Saturday, April 23, 2016

A Padaria Portuguesa, Cervejaria Ramiro and Tartine Bakery in Lisbon, Portugal

Hi All,

Out of all the European cities Ive had the chance to venture to thus far in my time over here, Lisbon, Portugal has rapidly become one of my favorites.  I love the electric buzz in the air, the energy of the city.  I love the unique and elegantly tiled building fronts, totally gorgeous and eye-catching.  The worn, slightly crumbling apartments and building facades, yet despite their wear, bathed in attractive pastels of all shades.  And the food scene in Lisbon, from the little I was able to sample, is a noteworthy one.  That is why Ive decided to dedicate the topic of this entry to the top-notch places to eat that I experienced in Lisbon.

I will begin my food tour with Tartine bakery.  I had read this was an excellent choice for a sweet treat so I ventured here on my last day in Lisbon during my solo trip here last April, 2015.  I was not disappointed.  The inside is cozy, welcoming and wooded.  The one downside: in the upstairs seating area there aren't any windows so it feels a bit dark.  However the food more then made up for it.  I decided to go all out, as this was my last day of the trip.  I ordered a Pao de Deus (for the comparison factor), a sweet cheese tart, and a chocolate tart.  I enjoyed the first two of those items, along with a green tea, while relaxing in their cafe totally engrossed in The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt.  Absolutely delicious.  I battled inwardly not to order another cheese tart.  I took the chocolate one in a box to go, which I ate about an hour later sitting in one of the many bustling squares of the city.  I was shocked by how good it was.  The chocolate was firm but softened as I bit into it.  The crust was a lightly sweet almost sugar-cookie-like shell.  For that, I definitely wished I had snagged a second one to go.  I highly recommend this bakery.  Mouthwatering sweets for sure.

A Padaria Portuguesa.  Go here purely for the Pao de Deus.

I stumbled upon this place my very first afternoon in Lisbon, last April 2015 (again, during my solo trip).  I was a bit hungry and looking for a respite from the heat outside, as well as a brief rest.  So I strolled into this bakery.  I asked the friendly servers what they might recommend.  They asked if I preferred just any excellent sweet in general, or if I was looking for something Portuguese.  I requested the latter, to which they pointed enthusiastically at this (see first photo below).  Pao de Deus.  That translates roughly to mean "Bread of the Gods", and that is no understatement.  For those who know me personally, I am an avid lover of sweets.  A devoted consumer of all things dessert.  I have traveled far and wide, tasting loads of sweet things along the way.  This bread ranks among the top.  A sweet eggy/yeast bread, and then topped with a coconut/sugar paste of sorts.  My.  God.  Amazing.  I was blown away by it.  Deceptively simple and straight forward but packs a real punch in terms of deliciousness.

What is important to note: I was so smitten with this sweet that I tried it at a handful of other bakeries while on my solo trip last year.  None measured up to the one I had here at this cafe.  So, when you are in Lisbon and trying Pao de Deus (this isn't an option, its a must), pop in to one of these specific cafes (there are a few sprinkled around the city) and get it here.  You will not be disappointed.

This is the exact cafe I went to every evening of my April, 2015 trip to read my book and relax in the late evenings. <3

Cervejaria Ramiro is supposedly one of the top seafood restaurants in Lisbon.  My Mom and I dined here during our short but very sweet time in Lisbon at the beginning of this month (April, 2016).  All in all, I would agree with the claims that the food here is quite good.  However we had a few minor complaints.  First though, the bread which one is served in what amounts to a bottomless pit is great.  Crisply toasted crust, soft on the inside, topped with butter.  I couldn't stop eating it.  We ordered a handful of items off the menu to split for our main dishes (the menus were handed to us on I-Pads by the way.  That was pretty interesting).

Mom ordered oysters, we decided to split an order of crab, and we ordered shrimp.  She said her oysters were excellent.  Absolutely delectable.  The sauce was incredible.  I didn't elect to try them as I am not a fan of oysters.  I know the texture would just...ugh.  No thank you.  The crab was delivered to us in two forms.  One was a sauce/soup like item served in the shell of a crab.  This had chunks of crab meat in it and the sauce was deliciously flavored.  However it was cold.  My Mom and I both remarked about this in surprise and disappointment.  The other form in which the crab came was inside crab legs which we had to break open, the usual way, to get the meat out from inside.  All good.  But again, the meat was cold!  We agreed these two items would have been MUCH better and far more enticing if they had been warm.  And finally, the shrimp.  The standout item of the meal.  Buttery, warm (thank god) and totally scrumptious.

All in all, I would have ranked this meal around a 7 out of 10.  It would have been around a 8.5/9 had the crab items been warm.

Solar 31 da Calcada is another excellent seafood restaurant.  I went here on my own, last April 2015.  The restaurant is down a deceptively seedy alleyway in a slightly run down part of town.  However I braved the slight creepiness to get to this place, as I had read online that it was well worth it.  Walking inside, the restaurant is nondescript, plain, not especially inviting (though certainly not uninviting either).
I sat down and was approached by the owner who treated me with warmth, attention and kindness.  He described the different kinds of fish that were available and fresh that day to me (I told him I wasn't a huge seafood person, nothing too fishy or intense).  He offered me a shot, on the house, of Lisbon's traditional cherry liquor which I choked down merely to say I had sampled it.  He was a generous and interesting person to chat with, super nice.
He asked me to trust him in terms of my fish choice, to which I reluctantly agreed and away he went.  The spread pictured below was placed in front of me.  The fish was cooked to perfection, hardly seasoned at all but it didn't need it, with a side of butter and lemon, absolutely awesome.  This meal ranked a 10/10 for me.  It was the best meal I ate during that trip of mine in Lisbon.  And the total cost was about 10 euro.  Well worth every penny.  I highly recommend this restaurant, not only for the excellent service but for the mouthwatering food as well.

Cafe in the Alfama district overlooking an awesome view of Lisbon and the sea.  Sadly, I do not know the name of this place!  I googled and googled, to no avail.  However its easy to find.  If one catches the famous #28 tram up into the hilly curving roads of the Alfama (the gorgeous, romantic, cobbled, hilly part of Lisbon, high up above the city), you will spot it to your right as you round a curve and pass a towering white church of some sort.  This restaurant/cafe was a bit on the swanky side, but I only wanted tea and a view.  I hunkered down here for about 3 hours (last April, 2015) with The Goldfinch, my notebook, a tea and slice of chocolate cake.  The view was perfect, the air was balmy and warm, time fell away as I meandered back and forth between reading and writing.  Loved this.  Highly recommend it for a great place to sit for a drink and enjoy the sunshine and view.

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