A foodie’s guide to Lisbon, Portugal

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on RachelKhoo.com and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

Vacations to Portugal’s capital conjure images of beautifully patterned tiled walls, cobblestone streets, friendly locals and, naturally, its moreish cuisine. We asked Khoollector, foodie and blogger Hayley Sackett of Scrumptious Sacketts to share tales of her recent travels to Lisbon. Here’s what she told us …

At the beginning of April I went for a long weekend to Lisbon, Portugal. As usual, I did a lot of research beforehand and had a jam-packed itinerary. Sampling the local cuisine was high on my priority list, so there was plenty of food and drink places to try. My travel companion and I arrived late on a Friday night to our accommodation, based very centrally in Cais do Sodré.

The sun was streaming through the windows on Saturday morning so we set out on a mission to sample the famous custard tarts at Pastéis de Belém. This is easily accessed by train or bus; but when exploring cities, if possible, I try to walk so I can get a real feel for the place, (and it allows me to build up those steps on my Fitbit!). This was just over an hour’s walk along the River Tagus. We stopped off for lunch at Ar de Mar, where I ordered pork and clams, which I’d heard is a traditional Portuguese dish. It came in a bowl loaded with sweet, rich pork and salty clams, cooked in a lovely roasted red pepper, paprika, garlic, and white wine sauce, served with fried potato cubes. The sweetness of the pork contrasted with the salty clams to provide a unique taste.

After lunch we continued along the River Tagus until we spotted the impressive Padrão dos Descobrimentos (which when translated into English means ‘The Monument to the Discoveries’). Created by Cottinelli Telmo and the sculptor Leopoldo de Almeida, it was designed to celebrate the Age of Discovery. Across from the monument, was Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a beautifully constructed former monastery of the Order of Saint Jerome.

A short walk down from the monastery is the famous Pastéis de Belém, which was flooded with tourists, eager to get a taste of the famous tarts made from a secret recipe passed down from the neighbouring monastery. Despite the queue, we quickly got served – four custard tarts to go. The tarts were delicious – lovely warm custard inside crispy pastry. With full bellies and 15,000 steps under our belts we decided to get the train back to Cais do Sodré.

From the station, we walked to Praça do Comércio, which is surely the grandest of Lisbon’s squares lined with traditional yellow painted buildings. And, in the centre sits a statue of King José. The north side of the square is home to the the decorative and ornate archway named Arco da Rua Augusta.

From here, we walked along the cobbled streets through the colourful and quaint ancient side of the city known as the Alfama neighbourhood. We climbed the steep side streets and challenging hills to São Jorge Castle where you experience terrific 360-degree views of Lisbon.

As the evening drew in, we thought it was time to get a drink, so we went to Park Bar, Calçada do Combro, 58. This bar is located on top of a car park and isn’t signposted anywhere. We walked past it several times and it wasn’t until we spotted the trees on top of a car park that we were able to pinpoint its location. We joined a queue of young, trendy people for the elevator to take us up to the seventh floor. It felt like we’d all be invited to a secret party! Park had a really cool vibe, with great views over the city, and yummy cocktails.

For dinner we decided to go to Segundo Muelle. The restaurant served Peruvian-style food and the menu had all sorts of interesting and exotic dishes on offer. Our waiter brought us over some deep-fried banana crisps, corn with spicy sauce, and quinoa and pumpkin bread, which were all absolutely delicious. For my main meal I had Tacu Tanque, which was rice stuffed with smoked salmon, covered in a creamy sauce with mixed shellfish.

The next day, we got up and went to breakfast at Tartine. The bakery at the front offers an impressive range of fresh Portuguese-style bread, pastries and cakes. Walk through to the back and there is a café perfect for enjoying a cup of coffee and a delicious plate of eggs benedict on freshly baked brioche, or a wide selection of tartines (otherwise known as an open sandwich).

After breakfast, we walked over to Rossio station where we took a 40-minute train to Sintra. Situated in the mountains, Sintra is very pretty with buildings that looked like they could be from a fairytale. After a couple of hours exploring, we headed back to Rossio and made our way to the restaurant Cervejaria Ramiro, which was on my must-visit list. This hugely successful business was started by the Ramiro family who pride themselves on selling only the best shellfish. Expect to queue at any time of day. We sat down at our table and were given a plate stacked high with Portuguese bread drizzled with olive oil. We ordered garlic prawns, which came in a pan of sizzling oil, and loads of garlic and clams that arrived in a garlic sauce, great for dunking the bread. Both dishes tasted incredible. After our seafood had been cleared away, we were presented with our dessert: ‘Classic Prego’ a deliciously tender steak sandwich. While the idea of a steak sandwich for dessert is quite difficult to get your head round, as soon as I’d taken my first bite I could see exactly why this dish had become such a popular option at this quite incredible eatery.

Conveniently, The Lisbon Time Out Market was a stone’s throw away from our apartment. The market opened its doors in 2014 and receives more than two million visitors a year. It houses 34 kiosks, all offering a great selection of fresh food made to order with rows of table and chairs allowing you to casually dine among the wide range of establishments. We walked around the stalls several times and mulled over our choices with a couple of beers. My decision was made when a young guy sat opposite us with a king prawn pad Thai from Asian Lab.

Before our flight home on the Monday, we returned to the Time Out Market for one last visit. We had a couple of hours to kill so started our feast off with some meat and cheese; the ham was locally sourced from Alentejo and was complemented superbly by the deliciously creamy Azeitão sheep’s cheese. We then shared a dish of mushrooms, prawns and Portuguese sausage cooked in a tomato, paprika and wine sauce. To finish, I enjoyed a large bowl of octopus rice, which was full of delicious pieces of purple octopus.

Lisbon was fantastic; it had everything: beauty, history, liveliness and great weather. There is so much to explore, both from a cultural and food perspective. We were very sad to leave and would definitely love to go back again one day to sample more of the delicious food and drink that it has to offer.

Have you been to Lisbon? What are your must-see recommendations? 

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