The best restaurants to book in Lisbon right now
Lisbon’s dining scene is currently on fire. These are the names and places to know…
Talk to the foodie crowd and they’ll tell you Lisbon is having a moment. Star chefs such as Nuno Mendes and José Avillez are practically statesmen these days while, having done stints in the world’s best restaurants, scores of Portuguese cooks have made heroes’ returns, bringing a dozen Michelin stars in tow. But locals will tell you that food has always been central to this coastal city’s soul, thanks to fresh, ocean-caught seafood and an indefensibly underrated wine industry. So, where should be top of your hit list? We sample five new spots worth booking into on your next visit.
Recently rehoused in a new, upscale Príncipe Real location from May 2023, this wildly popular veggie fine-dining spot is all heart. The five and seven-course tasting menus are ‘wine-first’ in design, with maître d’ Alejandro Chávarro flaunting his penchant for superb, but niche, vineyards, while chef João Ricardo Alves fashions prodigious plant-based food pairings.
Flavour-wise, it’s a dizzying ride. From Parmesan celeriac parcels to beetroot tartare with horseradish, the food is sublime. But here’s the key – the wine must not be missed. As Alejandro says, “You wouldn’t watch a film without the sound, would you?” If you must teetotal, the team is experimenting with kombuchas to fine effect. The price tag is on the upper end, but the lunch menu dishes up a great value feed. And if you want to meet Alejandro in the flesh, opt for a weekday, booking a fortnight in advance to avoid disappointment.
Set back from the river near the Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in the museum district of Belém, Canalha opened in October and is the latest venture from gastro entrepreneur João Rodrigues (of Michelin-starred Feitoria fame), whose obsessive focus on local producers means truly great food with as little fuss as possible.
The menu is all small plates with a single show-stopping ingredient (think beef carpaccio or blue fin tuna), alongside fresh cuts from the market that day. Highlights are the rake collar with its simple olive oil, herb and lemon sauce, and the crystal prawns, lightly battered, fried and eaten with fingers, like popcorn.
People have described this place as a spot for ‘comfort food’, and it is. The traditional stew feels like a warm hug on a winter’s day. But that description doesn’t do justice to the exceptional quality. Book early – since its opening in October, the local buzz has made this the hottest table in town.
You might be wondering, why go to Gunpowder in Lisbon when I could just book a table in Soho? The fish is why. While half of the Indian-inspired menu is shared with its London namesake (which, thankfully, includes the restaurant’s lauded lamb vermicelli doughnut), the other half you can only get here. And that means fish.
You’ll be won over by the chilli shrimp with garlic and kokum, followed by the grilled turbot marinated with turmeric and curry leaves or a juicy tandoori chicken. The cardamom negronis are super-fresh, and the bread-and-butter pudding made with Indian spiced rum is to die for. Food joy aside, Gunpowder’s other boon is the location. It’s about as central as it gets at the top of elegant Chiado – Lisbon’s shopping and theatre hub – tucked away on a cute, fairy light-strewn side street packed with pavement wine bars. A solid choice.
Now for something much fancier. At the top of the city's oldest funicular is Torel Palace Lisbon, a chic five-star palazzo with white daybeds and panoramic city views. Here you’ll find 2Monkeys, an intimate fine dining experience, where guests sit at the chef’s table (it has just 14 seats), and have each course assembled before them.
Make no mistake, 2Monkeys is one for your ‘special occasion’ list. The tasting menu is 13 courses long and changes with the seasons. You might jump right out of the blocks with a Wagyu beef tartlet, followed by foie gras with beetroot foam and hake with chanterelle mushrooms and caviar. A showstopper is the shrimp, slightly cured in mirin rice wine, and served with buttermilk, fennel and lemon gel, which combine into a truly dazzling medley of flavours.
Chef Francisco Quintas says his mission here is balance – sweet with savoury, tender with crunchy, and rich, buttery flavours combined with acidic. The menu has been crafted in partnership with Vitor Matos (who won a Michelin star for Portuguese trailblazer Largo do Paço), the aim being to create artful food without sacrificing flavour. And at a time when Lisbon’s high-end food scene is reaching newly competitive heights, 2Monkeys is offering something that no one else is – fine dining, up close.
Rock-star chef Bruno Caseiro’s Cavalariça has added another outpost to his growing culinary empire with the launch of Cav 86 (also opening image), which serves more robust Brazilian flavours thanks to the talents of young chef Marcelo Oliveira. With its poppy turquoise exterior and bright mustard walls, this place is as buzzing as they come (CAV stands for culture, art and vino, of course). Staff say Marcelo’s even known to play guitar here of a Thursday night. The walls showcase pieces from a rotating collective of local artists, and the casual yet attentive service makes this an easy place in which to kick back and relax.
As for the menu, it’s a small plate set-up: think stracciatella with hazelnut, salt and honey, prawn and cassava crisp, and cod and cannellini beans on toast – all well-executed Portuguese home food. As for the wine, there are plenty of local options to choose from. The place can be undeservedly quiet on a Monday evening, but it warms up as the week goes on.