Did you bring your tongues today when you decided (bravely) to sit down and read this blog post? Because we are heading to Portugal’s ‘second city’, the enigmatic, alluring and gastronomically pleasing Porto. This destination is not only the home of Port Wine, or as you may know it, simply ‘Port’, but actually it’s a place that I really enjoyed eating out. I think it helped that it was our last stop before returning home to Melbourne (bar a brief stop in Quelez/Lisbon before our flight) but it meant that we decided to eat out a bit more at restaurants and sample what was on offer.
What was quite popular it seemed was pork and pig products, suckling piglet for example in a sandwich in a nice local lunch spot. But interestingly enough Porto has a number of foreign influences, be they Spanish for example – we had the best tapas of the trip in Porto – or even, strange as it may see, English! That’s right – ENGLISH!
The Brits/English have had their claws in Porto for a long time now thanks to the Port. Many moons ago, centuries in fact, there was a tariff stuck on importing French wine. The Brits needed an alternative, and they turned to Porto, where the wine was mostly fortified and sweeter, which appealed greatly to the tastes of the English. Which is why you’ll find wineries that can be visited with strangely English-sounding names in Porto, ‘Taylor’s’ is just one such example!
With the Brits coming over to organise the exporting and importing, they naturally set up their own companies, and so with many coming either to live in Porto, or for work, their cuisine managed to influence and work its way into the local tastes. And that’s why one of the dishes I had – for the very first time – in Porto, was in fact Black Pudding!
So without much more of an ado about something, everything or nothing, let me tell you about the notable places we ate at and indeed what we ate. Also, possibly, how we found it.
Taberna de Santo Antonio
So yeah, wow! This place is one you should definitely seek out if in Porto for good, cheap local food. It was absolutely packed out and we were lucky to get a table, it was the only one free at the time and I think it’s probably typical of people to have to wait for a table. It had great online reviews, and we didn’t see any other foreigners in there.
Locals were taking their families out for what I think was a Sunday night meal. There’s a bar area and a few tables outside but in December we probably didn’t fancy that. It looks and comes across like a corner pub, which was kind of endearing. We went past the bar and were seated at our little table, there wasn’t much room (that’s probably changed now thanks to you-know-what) but that was because of just how popular the place was.
What did I have? I had a pork snitzel which was in this very cheesy sauce, topped with an egg, and it was delicious. Yes, pretty simple food, but also pretty tasty. We didn’t have serviettes and when I asked the matron there brought me extra chips, which was a little strange and unexpected, and then she put her arm around me so you know… friendly too! And a delicious glass of port to wash it down with of course! All in all it was simple but delicious, and I can’t recommend this place enough. The total price was under 10 Euros each, so you can’t complain on any count! Total in fact – 17.30 Euro.
This was a little tapas place which isn’t too far from the Ouro River and the King Luis I Bridge, which is the most recognisable landmark in Porto. I was very happy with this one, and the main reason for that is, I chose it!
Again it’s a little cramped, but aren’t all the best places? Well, maybe not on that one nevertheless, I found this one in the Lonely Planet (shame on me!) and then verified it on the interweb, which I think is a pretty decent way to go about it. We had a number of different tapas and were very impressed, plus the owner, an older Spanish lady, came and chatted with us and you know, that always makes you feel special, right?
Best of all was roast beef with mustard, which was just wonderful. It was cold, and very thinly sliced, and it was only just cooked, which was perfect and gave it so much flavour. The mustard wasn’t to strong but it was very nice and complemented the meat expertly. We also had ham with brie and sausages and frankly, it was brilliant, I really felt like I was doing ‘fine dining’, and I had found the place myself! There was a glass of port too, I had one with every Porto meal I think, as a minimum that is! My wife also had soup which she really liked. Total paid – 17.60 Euro.
Don’t you love names like this?? So this was officially our ‘fine-dining’ experience in Porto. My wife was keen to try this restaurant that my father had recommended as he had been to Porto a year earlier. I emailed him for recommendations and this was the name, and also he offered to pay for us as well, which naturally I jumped and this opportunity! I think he was impressed we wanted to try one of ‘his’ restaurants!
All in all I think we paid around 50 Euros, definitely not more than 60 Euros, and we did have a magnificent meal. The cost though was mostly due to the port – we took the chance to try properly aged port which was around 8 – 10 Euro a glass, and between us we had three glasses I guess. Mind you, my wife barely drinks so she wouldn’t have had more than the equivalent of half a glass! And let me tell you the 10 year aged port I really like, significantly more than the 20 year!
This place is also very popular, and they opened at I think 630pm with a line of people (we were first or second!) outside. At 8 or 830pm their second sitting begins and that day they were already booked out, whereas the first sitting (you HAVE to be out by a certain time) is just turning up and hoping you get a table. In fact I think they were booked out for a few days in advance, but the early sitting suited us fine.
My entrée was black pudding, and I both loved and hated it. I had never had this bizarre black sausage filled with gizzards and who knows what else before, so I was a little reticent to try it, but the taste was amazing, so full and rich and flavoursome. That was the good. The bad was, and warning don’t read the next bit if it’s not the sort of thing you want to read but I’m ‘telling it how it is/was’ as they say, I did not go to the toilet for the next three days. Sleeping that night was not easy, so basically, it’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to digest.
Then it was steak, and it was medium rare exactly (which is how I like it) and just delicious. Any thought we had before dinner of having dessert was gone by the end, it was all so filling. There was a side I had with the steak, potatoes I think, but obviously the thing I remember is the black pudding. So all in all, for this one, I think black pudding is good for a taste, but frankly it really fills you so quickly to have a whole one as I did I don’t recommend. But this was a very nice place, with differing service quality. We found one waiter very short, others were very kind and would bend over backwards to help as they say.
Finally, I can’t remember the name of this place but we did try a suckling pig (piglet) roll with salad and drink (15 Euro for two) one lunch time. It was nice I guess, but frankly the meat didn’t appeal to me that much. And all I could think was ‘I understand why they don’t call it a ‘Piglet Roll’, as amusing as the name was. But it is a local favourite and you might really like the flavour.
And there were cafes and the like too, I have to say Porto did impress in the interests of the latent ‘foodie’ inside me I try not to let out. Rest assured, I did try McDonald’s on the final night – it was unsurprisingly bland.
Thanks for reading today, stay safe, and May the Journey Never End!