Journal: 1 May 2018
I certainly don’t make any attempt to hide how much I love Portugal. It’s a great country. As a family, we’ve stayed in a city and at the coast and loved them both. If I had to put my finger on exactly what it is I love, it's how laid-back life is. The Portuguese are warm, friendly and relaxed. They also happen to have a vibrant and exciting food scene…
A year later, following our first family trip to Lisbon, I was invited back for ‘Peixe em Lisboa – Fish & Flavours.’ It is an iconic 10 day annual Portuguese food festival in the heart of Lisbon. The show brings together a collection of chefs and restaurants, all leading the field in their own cuisine. Four leading European chefs, including the world’s best female chef made presentations. Whilst I was there, I enjoyed listening to Andrew Wong who led a cookery session about Chinese cuisine. Andrew is from London and won his first Michelin star in 2017.
This year was the 11th edition of the festival which was housed at the Pavilhão Carlos Lopes. I should note, this was my first solo trip since becoming a mother to Stanley (five years ago). I was a little apprehensive about leaving him and shed a few tears on the way to the airport. After a glass of prosecco before my flight and the warm welcome I received upon landing into Lisbon, I soon relaxed. My Portuguese hosts were great company. I was quickly distracted with great conversation and then, inevitably, great food!
The festival itself is inside a hall and, in the centre, are rows of tables with seating either side as well as more intimate round tables for smaller gatherings. The concept is clearly very much centred around friendship as much as food. Unlike a traditional restaurant, you don’t have to all try the same thing, however you can still all sit together. It’s very informal and the format encourages you to taste new foods (from some of the best restaurants) in an affordable way.
At the heart of this festival is fish, which plays a huge part in the Portuguese diet.
Naturally fish was at the heart of a lot of the dishes – I noted shellfish, cuttlefish, octopus and swordfish. As well as the more popular and traditional cod dishes. My favourite meal was swordfish paired with ginger.
I was fortunate enough to eat at the festival on two consecutive nights, so I managed to try a good selection of the cuisines on offer and, of course, meet the people behind the food.
Some of my highlights were
Varanda – Ritz Four Seasons Hotel Lisboa, they made incredible desserts.
Ibo, this is a Mozambican restaurant that blends Portugese and Mozambican cuisines to create unique and modern dishes.
Paul Morais – his Japanese restaurant, Kanazawa, is considered one of the best Japanese restaurants in Lisbon.
Chef Kiko – Kiko is originally from Brazil and has traveled the world, combing his knowledge to create exciting new dishes, a mix of flavours and cultures.
All of the wine at the event was from the Lisbon region and the sommeliers were particularly knowledgeable about the wine.
The festival is open for lunch and dinner sittings. Our cards had been pre-loaded with 25euros and, as we went around the venue, we simply handed our card and the cost was added to it – we were given a receipt with a running total. Should we have overspent we would have paid the difference at the end.
In addition to the restaurants there were other pop up stalls, including ice-cream and, in the owner’s own words, ‘the best chocolate in the universe’.
Although only in Lisbon for two days, we managed to still see a lot of the city, including (and not limited to)
– Monumento dos Descobrimentos
– Mosteiro dos Jerónimos
– Torre de Belém
No trip to Belem, is complete without visiting Pasteis de Nata. In Belem, just off the waterfront, is the Antiga Confeitaria de Belem. Their 170-year-old recipe is a secret, only divulged to three chefs at a time. They hand-make more than 25,000 tarts a day on the premises and serve them warm. We got to watch them being made and I managed three in one sitting!
My favourite museum is MAAT which stands for the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology. Opened in 2016 to critical acclaim, the building was designed by Amanda Levete, one of my favourite architects. Two exhibitions I got to see this April was Tomás Saraceno and Eco-Visionários: Arte, Arquitetura após o Antropoceno. Several of the exhibits from the latter I found particularly powerful.
One of the most recent attractions in Lisbon is Pilar 7, Ponte 25 de Abril on the bridge. Through a series of lifts and stairs we arrived at the top of the bridge and into a glass box. During the journey we learned about the construction and were then served panoramic views of the city.
Definitely not for those with vertigo – I do suffer a little, but I pushed myself and felt an incredible sense of accomplishment. Afterwards we tried the virtual headsets to learn about how the bridge was built and is maintained.
Our base in Lisbon was the boutique hotel, H10 dupe de loulé. The staff were incredibly personable, the rooms were immaculate and the breakfast was extensive. On the last day I enjoyed a view from the roof terrace, it was spectacular, just a shame I didn’t have enough time to spend a quiet evening enjoying some wine. That’s the thing about Lisbon, there is so much going on and I still have so much to explore on our third trip.
I’ve already described my 48 hours in Lisbon at length with Bobby. He is the biggest foodie I know and fish is his favourite, so we’re going to make sure we return next year as a family.
Read more about Piece em Lisboa – Fish & Flavours.
Read more about Lisbon.
Read more about Portugal.
Words and pictures by Fiona Burrage.