Prado Restaurante expresses the most sensibly the current gastronomic hot wave in Lisbon. Casual, enthusiastic, genuinely simple, laid-back and cheap for Europe. The Portuguese are amped about the opportunities that recent influx of talent and ideas swelled in. The corner bloc of a former conserve factory is tucked behind tram-lined thoroughfares in a compact cobbled street on a foothill in Baixa.
Prado Restaurante sets itself apart from other food venues in Lisbon
After trying some adventurous fine dining (Loco) and the most popular offshoots of upscale restaurants (Minibar, Bistro 100 Maneiras, …) in Lisbon, my best meal was at a year-old venue that a word of mouth delivered to my ears at a breakfast table. My sister nods, Prado Restaurante surprises, but not too much, just right. In the still popular Nordic-style, Prado delivers delicious plates suggestive of organic nature in a friendly, urban café ambience that reflects the millennial fashions.
The Portuguese Ark Studio took over the arched interior with that East London meets Brooklyn cum Copenhagen poise. A hanged bicycle at the back like a painting echoes millennial, urban hip lifestyle. The textiles were hand-woven by Portuguese artisans, ceramics by Anna Morgado from Northern Portugal, while vintage and contemporary furniture like the Scandi spindle-backed Hay J77 chairs keep you straight and perky.
Raw beauty celebrating natural pigments
In an ocean-washed country not only farm-to-table, but also from rod-to-plate is served on the plain wood tops. By shedding preposterous linen, undressed, the barren bounty of the fields and the rambling ocean is served sensibly yet creatively free (no corsets), while posing simply like a slip dress.
Sharing is not just caring, but more fun at Prado Restaurante. Most plates are quite small, so order about four to six for two hungry people (like us Czech 30-something skinny sisters). A grey-slate-hued naturalist print of the concise, seasonally tweaked menu suggests raw material focus on ingredients dressed in a free-flowing, simply-coloured kaftan of seasonings. You find no ballgowns on the plates at Prado.
A basket of Barbela sourdough wheat bread was served with two spreads –
Fresh goats butter, smoked salt & sea lettuce (loved this one)
Whipped Iberico pork fat, garlic & bay leaf (not for every palate, taste little first)
A know-how cooperation between the local baker and miller Gleba the recipe was post-noted by Prado. The springy moist dark loaf accompanied some of the saucy plates well.
Aside from the bread basket and ice-cream in deserts always in season, each month and week slips into the familiarly structured menu. The kitchen plays around with local beef (Barrosã tartar or rib eye), seafood (Black scabbard fish, Cockles, Line-caught squids from Azores), Iberico pork (Smoked lardo on toast to start or presa sausage), fruits, mushrooms and vegetables.
Early spring tosses in asparagus and butternut squash. In winter cockles, chard (or other leafy greens like spinach) and leeks stride in. We started with Hispi cabbage, goats cheese whey & pumpkin seeds. Walnuts accompany this refreshing pistachio-toned starter in alterations to the winter menu. The bread came in handy. Next arrived a plump al-dente Line caught squid, ink & leeks. From the specials we ordered the Wild Portuguese sea bream, broth and radishes. Chlorophyl meets the Atlantic in a blast of freshness. On a similar theme was Mackerel, parsley and sea lettuce vinaigrette. Wood fire is used to char some of the ingredients, especially the meat, but we had enough jamón around Monsaraz.
‘Vinho’ au nature
The wine list is international, brief yet ideologically precise with only organic, biodynamic, and natural wines. My recent review of Graça do Vinho, a neighbourhood wine bar on the other side of the slope from Prado, confirms that this alternative movement took ground in Lisbon. Practical for the responsible lunch cap, about a dozen wines are served by the glass. Locavores appreciate that about half of the list tags Portuguese wines. The white Em Cru by Quinta da Pellada from Dão was made from indigenous Encruzado grape, with an intriguing citrus, rose and mineral touch, but the sample did not lit the bulb of my brain on so I inquired the female sommelier about other local samples. An orange wine could not miss out on the naturist opportunity to be featured at Prado. The Raiz Macerado from the Vinho Verde region, a skin-contact Loureiro Tiago Teles, was the surprise of the trip. After trying many new and old Portuguese wines beyond the world-famous Douro Valley, this was a bottle to remember. Well, the eyes of the biodynamic Nat Cool Drink Me are unforgettable. The thick-skinned and tannic Baga grape (known in Douro as Tinta da Bairrada and most popular for sparkling winemaking in Portugal) co-made attentively and patiently by Niepoort family in Bairrada D.O.C. sparked with its typical acidity but just a touch astringency as it was allowed to ripen fully into a balanced cherry cum tobacco light juice. It was lunch for us, so one white and one red sufficed. From the gringos, Gut Oggau from Austria, De Martino from Chile’s Maipo Valley, Greek, German, French Italian and Spanish wines, even Australia zeroed out anything from Northern America. Supplier, price or tax issue perhaps?
Craft beers, gin or bourbon based cocktails fix the rest, while a house kombucha, daily fresh lemonade, cold dashi ‘tea’ (kombu seaweed broth) joined the non-alcoholic millennial beverage crew.
The sweet plates break preconceptions about deserts as many contemporary restaurants try to do. Frozen, seasons-crossing treats accompanied the desserts. Sorrel, fennel and other vegetables are used in granitas, milk is smoked for ice cream, sweet potatoes – desert in themselves? Acorns were replaced by Mushroom ice cream with pearl barley, dulse, caramel in the dulce finale we ordered. Like a breakfast grain bowl it was spooned out with coffee on its side.
The only negative was the over-brewed espresso from Fábrica Roasters. My barrister sister critically shunned the worst cup of coffee she had in Lisbon. She even ordered an off-the-menu americano which was drinkable, but not spotless. After the lunch, ‘Mindshake’, a blend of green tea, toasted rice and elderflower cozied me inside while watching the gushing rain outside.
A lifestyle concept for contemporary mood
Prado Restaurante is more than just seasonal, locally sourced, contemporary restaurant in Lisbon. Shelled into a five-star lifestyle concept by The Lisboans, the impeccably designed apartments above create a home away from home, with fresh coffee, pastry, and juices delivered to your bed or sofa.
The project includes a small gourmet shop selling local bounty. The impeccably sourced Portuguese produce whets your mouth. Portuguese jamon de bellota (the famous dehesa of Spain crosses into Portugal where same quality, but less commercialised thus better priced ham is produced). I got exquisite star-pressed dried figs stuffed with blanched almonds and an award-winning Portuguese chocolate. Most of the wines from the restaurant list are sold there as are small snacks and sandwiches.
As almost everything in Portugal, the quality and price ratio is perhaps the most favourable in Europe. Unlimited filtered water is only €0.50/person is a no-nonsense offer that more restaurants should consider as a fair-deal for their customers.
Travessa das Pedras Negras 2, 1100-404 Lisboa
Wed – Sat: 12noon – 2am; 3:30 – 7pm ONLY WINE BAR
SUN 12noon – 5pm. Reservations required for parties of 6 or more.
+351 210 534 649