When your job requires you to spend a few days in Lisbon, you book-end that with a few days for yourself. And you ask your Lindsay to join you. We left on Saturday the 22nd.
After a little Uber hiccup we sailed to, and then through, Pearson. We ordered a bite at the wine bar near our gate (some of which went missing; RIP lox plate) and I had my last sip of Canadian wine — Southbrook Chardonnay — for a while.
We had to book economy class, so we knew it was going to be a cramped 7+ hours. We didn’t know quite the adventure we were in for through. Just before we took off the flight attendants switched someone into the window seat next to us, who’d originally been at the back of the plane. We crammed our legs into the seats and tried to watch movies to pass the time and ignore the German family behind us who kept bashing our seats. I managed to finish Hacksaw Ridge and we were trying to watch Office Christmas Party at the same time when the lady in the window seat had to puke. And puke she did, including in our row a little bit before she got to the washroom. The flight attendants cleaned it up before she came back and took her seat…and then puked again later. It made for a disruptive movie-watching experience, but hey…at least we weren’t puking. Or covered in puke. Still…not the best transatlantic flight I’ve ever had.
We landed in Frankfurt pretty early, cleared customs, and then hung out in that shitty airport for three hours waiting for our connection to Lisbon. It was too early to even get a decent currywurst. The less said about FRA, the better.
Our flight to Lisbon was MUCH better — no one sat next to us, so we could spread out a bit, and even got an hour or so of sleep. We arrived a few hours later in sunny, warm Lisbon. I’d arranged for a driver to pick us up, and he drove us to our AirBnB near Belem. We settled in, showered, made a plan for the day, and set out.
We walked to Enoteca de Belem to have lunch, but they were full up so we made a dinner reservation instead and kept walking. We walked past the Jardim de Belem, past the bustling Pasteis de Belem, past the huge & beautiful Jeronimos monastery, and along the waterfront past the impressive Padrao dos Descobrimentos. We finally stopped and had a drink and lunch at A Margem, in the shade because it was so sunny and warm. (Suck it, Canada.) After a while we walked back, wishing we had cash for the vendors who sell wine and and craft beer by the river.
We took a short nap, then got ready for dinner. We couldn’t have picked a better place for our first Lisbon meal either: Enoteca de Belem was amazing.
- Tiger prawn
- Sparkling wine
- Grouper w/ clams rice, pato sauce
- Red? Yes…red. Pretty sure it was red. (Surely.)
- Creme brulee + coffee ice cream
- Late harvest Moscatel
- Some other dessert wine
That grouper will absolutely end up on my list of best things I ate in 2017. Anyway, we decided we needed more dessert. We were too late to buy any Pasteis de Belem, but got some other custard tarts nearby. We walked home, ate tarts on our little balcony, and looked up at the stars. Not a bad first day in Lisbon.
We needed a work day, so we got up pretty early and moved on to our second hotel: the Corinthia Lisbon in Campolide. We ordered a little room service, admired the place, and did a bit of work. Eventually we got hungry and went round the corner to a real, legit Lisbon feedbag: A Carvoaria where we ordered way too much food (veal short ribs with chickpeas and french fries, cod with boiled potatoes and boiled egg, aka bacalau, and so on) and a beer (our choices: “Beer, dark beer, or imported beer.”) before crawling back to the hotel and attempting more work. At least we were working outside where it was beautiful.
We decided to have dinner in Chiado, so we caught an Uber — which are incredibly cheap in Lisbon, by the way — to Sommelier Lisbon. It started out a little weird, with a slightly awkward server, but it picked up as the evening went on and a second host took over and taught us a lot about Portuguese wine. Besides, any place with a wall of 9 Enomatic machines has to be pretty good, right? I’ve captured our meal below; regrettably I didn’t capture our wines exactly, and their menu isn’t online to jog my memory.
- Bread w/ served with carbonara, red peppers and olive oil mousses
- Beetroot cream soup w/ orange and a coconut yogurt iceberg
- Croquettes w/ slow-cooked oxtail and veal
- Pinot Noir from Douro
- Octopus tentacles w/ olive oil and garlic, garnished with brussel cabbage, baby carrots, pea sauce
- New York Steak aged 23 days
- Quinta Red Blend
- Papo De Anjo w/ Moscatel reduction, goat cheese ice cream, and caramelized peanuts
- Late harvest Moscatel
Another cheap Uber back to the hotel and we were more than done for the night.
Big time sleep-in. Big time room service breakfast order. Big time work catch-up following. Once again we worked at the hotel until mid-afternoon or so. Our plan was to Uber back to Belem, to see the Museu Arte Arquitetura Tecnologia we’d not had time to see our first time in Belem. First, though, we got some pizza and sushi (!) with a view at Este/Oeste in the lovely Centro Cultural de Belém.
We walked back toward the MAAT along the main Belem drag, past the hordes at Pasteis de Belem, and finally arrived at MAAT — which was closed. It was a national holiday (Dia da Liberdade) but we’d thought the MAAT would remain open. We did sit and enjoy the view from the riverbank outside, and climbed on the roof for lovely views of the city, but left a little sad. This had been the one museum we’d both really wanted to see.
Sightly dejected, we got a taxi to Cerveteca, the oldest and highest-rated beer place in Lisbon. It was this amazing little room with a solid 12-beer draft selection, and a huge number of cans and bottles for sale, both drink-in or take-away. Apart from a really weird single mixer thing happening all around us, we had an amazing time. We had a tasting flight and three shared bottles, buying three more to enjoy over the rest of the week:
- Sahtipaja “Ich bin ein Berliner Passionista” Berliner w/ passion fruit
- Bax Kon Minder American Pale Ale
- Barona + Aroeira “Vila Morena” India Brown Ale
- Bersalis “Sourblend” sour ale
- Kompaan 39 “Bloedbroeder” smoked imperial stout
- Moriau Oude Gueuze Vieille
- To 0l Sur Yule sour
- Oud Beersel Oude Gueuze
After that we needed some serious food, and a quick app-look suggested a walk uphill to A Cevicheria. There’s almost always a line; we only had a ten minute wait, during which we were served an enormous gin + tonic from the takeout window and chatted with another couple from Toronto. Soon we were seated at the bar, ordering the tasting menu. I only remember bits and pieces of what we ate, but I do remember that it was GODDAMNED OUTSTANDING.
I spent my Wednesday at the conference; Lindsay spent hers working. We met back at MAAT after, since my conference was nearby. Once again, luck was against us: it was open, but only one exhibit was on. Still, it was a good one: Utopia/Dystopia. After that we took a LONG walk to dinner, but that length paid off in a few ways: first, we finally walked past Pasteis de Belem when there was no crowd, so we were able to experience them fresh and warm and holy shit are they ever amazing when they’re fresh and warm; second, we walked past the beautiful Torre de Belem and Monumento Combatentes Ultramar.
Just past that was Darwin’s Café, a slightly odd and slightly stuffy (at first, anyway) restaurant. We ate SO much though: grouper wrapped in puff pastry with coriander, dried tomato pesto and salad; veal carpaccio with rocket and parmesan; black spaghetti with stewed squid, bacon, mushrooms and parsley; and Portuguese garlic sausage risotto with fried egg. There was no room for dessert. Just an Uber home.
Day two at the conference for me, and more work for Lindsay. Once the conference wrapped and I got back to the hotel we grabbed our bags and took off to our third and final hotel of the trip, the Santiago de Alfama in the oldest part of town. What a stunning little hotel: a beautiful room, cute little courtyards and a rooftop terrace with a beautiful view, even a glass floor looking down at old Roman stairs discovered during construction.
We thought we’d look around a little before dinner, and walked toward the Castelo de Sao Jorge. Along the way we stopped in at Winebar do Castelo and, well…we never made it to the Castle. This place was great: a handful of tables in a triangular room, with an extremely helpful owner who used samples to narrow in on what we liked and what we didn’t, and fed us glasses from there. We had a couple each, and left for dinner, promising to return the next day.
Dinner was at Restaurante Bastardo, a recommendation from Lindsay’s friend. It took a while to find, and then it took the service a while to find itself, but the food was good. We shared the “street food” (bao, pork confit, radish spaghetti, yogurt sauce) and ceviche (shrimp, octopus, coconut milk, corn cream). Lindsay got the catch of the day (which was a river fish I can’t remember) with clam risotto and coriander sauce; I had the “Mr. Piggy 2.0” (slow-cooked pork cheek, parsnip, garden cress, Port). We split the crumble (almond quindim, apple, strawberry, crème anglaise) for dessert.
Our last full day in Lisbon. It felt like we’d been there for a month, and also like we’d just arrived. We started slow: breakfast in the hotel, working in the room for a while, and drinking a bottle of sour ale in the hotel’s courtyard during a break.
Finally we went out to see the city a bit more. We were hungry, so we headed out for lunch. All the places marked on my map were closed, though, so we ended up at a place called Maria Catita. It was definitely touristy, but still worked out pretty well: our shrimp starter was tasty, and then we shared this enormous seafood feast cooked in a copper pot called a cataplana. We split an order for one person; it ended up being too big for us to even finish. Our server gave us some ginja and sent us on our way.
We walked to the Praça do Comércio, hid in the shade for a bit, got some gelato, and then hired a tuk-tuk to take us up the hill(s) to the castle. There, or more accurately at the shops just below, we bought a few things to bring home, and then returned to the Winebar do Castelo. We intended to bring wine home with us, and thought it better to buy it from a place where we could taste everything first. We spent a long time working through tasting flights; even knowing what wine we’d like the day before he still brought us nine samples, of which we decided to buy five. He thanked us with a glass (okay, two glasses) of Taylor Fladgate 40 year old port. My god. What a beauty.
We continued the pre-dinner drinking on the hotel’s rooftop terrace, finishing off one of the bottles we’d brought from Cerveteca, before getting ready for dinner at Tágide. God, what a lovely restaurant, what excellent service, what a beautiful view, and what a final meal in Lisbon:
- Amuse Bouche (veal terrine)
- Couvert (bread, butter, extra virgin olive oil, salmon and dill paste)
- Foie-gras terrine with chocolate, rhubarb textures and honey sand
- Quail lollipop, papaya and furikake
- 2003 sparkling rose
- Veal sirloin matured for 40 days, potato and morel (Lindsay)
- Duck Magret, carrot and more carrot (Dan)
- Douro old vines red blend
- Chocolate trio, caramel and pear
I really wish I could remember the wines we had, or would stop trusting restaurant websites to carry them. They were both spectacular. Anyway, back at the hotel we finished off the night back on the rooftop terrace, drinking the final Cerveteca beer.
Somehow I mis-set the alarms (both of them) so nothing woke us up. Luckily I woke up around 7:15, and we scrambled to get ready. I checked out; Lindsay grabbed croissants and a turnover from the restaurant. We met our driver who dropped up at the airport. Not long after we were checked in and on our way home. A stop in London, a much-needed visit to the Park Plaza lounge at Heathrow, and then the long flight home. No puking this time, mercifully. We watched Miss Sloane, I watched Silence while Lindsay worked, and then we watched the brilliant first scene of Inglourious Basterds as we landed in Toronto. Customs, luggage, taxi, yada yada, and we were home. The wine, thankfully, made the trip unscathed.
All in all, it was an incredible trip. Honestly, I didn’t have terribly high hopes for Lisbon, but it was amazing. I’d place it in my five favourite international cities.
Boa noite Lisboa. Nos veremos novamente.