What do locals eat in Lisbon? Diogo, from a new online service (new to me at least) called With Locals spends an afternoon with us and takes us to his favourite local haunts.
POSTED BY JENNIE
It’s always best to see a new city with a local. If you’re not fortunate enough to have a friend who can take you around, there’s an online service called With Locals where locals themselves take you around. It’s usually the case that big tour groups can be impersonal and run of the mill, which is exactly why booking With Locals is so attractive. Locals make a short pitch video and you chose your guide based on what activity you want to do. There are many activities to choose from and they always stress that the tours are flexible and can be customised to whatever you want to do or try.
We chose Diogo to be our “local” and the activity we wanted to do was well, eat like a local. We arranged to meet at 2pm at the Miradouro Sao Pedro de Alcantara in the Bairro Alto neighbourhood. Diogo was prompt and we immediately spotted him. It turns out Diogo is an engineering student and With Locals is his part time job. We immediately set off to our first stop for the day.
It was to be a 10 item food and drinks tour beginning with grilled sea bass and Alheira (smoked chicken sausage) in a family run eatery. The sea bass was excellent, simple fare. Fresh and perfectly grilled. The sausage came with a story. Back in the day when Jews were ostracized, eating pork was proof that a person was not Jewish. So the story goes they created a chicken sausage disguised as pork. Taste wise, you can’t really tell it’s chicken but it doesn’t taste like pork either.
From chicken sausages to pork sandwiches. We walked down to Chiado Square to Casa das Bifanas, a small sandwich shop. It was standing room only so we took our sandwiches to Camoes Square which is right in front of the sandwich shop. I wasn’t expecting much, but believe me the sandwich was delicious! The bread was crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside, the meat, layers of thinly sliced marinated pork in a mustard sauce with came with the crunch of unexpected fresh garlic cloves, wow what tiny, tasty sandwich!
Also in Camoes Square is Manteigaria, Fabrica de Pasties de Nata. Portugal is famous for egg custard tarts, Lisbon in particular is where it is said to have been invented. Manteigaria can very well rival the famous Pasties de Belem. At Manteigaria, an open kitchen allows customers to see how the tarts are prepared. The secret is in the ingredients, Diogo says they use butter and not margarine. He also says the tarts are twice baked to achieve that perfect, flaky layered crust. We’ve had pasties here before Diogo took us, but this time we had it with some cinnamon and powdered sugar. There can never be another custard tart like this!
So far we’ve had 4 out of the promised 10 items. We walked to the opposite side of Bairro Alto to a tiny convenience store. Here Diogo bought us a bottle each of ice cold Sagres, Portugal’s #1 beer brand. It seems perfectly acceptable to walk around Lisbon with drinks in hand. We head to the Adamastor viewpoint located on one of Lisbon’s seven hills. The vibe here is very relaxed and the crowd is young. The view is a lot to take in. Aside from the famous red rooftops, there’s also the 25 de Abril Bridge and the Christ the King Statue. I have photos of a statue of a sea monster. I know Diogo tells us the story, but I’m so taken with the view and can’t remember what the story is! That’s the state of the sea monster below.
It’s a longer walk this time down the pedestrian only shopping street in Baixa to the main square Rossio. We pass by to have a coffee in the legendary Cafe A Brasileira (The Brazilian Lady Cafe). Business is brisk in this historic and atmospheric Art Deco cafe, famous for being the hangout of local intellectuals. The statue of the gentleman on the right is Lisbon’s most famous poet, Fernando Pessoa.
We walk down to Rossio Square as Diogo points out various places of interest and lots of trivia about the city. We cross the vast square and enter another family run eatery called Tasca Pombalina. Here we have 2 kinds of croquettes, pork and bacalao. I was feeling stuffed and didn’t think I would have the appetite for giant croquettes, but one bite into that creamy, crispy, spicy croquette, I suddenly didn’t feel so full anymore. It was so delicious that we came back the next day.
Just around the corner from Tasca Pombalina is Cafe A Ginjinha. We would have never found this if not for Diogo. It’s not really a cafe but a counter that serves a cherry brandy to a never ending crowd. It is slightly bitter, slightly sweet and very sticky and you drink it in one go. At the bottom of the shot glass is a cherry and you’re supposed to spit the pit of the cherry onto the streets.
So far we’ve had 8 things to eat and drink. For our last two food items Diogo takes us to one of his favourite places in the city called Casa de Alentejo. Diogo is from the Alentejo region which is in the south of Portugal. An ordinary building on the outside opens up to a wonderful Moorish palace with an impressive courtyard.
He gives us the tour of the formal dining room upstairs and then we sit outdoors in a cafe for the tail end of our food tour. We have a typical Alentejo snack of cheese, bread and beans. We are surprisingly the first Filipinos Diogo has met. We invite him to visit Manila and he says he would love to but first he has to finish his engineering degree. We enjoy the cheese, bread and beans and say our goodbyes. It was a great experience to see Lisbon on foot with a local. We enjoyed the food as much the local knowledge and would love to book With Locals again.
We obviously enjoyed Lisbon to have written 4 blog entires!