This post includes photography by Chrissy Noonan
“Fussing over food was important. It gave a shape to the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner; beginning, middle, end.” – Robert Hellenga, Philosophy Made Simple.
“There is no sincerer love, than the love of food.” – George Bernard Shaw.
I get excited about leisurely breakfasts. They have the power to stretch out a Sunday and inject it with holiday timelessness. Hence on our one whole day in Lisbon, we went with the Hotel recommendation for breakfast. Fabrico Lisboa on Rua da Madalena, a short 15-20 minute walk away.
Walking up the steep deserted Rua da Madalena I was silently panicking, hoping they would be open. Timing it is said, is everything. They were open however, there were only a few spare tables. Over the next forty minutes, a steady stream of people arrived, some lucky enough to get a table, others turned away.
Fábrico Lisboa has a breakfast menu, I, however, had been seduced by a waft of freshly baked croissants, the mouth-watering patisseries on the counter.
Tarte de Maçã – (Portuguese Apple Tart):
A Portuguese signature dessert dish transformed into a breakfast pastry. The pastry is light yet crisp without flaking all over my only non-walking outfit. Underneath the slivers of apple which have a slight citrus tang to them, the creamy texture of the custard is rich without being cloying, very smooth and oh so moreish.
Perfectly formed, skin cooked to the point where the brown has a caramel tinge, light to touch and then the tell-all bite. That initial crunch as you break through the crust is quickly followed by the soft perfectly cooked dough. Accompanied by the perfect espresso I find myself once more making comparisons between Lisboa and Paris.
If you are a foodie who enjoys vintage collections of cooking paraphernalia such as scales, bread boxes and tins you will be in your element here. With a coffee machine that dates back to the 1950s, Fábrico Lisboa entertains as well as feeds.
Saturday morning market…
“Escoffier, whose philosophy was, “Good food is the basis of true happiness.” – Macro Pierre White, The Devil in the Kitchen: Sex, Pain, Madness and the Making of a Great Chef.
Two the things I love, Saturday Markets and Macro Pierre White, not only have food in common but also they both have the ability to elevate the dullest of days into something special. Not that I have meet Macro however, I do know and love his husky voice.
After breakfast Chrissy and I take a wander through Lisboa’s inner suburb of Baixa, heading away from the Rio Tejo waterfront towards Rossio. At the border of the two suburbs, the five main streets of Baxia end abruptly opening out onto two squares Praça da Figueira and Praça do Pedro IV. Although separated by a grand statue of King John Estâtua Dom João I and slip road the two areas feel very connected. What excites us about the area is the market stalls.
We had stumbled upon Lisboa’s oldest market – Praça da Figueira. It began after the 1755 earthquake when artisans and growers began selling their wares in and around the ruins of the Todos-os-Santos (All Saints) Hospital.
Sangaria – Porto Wine
I’m not a huge Sangria fan, however, the velvet hue of the red Sangria had me salivating. The tangy smell of citrus omitting from the newly cut lemons almost tempted me into trying the white Sangria. I made a mental note to try some Sangria when we reached Porto in thirteen days time.
Queijo de Ovelha Amanteigado Curado – Cured Buttery Sheep Cheese
This cheese which is made from untreated sheep’s milk comes from the region east of Coimbra, and the hamlet of Quinta da Serra da Gardunha, Fundao. For cheese lovers, I recommend Ursula Heinselmann blog heinzelcheese she has a fantastic post, which explains the cheese-making process and the finished taste.
Queijo de Ovelha Curado – Portuguese Traditional Cheese
There is hardly a cloud in the sky as we reach the end of the cheese stall, the temperature even though it is still mid-morning feels as though it has reached the mid-20s. Little wonder that these rounds of cheeses are melting within and exploding through their linen bandage wrappings. Both Chrissy and I are captivated by the cheese river heading for the table.
It is day two of our trip so we have yet to dive into Portuguese cheese heaven. Andrea Smith in her blog Catavino over three posts presents The Ultimate User’s Guide to Portuguese Cheese – worth a read if Portugal is on your travel list.
“We should look for someone to eat and drink with before looking for something to eat and drink.” – Epicurus
Our Camino family Mike and Lisa arrived around mid-day, despite the twenty-five hour or so long haul flights from Sydney they were both ready to set off to get our Camino Credenciales and discover Lisboa.
Our journey to get the all-important Camino passport started at the nearby Cathedral Sé and lead us off to another area of Lisboa, Chiado by way of a hair-raising tuk-tuk ride. Locating Basílica dos Mártires became the first of many navigation hurdles facing us on a daily basis. A combined effort and smartphone technology we ticked off our first group item of the day. The next item on the agenda, lunch.
Café No Chiado
We had spied Café No Chiado with its outdoor tables adorned with red tablecloths and a crisp white over-cloth from the tuk-tuk.
Lunch consisted of Prato charcutaria, Prato de queijos; finally, we got to try the cheeses and the dried meats we saw at the market. For Lisa, we ordered Padron peppers, for me white asparagus and for the table Tomate e Mozarella. Plus the all-important Vinho Tinto (Red Wine). Michael wisely asking for recommendations from the waiter. Such a great way to kick off our adventure.
Tomate e Mozarello – the Portuguese version of Caprese Salad
This salad optimized what we came to love about Portuguese cuisine, produce not over-complicated by foams or sauces that would detract from its freshness. It was instead the simple addition of one ingredient – the strawberry – added on top of the slices of fresh mozzarella and sun-ripened tomatoes then topped off with a sprig of outdoor-grown green basil leaves which elevated this dish to another level.
I will be replicating this dish as soon as sun-ripened strawberries can be bought from my local market.
“Your body is not a temple, it’s an amusement park. Enjoy the ride.” – Anthony Bourdain
Pasteis de Belem
Chrissy’s friend Kyz said this was the HAVE to go place in Lisbon – best ever Portuguese tarts “warm and super fresh.” Given how much Chrissy loves Portuguese tarts Pasteis de Belem was a “not to miss at any cost” experience.
Belem via the riverside route is approximately seven kilometres from Praça do Commercio, the heart of downtown Lisboa, given we were short on time we opted to take a taxi.
The taxi driver was keen to give us a guided tour of Belem’s monuments however, given the queue that stretched beyond the famous pastellaria front door, snaking out onto the narrow footpath we declined. Thankfully given the soaring afternoon heat and little shade cover, the line quickly moved indoors. The air inside was no cooler, the atmosphere frantic, as Chrissy and Lisa stood inline for takeout six-packs of Pasteis de nata.
We head across the road to sit beneath large trees and eat the Portuguese Tarts that will become the benchmark for those yet to be devoured.
Still warm, with light crispy pastry and egg custard centre velvety and smooth these Nata are as the Portuguese would say the “bom.” For each Nata we have little packets of ground sugar and cinnamon (Canela), apparently, the traditional way is to sprinkle on top before eating; Michael announces that this is a taste revelation.
“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.” – Virginia Woolf
Time Out Market
This was on Lisa’s must-do list and as luck would have it located on the drive to Belem. Our taxi driver advised the best time to come would be around 9:30pm as it wouldn’t be too busy. It was heaving! Inside the food court, people hovered beside stools ready to pounce the minute someone was ready to leave. We had no choice but to follow suit. Leaving Chrissy and Lisa ready to spring into action, Mike and I went in search of a couple of beers. The Super Brock Beer experience of buying a ticket and then standing in a queue to pour your own beer challenged our jet-lagged minds. Looking around I spied food kiosks beyond the food court where you could buy a beer without all the hassle of waiting inline for people who didn’t know how to pour one, finally get it right. Mimicking the locals I sprung into action and secured four stools while Michael headed off to find the girls.
Once united, food and drinks ordered we realised the restaurant had outdoor seating, given the chaos and heat inside we moved. Only to be seated by a rubbish bin. Once again to secure a better table we needed to pounce as our neighbours vacated their seats.
By this time jet-lag had engulfed both my body and mind. I was over the idea of dinner and craving ice cream. There was no way, however, that I would be venturing back into the food hall. Plus in less than eight hours we would be starting a 25km walk. Given my state of mind, it is not surprising that I can not recall what I ate.