Self-Catering & Tasting Lisbon (& around)

So howdy all. Today I am writing about my dining experience in and around Lisbon city, the Portuguese capital and one of the biggest up and coming destinations in all of Europe! I really enjoyed Lisbon, but I have to confess from the start that I did not get out to a lot of Lisbon restaurants and cafes. We had our Air BnB apartment – learn more about here – Review – A Really Positive Air BnB Experience in Lisbon! So in the end I think we ate at the apartment most if not every night we were there. Still, it was nice to be able to self-cater for a change.

We did eat at restaurants when out and about, specifically we ate at a restaurant on our tour to Sintra and Cabo de Roca, and I’ll cover that today, and also on the very last night in Portugal we ate at the restaurant of the Pousada de Quelez, which is also technically out of Lisbon, but still in the local train network.

On top of that we obviously had SOME dining experiences in Lisbon, or some ‘eating’ experiences if you like. So today I’m going to go through the overall and individual experiences a little and give you my impressions. Okay, let’s do it!

Self-Catering Lisbon

So I think all of our dinners were basically self-catered in Lisbon. Usually I am pretty basic. I eat different foods to my wife so when self-catering I get to cook for myself, which doesn’t happen much at home, and so it’s kind of nice really. We were staying in the Alfama district, and there were some shops around 10 to 15 minutes up the hill from where we stayed. So it was a little hike, but at least we were going downhill once we had the groceries.

There was a little butcher’s there too, and I bought some fresh chicken fillets from that. At the small supermarket, somewhere between a convenience store and a supermarket, the biggest in the area that we found, I bought all sorts of things including sauces and pasta. Pasta is still my go to when self-catering. Onions, capsicums too (that’s peppers for all you non-Aussies!) and mushrooms etc. Bread as well. All in all on the first shop I spent 16.60 Euro in total. What I bought kept me going for a little while, but I kept supplementing it with food I bought from the mini-mart which was directly below where we were staying. Convenient as it was, it was also considerably more expensive than the supermarket. I also had a cheap bottle of plonk in that initial spend too by the way.

I probably spent a total of 30-35 Euro on the self-catering over five days, so at less than 7 Euro a day, that’s a fair bit of money saved I would say. One night I had a microwave meal, another I had a supermarket pizza, and the pasta gave me three meals in total.

Toca de Julio

I’m going to translate this one as ‘Taste of July’, but I could be completely wrong here. Anything’s possible! So this restaurant is located – well it felt in the middle of the countryside. It’s in the municipality of Colares, which sits next to Sintra, and it’s where we stopped for lunch on the day of our Sintra/Coba de Roca tour. So it’s not really in Lisbon in any way, shape or form, but I’m hardly going to dedicate a post to it either.

I liked the building. It felt historic and ‘lived in’, and now it’s a restaurant with frankly, every square inch saved for a table. I imagine in the peak of tourist season, it gets pretty full. It was November though, and it was not. It wasn’t empty either, but it had a lot of room for patrons and I would say was only at 15% of capacity. It is clearly one place a LOT of tours stop at though, the tour money keeps this businesses flourishing at the right time of the year, pandemics aside. On day tours you always end up at places like this – whether it’s Portugal, Beijing, Vietnam or wherever just naming three I’ve been where the restaurants clearly rely on money from guided tours. The tour operator surely gets some sort of kickback too.

I disliked one aspect in particular here, and that was there was bread, wine, fruit and cured ham on the table. If you eat it, you pay. Not that there’s a sign. I mean, we realised straight away but I’m sure there are those who don’t and get a shock when the bill comes around. I really enjoyed the ‘mix grill’, which was basically meat on a stick, ala ‘shashlik’ style, I even had ice cream for dessert. The mix grill was 13.50Euro, I paid 25 in total for two. My wife was less happy with the food, she felt it was salty. At the end of the day, it was a pleasant atmosphere – but that said, there was no-one much in the place and packed full of tourists on a hot summer’s day, it would probably be awful. Trip Advisor sits at just over four stars and rates it the 7th best restaurant in Colares.

Pasteis de Belem

Belem is an essential spot to visit if you are in Lisbon, a little way up the coast where there’s the Belem Tower and a Monastery both worth seeing. This café/bakery is legendary, and from the outside you don’t realise how big it is. In fact, they can cram 400 people inside at once, although that’s unlikely whilst social distancing is in.

You have a waiter, we had to wait a little while which is fair enough, and they bring you the menu, and then your food on a little trolley. Again, the place is clearly historic. You pay at the end. Which was good because our waiter forgot half our order, but in the end we were so full we couldn’t have had anything else. We ate simple – ham and cheese toasty, egg custard doughnut, and that were pretty nice. The Pastel De Nata is a simple custard tart with a little cinnamon dusted on top, and is basically everywhere you go in Portugal. Spoiler alert – delicious and addictive and the main reason I put on weight in Portugal. And this place is famous for them. Lunch, with drink was 7.65 Euro. I should add they were also doing a roaring take-away trade!

Café a Brasileira

This café is right in the heart of Lisbon town. It is historic, opening back in 1905 and had shades of an amazing restaurant/café we went to in Buenos Aires. We only stopped for a cake and coffee. The décor was really impressive as was the feel.

Cozhina Velha – Restaurant at the Pousada de Quelez

Finally, on our final night, we ate at Cozhina Velha, which is somehow attached to the Pousada de Quelez. The price of our accommodation included our dinner there. It was in a large hall, and my wife and I were there at 7.30pm, when it opened and were probably there a bit over an hour, no-one else came in that time, but still early for Portugal I guess, even in November.

The only thing we had to pay for was drinks, and we got three courses for our trouble. I went with soup, lamb chops and ice cream. Cos, I can okay? To be honest we were a little underwhelmed and agreed the soup was the best thing about the food there. Desserts were taken from this large laid out table, buffet/all you can eat style. Apparently meals average out at around 33 Euros at Cozhina Velha, so I guess we did well to have the price included in the accommodation. The lamb was disappointing sadly. I hoped that with such a large smorgasbord of dessert options they were going to see a few customers before the end of the night.

So, in summary I think the best thing we did was self-cater. Because we only had two restaurants, not really IN Lisbon per se, and both disappointed. We might go back one day, so if you have any recommendations I would be more than happy to hear them! Thanks so much for reading today, take care – and May the Journey Never End!

4 thoughts on “Self-Catering & Tasting Lisbon (& around)

  1. I LOVE Lisbon, as it’s my favorite city I’ve visited in Portugal, as well as one of my favorites in Europe! Agree that I had some incredible Portuguese food while there: I don’t remember the name of the restaurants I went to, but I think back fondly on the bacalhau, pasteis de nata, and leitão à Barirrada (suckling pig). My mouth is drooling just thinking about them! I appreciate you bringing back the delicious memories of Portugal!

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