Passarola

The HB&B Guide to the ultimate beery/foodie minibreak in Portugal - Part 2: Lisbon

Over the past couple of years, Lisbon has come up from behind to steal the trophy from Barcelona and San Sebastian as foodie destination du jour (or, more appropriately, do dia). We thought we had better find out what all the fuss was about and can confirm the rumours are true - Lisbon is a fantastic city in which to live the good life*. Here's how to make the most of it, HB&B style. (See here for the first part of this series, our guide to Porto.)

One of the best tips we received was to avoid Trip Advisor reviews, which are skewed by idiot tourists, and instead look towards Zomato if you want a sense of what the locals think. This - along with our fail-safe tip of finding the first good bar and sitting down with the bartender to pick their brains - ensured we were able to jam an insane amount of good times into just a few short days. (For the TL;DR version, head to our Google Map, where we've listed all the places we went - the green pins - as well as all the ones that were recommended to us but didn't find time to visit.)

We based ourselves in the treacherously steep lanes of the Bica district that are the heart of Lisbon's nightlife, from where we could walk pretty much anywhere. We were on a three-way mission - find beer, find tinned fish, find views and sunshine. Oh, and pasteis de nata (Portuguese custard tarts). Make that four-way.

We've always been fans of tinned fish but this trip helped to turn this love into yet another obsession. We took a tip from Richard Ayoade and headed to Sol e Pesca for our first Lisbon lunch. Sol e Pesca is probably the best known of the various tinned fish spots in town (and thus brings the tourists with it). There's a huge range of seafood to choose from, the gloriously colourful tins displayed in museum-style glass cases. You can eat in, accompanied by bread and that ubiquitous Super Bock (be prepared to wait for service), or take home. 

The tinned fish mecca, however, is Conserveira de Lisboa. Around for nearly 90 years and passed down through three generations, this wonderfully old school shop is an inspiration to shopkeepers like us. It stocks more than 130 varieties of tinned fish (though only around half of these are in stock at any one time due to seasonality), and importantly, they have a strong emphasis on sustainability. They work closely with biologists and their suppliers to ensure they only sell fish from sustainable stocks.

You'll also find tinned fish stands at the Time Out Market and the infinitely more interesting (and cheaper) Mercato Campo de Ourique a bit further out of town. And if somehow you miss out during your stay, you can even stock up at the airport on the way home.

Right. Beer. Our first port of call was Duque Brewpub. (On the way we had a beer at Lisbon's oldest bar, Cervejaria Trindade, but you could afford to give this place a miss - both beer and ambience were decidedly average.)

Duque feels a lot like a London taproom - small and intimate, frequented by locals and beer tourists alike. It's got a warm, friendly vibe, especially on a summer evening with all tables full inside and out. There's a 10-tap draught selection featuring local brews and a small fridge of bottled beers. However, the beer selection felt a little familiar after what we'd encountered in Porto - once again the Passarola beers stood out - so we enjoyed a couple of halves and moved on.

Showroom Trindade is a new venture, a cocktail and beer bar that's tucked away in the basement of a theatre on Rua Nova de Trindade. It's run by the charming Alexander, an ex-pat Brazilian who really knows and loves beer - as evidenced by his selection, without a doubt the best in town. When we were there, Alexander had arranged a Brewdog tap takeover and had three large fridges stocked full of fresh Mikkeller and other top shelf treats. He takes beer seriously and has invested in cold storage, something that's yet to become common in Portugal. The vibe might be more nightclub than many beer lovers are used to, but we hope he does well - he deserves it.

(One of Alexander's many great tips was to head back down towards Duque Brewpub to Oficina do Duque for dinner, where we enjoyed one of the best meals of recent times. We'll forgive the translation error, which saw me order tuna under the guise of "Atlantic mackerel", because goddamn, that tuna was incredible. Go!)

Elsewhere for beer, Cerveteca LIsboa is a craft beer bar/shop that offers a great Portuguese tap list and decent bottle selection, including some nice Belgians as well as a few UK stars such as Magic Rock and The Kernel. It's a little further away from the action but well worth the walk. 

And if you're visiting Castelo de São Jorge, you'll want to stop into Lisbeer on the way up or down - again, a decent tap and bottle selection. Yet again, Passarola was the winner - try their Chindogu IPA.

Sadly we arrived a couple of hours too early to experience Quimera Brewpub (via a long, rambling and highly enjoyable walk from the 'Cemetery of Pleasures' to LX Market) and ran out of time to make it to Dois Corvos Cervejeira. 

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For views and sunshine, seek out Rio Maravilha in the hipster enclave LX Market. We ate in the restaurant (which was fantastic), but you can also get drinks and small plates on the terrace and rooftop, which offers stunning views of the 25 de Abril Bridge and across the river.

It's also worth heading to The Park - a bar, like Frank's in Peckham, that has colonised the rooftop of a central city carpark - but only stay for one drink. The views are great, but the beer is Bock (and prices are elevated accordingly). The restaurant Ponte Final on the other side of the river also came highly recommended for seafood and views back cross the Tagus towards the city - alas we ran out of time to make it here.

As for pasteis de nata... Eat them! Eat them every day! All the time! As often as you can! Pasteis de Belem gets all the attention but it's a fair way out of town and there are places more convenient for hungover breakfast hunters. At Manteigaria, in the Barrio Alto, you can watch the bakers doing their thing while you eat the still-warm results and enjoy a much-needed coffee. They also have an outlet at the Time Out Market.

Finally, the best thing about Portugal for boozehounds like us is the proliferation of top-class neighbourhood drinking establishments. There's no shortage of places to slake your thirst and every night is cause for celebration in Lisbon. 

We loved Garrafeira Alfaia, a fantastically friendly, knowledgeable wine bar that's just a hop and a skip from Duque Brewpub. It's also well worth devoting at least one evening to a late-night stagger from bar to bar in the Bica district, drinking on the street with newly made friends until the early hours. Our home away from home became Bar Ironic, tucked away at the bottom of Rua das Flores (one of Lisbon's quintessentially steep, scenic streets), drinking port, or cocktails, or one of the host's special homemade liqueurs.

So much good stuff... we could easily fill another 3,000 words but you're better off going than reading. 

* A little note: While Lisbon is by and large a wonderfully warm and welcoming city, be prepared to potentially be seen by some as hostile invaders. There's a growing backlash to the tourism boom from locals, who - somewhat understandably - look at the issues faced by the likes of Venice and Barcelona and fear for their future. They see the growing tourist market as contributing to housing issues (thanks to Airbnb sucking up a lot of inner-city apartment stock) and the ever-increasing numbers of visitors impacting on the quality of local life. At the end of the day, it's probably not rocket science - don't make like the package holiday hordes, the Instagram idiots or those ignorant types that shit on the lawns of the Louvre, but be respectful and take the time to get involved in the local culture rather than stampeding through the town with your selfie stick. Hopefully Lisbon can take steps to avoid the worst issues faced by its holiday hotspot counterparts before it creates a monster.

The HB&B Guide to the ultimate boozy, foodie minibreak in Portugal - Part 1: Porto

We managed to grab a few days in Portugal this month and haven't stopped thinking about it since. As always, we love to share the love so here's our two-part guide to good times in Porto and Lisbon. To be honest, you'd have to be dead inside not to have an amazing time in either of these terrific cities, but hopefully this blog post will save you a few hours of Googling to find the best food, beer and fun.

Porto
Lisbon gets all the love right now - not without merit, as you'll see in the next installment - but Porto is a rather unfairly overlooked gem. The best way to appreciate its dilapidated majesty is to get up high - and with no shortage of hills, all you'll need for this is a sturdy set of pins.

Porto is nestled on the banks of the Douro river - on one side you have the old town; on the other, the port wine warehouses of Vila Nova de Gaia. In between, spanning the river, are a series of magnificent bridges. Be a tourist and walk up the waterfront to the Ponte Dom Luis I bridge - head up the steps to reach the top crossing. It's stupendously high and you may get hit by a train at any moment, but the views (and the vertigo) are astounding.

For beer, make a beeline to Letraria, the taproom for the Letra brewery. The beautiful beer garden is one of the most zen places you will ever drink, and it offers a great introduction to the local craft scene - when we visited the board featured beers from breweries such as Bolina, Dois Corvos and - our favourite - Passarola. The Portuguese craft beer industry is fairly young and not every beer hits the mark, but there's a real excitement to it. It feels like something awesome is about to happen...

For wine, we spent a wonderful few hours at Wine Quay Bar, looking out over the river as the sun started to sink. Wine Quay Bar is on the Ribeira riverfront, but because it is set up above the tourist throngs, you can avoid the madness below.

Portuguese wine is - like Porto - a bit underrated here in the UK. Someone told us it's because Portugal tends to keep the best stuff for themselves - and why the hell not? The selection at Wine Quay Bar is exceptional across the board, with a big focus on the local wines from the Douro (as well as other Portuguese regions), and the service is fantastic - warm, welcoming and attentive. (NB: the Portuguese approach to service is generally pretty laidback and as such can seem frustratingly slow for time-poor Londoners, so make sure you allow yourself a bit of time for eating and drinking - and, well, you know, RELAX.)

We also loved exploring the late night wine bars around our downtown apartment - Pipa Vilha in Rua das Oliveiras was a particular highlight, dark and divey in the very best way. Choose the Meandro if it's on the wine list...

And of course it wouldn't be a visit to Porto without port. Someone gave us the excellent advice to head up the hill rather than go to one of the more easily accessible port warehouses on the tourist-packed waterfront so we headed up to Graham's Port Lodge in an ideal location at the top of the hill, with views across the river back to the old town. Tours of the facility are available by appointment, which we were too late for, so we settled for a couple of glasses of local wine and a selection of tinned fish, before making our way through the port menu. A delightful way to spend an afternoon, and it certainly made the walk back a lot more fun.

Head here for Part 2 - our Lisbon guide...