You could spend years eating your way through Portugal's hilly capital. Here's where to start
Tourism to Portugal continues to rise steadily, and if you look at the current caliber of restaurants, it makes sense why. Lisbon has established itself as one of Europe's most invigorating culinary capitals, with chefs reimagining Portuguese cooking in a way that still honors, and makes great use of, the country's bounty of produce, seafood, meat and cheese.
Here are five Lisbon restaurants—some new, some old—that you won't want to miss when you're visiting the city. Word to the wise: Eat all the cod.
An acronym of the expression "je ne sais quoi," JNcQUOI aspires to be just that: an indescribable distillation of quality and unpredictability. The contemporary, globally-minded menu is very successful (and validates the buzz), but the refined updates of traditional Portuguese dishes delight the most. Try the Portuguese cod fish cakes with brothy rice and the garlicky pica-pau.
Av. da Liberdade 182-184, 1250-146 Lisboa, Portugal
The newest restaurant in José Avillez's Lisbon empire (Avillez was the first Portuguese chef to earn a restaurant two Michelin stars, at his flagship, Belcanto), Beco is one of the most whimsical places to eat in a famously whimsical city. In the very back of Bairro do Avillez, past the wooden door and black velvet curtain, there is an intimate, low-lit room dedicated to cabaret that was once an eleventh-century chapel of the Trindade Convent. Beco's menu is exceedingly playful, with sorbet served in diamond-shaped plates and a drink, called “Narcissus,” served on a mirror. (If you're able to pull off a reservation, visit Belcanto, too.)
R. Nova da Trindade 18, 1200-303 Lisboa
Restaurante A Gina
This aggressively un-trendy alley restaurant is the ideal place to eat to escape any semblance of scene. There is no better way to start than with the spectacular board of Portuguese cheeses, followed by a two-foot-high skewer of grilled squid and vegetables. What A Gina lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in hearty, satisfying food steeped in tradition (and super-fresh ingredients.)
Parque Mayer, 1250-164 Lisboa
Firmly rooted in Portuguese gastronomy, João Rodrigues' lively approach to traditional flavors has earned him global recognition (and a Michelin star for Feitoria) for good reason. This is one of the best spots in Lisbon to splurge on a four- or six-plate tasting menu, depending on your hunger level. The bright, sunny space offers lovely views of the city and harbor.
R. Coelho da Rocha 104, 1350-007 Lisboa, Portugal
Located inside the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade hotel, this cervejaria (a typical Portuguese eatery) specializes in super-fresh seafood sourced from all around the country. If you aren't able to make it to the south of Portugal, sample otherworldly Algarvian prawns, or a raw tower that rivals any you'd find in Paris. (Don't miss the mini lobsters from nearby Cascais, either.) The hot food satisfies, too, with unmissable spicy pork pica-pau, Bulhão Pato clams and grouper and prawn rice.
Tivoli Avenida Liberdade, 185, Avenida da Liberdade, Lisboa, 1269-050