern if a quick wholesome belly filler is required. Mind you, you'll be forgiven for thinking you've stumbled into the late 1960s and somebody's front room – the décor is seriously vintage, grammar school canteen-ish even, with odd chairs and tables spread over a wooden floor between walls festooned with shelves of dog-eared books, old ceramic plates and antique commercial signage. As for the food, it's homemade and yummy and nods towards traditional Portuguese cookbook recipes. On warm days setting extends to an outside terrace, but beware the resident pigeons home in on anybody willing to part with a few crumbs.

Read more about Café da Fábrica →


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Bairro Alto/Principe Real


They don't stand on ceremony at this tiny tasca, set on a side street just off Praça do Principe Real. But then that's not really the point. Instead, this rustic and informal eatery is fêted for its traditional Portuguese cuisine, served promptly and without fuss. Indeed, all you need to do is turn up to savour regional dishes from across the country (but you may have wait for a table). The menu also features some unusual delicacies, including corvine – a thick cut steak of croaker fish, grilled to perfection, or chocos assados com tinta (cuttlefish grilled in its own ink). More conventional palates are also catered for: if you want an omelette, just ask. The wine list is selective but good – the house red is very often a wholly agreeable Ermelinda Freitas.

Recommended for Casual Dining because: A little-known gastronomic gem, Tascardoso is highly regarded by locals, but out-of-towners and foreigners are catching on fast.

Paul's expert tip: Besides offering an authentic taste of Portugal, this wonderful little restaurant is excellent value for money, but you'll need to turn up early to secure a table.

Read more about Tascardoso →




The easy-going atmosphere at this rustically styled downtown eatery belies the excellent menu of home style cooking. The cusine is traditional Portuguese – tasty fare prepared from hand-me-down recipes and plated up in a friendly, no-nonsense way. Meals can be ordered tapas style – smaller bite-sized portions – or served as larger individual dishes. The accompanying wines reflect Portugal's noble wine-producing heritage, but a jug of Maria's sangria is equally appealing, especially on warm evenings. The restaurant doubles up as a deli of sorts where visitors can purchase various wines including port, teas and infusions, olive oil and other regional produce.

Recommended for Casual Dining because: Excellent value for money and run by a team of multi-lingual waiting staff, Maria Catita epitomises the regional restaurant but in a wonderfully informal manner.

Paul's expert tip: It's wise to book ahead if you plan to arrive after 8pm.

Read more about Maria Catita →


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Bairro Alto/Principe Real

A mellow vibe underpins the feel-good factor at this cozy establishment, an ambiance further enhanced by a chic, minimalist interior design. As with all Lisbon beer hall menus, it's the fish and seafood selection that catches the eye, from starters like sardines served on a bed of onions and paprika, delicacies such as sea bream with sautéed spinach and main meals which include grilled octopus with baked potatoes – all hearty and healthy traditional fare. The protein offer extends to various meat dishes, a popular choice being Black Angus steak hamburger with fried egg, and there are also salad options. The wine list is good, but if it's a hot summer's night, you'll probably prefer one of their ice-cold beers. And the clincher? This place is located right in the heart of Lisbon's party zone, Bairro Alto.

Read more about Cervejaria do Bairro →


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Cais do Sodré/Santos

"This is a menu based on traditional Portuguese cooking," declares Diogo Noronha. "It's designed according to the seasons and balanced with all sorts of complementary flavours." Casa de Pasto's chef uses an entire cookbook of regional ingredients to great effect, and works a lot with dried fruits and a bewildering array of spices to garnish and season the results. Half the menu reads as a tapas-style selection, Portuguese petiscos like scrumptious shrimp croquette and melt-in-your-mouth cod fish cakes. These are perfect options for the casual lunchtime diner. There's also a choice of 'Delicacies and Treats' where Chef Noronha has created surprises such as roasted wild mushroom crumble with orange and São Jorge cheese from the Azores. This funky finger food is an ideal option for the casual lunchtime diner, or perfect hors d'oeuvres before a main meal. Principal dishes are divided between fish and meat courses, and where Mediterranean and international influences work well – try the Mozambique shrimp rice colourfully garnished with tomato, saffron and tobiko. Wine choice is excellent and represents much of the country. In fact, the bar offers an exciting range of drinks including cocktails, all skilfully prepared and served entertainingly.

Read more about Casa de Pasto →


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Meet 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...  More About Paul

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