In Lisbon, Anthony and I visited Cantinho Lusitano for dinner one night. Of all the places we visited, Cantinho Lusitano was definitely our favourite. I think it is classed as being in the Bairro Alto area of Lisbon it is a small place run by a husband and wife. The menu is loads of smallish dishes meant to be shared around the table. I loved this – “Azeitão” Cheese . Warm and runny! But the stand out dish was ”Pica-Pau” (Strips of Beef with Special Sauce and Fried Sweet Potatoes) which has turned into Anthony’s “signature dish”.
Ingredients (serves 2)
500g steak, sliced into this strips
As many cloves of garlic as you can stand
1 red pepper, sliced
3-4 tbs sweet Portuguese mustard (cheaper the better) or Dijon maybe. Not a hot one.
1 bottle of lager (Super Bok for example)
Heat a pan, add a bit of oil and fry the steak so it is browned.
Take the steak out of the pan and set aside.
Add everything else to the pan EXCEPT the butter. Let it simmer and reduce a bit.
Add the butter and let it melt through.
Add the steak back.
The fried sweet potatoes were like fries made from yam. Anthony and I roast parsnips tonight. Yummy yummy. Of course – real fries, a loaf of bread, roast potato and other variations on a high carbohydrate theme.
We learnt the recipe from the chief who came out to talk to us at our table. I got to ask loads of questions about traditional bakeware – for all your specialist baking needs go to Pollux which is almost as good as some of the Paris shops – or how to make a Molotoff – or why so many Portuguese desserts are made from egg (because apparently at the convents and monasteries where a lot of the desserts originate, egg white was used to iron and starch the outfits and the yolks got turned into nata), who the rated local chefs are etc etc. It was so interesting and the food was really delicious well cooked home food. Really a highlight.
As Iris said about my post below “At last a picture of an animal you aren’t eating”. As my old art school pal Elissa said “I went on holiday and took a picture of a duck next to a bin. Good times.”
What can I say? These are the kind of holiday pictures I don’t spread around that often but there is nothing more fun to do on holiday than sit in a park and talk to the birds – or in my case pretend you are all the birds talking having conversations amongst themselves.
In Portugal after a massive row about trams to Belém, Anthony and I made it to Jardim do Ultramar – The Tropical Gardens. As it happened, we got there around feeding time. So all the ducks and geese were getting closer with the hope that I would have more than a Molotoff cake tin in my plastic bag.
As we watched the birds this ridiculous man trundled along with his two daughters, and a sticker on his forehead I guess one of the kids put there. The elder daughter, about 9, had with her a long stick she had collected along the way and decided to my horror to use it to poke all the birds who had come for their dinner, or shoe them out of the way so they couldn’t get near the food bucket. Some of the ducks were about to lay an egg any minute. Some were just very cute. Anthony and I were getting madder and madder watching her. Not one to complain just from the sidelines and hope by the power of my mind a situation changes I went and defended these ducks against this injustice. I asked the girl could she tell who was going to lay an egg – we had a conversation about animals and their right to space on the planet and please don’t poke them with the stick mindlessly. She looked at me like I was a crazy old lady. Not the first time. And as soon as I turned my back she was off poking the birds again. But when she knew I was looking, it was with a little less vigour than before. A small triumph worth getting out of bed for. Makers of “Invisible Children” watch this space.
Whenever we go away, we always look for one restaurant to have a special dinner. On recommendation from one of Anthony’s pals, we decided to visit Restaurante 100 Maneiras. It has a central location and if you wanted to you could catch the funny little funicular train thing up the steep hill to almost (very liberal use of the word almost there) the doorstep for a cute and fun little date thing to do. We didn’t do that though because we had a row in Belém about asking strangers for information or buying two natas for change… One or the other – And only God will know whose side he was on – and we were running late and we had to take a taxi there. Oh well. Misery soon forgotten when our cab driver nearly wiped out two Americans (also going to the restaurant actually) and got to the door in time for our table at 8pm. Unusually the restaurant was almost full at that hour.
We sat in a table surrounded by French couples which was a bit confusing for me half drunk, tired and EMO in a foreign country and I started chatting away to Anthony in French. The restaurant offers a tasting menu only, with the additional option of a wine tasting menu as well. All the wines on the menu were Portuguese, with more whites that reds and a port. The restaurant website talks about molecular dining experience etc. I would say what we had was not that mind blowing but there were some very nice dishes along the way.
Starting of our meal was a “clothes line” of air dried cod with mayonnaise which sounds brutal to say was like a really fancy 1000 Island Dressing. It was delicious and so was the wine. Maybe Anthony remembers.
Next up, something I forgot to photograph, a crumbed ball of fish in a pea pesto sitting in a champagne glass. Yum.
Tenderloin carpaccio, fois gras and maderia reduction. Really wonderful! I didn’t know how A-Dogg was going to cope with raw meat but he loved it!
Crumbed frogs legs, acidulated onion and really nicely done mushrooms. NOTE TO RESTAURANT THOUGH – the bowl of this plate is too small for a knife and fork dish. Either smaller cutlery or a different plate please.
Neither of us had frogs legs before, and nor had the French couple on our right. I was surprised that they a) didn’t have the pissy smell I usually associate with frogs legs and b) they were good. The onions were delish!
This was a seafood cannelloni dish with spinach and ginger air and Jerusalem artichoke chips. I really enjoyed this dish.
This was turbot with puréed parsnip, Romanesque cauliflower and leek “straw”. Anthony actually had to spit out some “straw” cause it was so hard he though they were bones. If you call something “straw” to me doesn’t sound appetising – you grow potatoes in it. You don’t eat it unless you got horses teeth. I will send the straw back to the kitchen on mine but the parsnip purée was exceptionally good. My favourite dish I think.
We had a nice little palate cleanser here – lemongrass, lime and vodka granita. Not worth a photo.
Pork cheek with potato foam and salsify chips. The pork was so tender you could eat it with a spoon but what a waste to put it with potato foam! Potatoes are good for roasting, chipping, boiling, mashing, dauphinoising but foaming not. Too close to starchy glue when you think you can mash potatoes with a hand blender (trust me you can’t). Anthony said he really liked it. I thought it was an unfortunate thing to do and it was like eating warm clag. Such a shame as the veal was so incredible. The red we had to go with this was outstanding.
This was pre dessert. Mum used to tell me if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all. So: The glass was cleaned very well before using it.
Although it would be unfair to say why – in the bottom of the glass was some crumble, then a mini fruit salad of strawberry, kiwifruit and whatever else, a piped blob of meringue and caramelised sugar. Really unimaginative, cheap, and the fruit was no big deal. Sorry. Again Anthony liked it so don’t just trust my opinion and the people around us were loving it if their faces were anything to go by.
Then we had a little waiting time. This is the only picture where you can see the ambiance of the room – it was very relaxing space, nice lighting, space around the tables, the staff are well trained and spoke about the food with everyone. The music – Anthony and I cracked up at this – I haven’t heard it for years:
Anthony and I reviewed his MANicure and had a little coffee and trundled off home for tea feeling like we had a great evening, some really well presented food, and thoughtful combinations even if to me they didn’t all work (don’t forget Anthony LOVED it) and excellent service. Definitely worth a try!
Dinner for two came to the total of €160.
Menu de degustação at €40.00 each
Degustação de vinhos at €35.00 each
If you compare this to my birthday dinner at Verjus in Paris, the full taste menu was €70 per head and €40 for wine taste menu it is pretty reasonable and a little bit more relaxed.
In Lisbon we spent an afternoon wandering around the gardens of the Gulbenkian Foundation and when it started to rain we headed indoors to the Contemporary Arts Center.
There was an awesome Beatriz Milhazes exhibition, an artist I did not know before. Lots of collage work making similar patterned and coloured flowers out of shopping bags and chocolate wrappers, as well as painting and a huge gallery length mural with cut adhesive vinyl.
And there was also a café that introduced me to this very exciting new concept: AVOCADO MOUSSE. Best thing ever! Who knew?
The cafeteria was wonderfully 70′s style with white padded vinyl chairs, loads of concrete and lunch trays and very dependable style lunches.
I thought I was being very controversial with my avocado ice cream but it seems in certain areas of Portugal at least sweet avocado dishes are no big deal. We asked a chef at a restaurant we had dinner at if he heard of such a thing and he told us “Yes of course. My friend from Madeira has avocado for breakfast all the time with loads of sugar, a bit of lemon juice all mashed up together.” So what does it taste like? Avocado, custard, apple, green, fresh, lime, yum. Watch this space as I trial and error my own version of Sweet Avocado Mousse.
And, not to be overshadowed in the back left corner. That little eggy sponge was delicious – it was really fluffy but at the same time, moist. If you poked your finger in the sponge it was instantly compacted like wet gooey cake. Perfect with coffee on a rainy day.
Just a stones throw from this Museum and Garden is El Corte Ingles. The food hall in the basement is great to visit to see a fresh fish section rivalling Les Halles in Avignon, Padron Peppers like no big deal all over the place, meats, cheese, wine and port tasting. There is a large bio section within so you can get soya milk, chocolate soya milk, soya yoghurt etc and what ever else like that you want like beetroot juice. The only café we went to that did have soya milk by the way was Starbucks. The rest of the store is filled with the usual department store stuff – more of a House of Fraser than Harvey Nichols – but if you forgot a cable for whatever camera or laptop bizzo you could probably get a replacement here. The cook ware floor was no different to any I have seen in German or French department stores.
Finally, just a quick note, there is a reasonably priced shoe shop Zilian that I think probably most of my female friends or colleagues at work would like a few things there. I realise shoes is a minefield but I think worth a look if you are nearby and want a new pair of holiday shoes. I am regretting I didn’t by those sandals in blue.