Prado Restaurante Lisbon: new Portuguese cuisine coated in Nordic-style over local undergarments

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 LisbonPrado Restaurante

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.
Prado Restaurante

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.
Lisbon hip restaurants
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.
Prado RestaurantePrado grocer

‘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.
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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.
figsPrado Restaurante

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.
chocolate made in Portugal
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.
Prado grocer
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

Graça do Vinho: The slow-food wine bar in Lisbon that connects then and now

Graça do Vinho must be the most relaxed wine bar in Lisbon. Set on a steep slope of the Graça neighbourhood, climbing up its cobbled ground on your feet in a turtle speed organically fuses into its slow-food philosophy. Once called Alis Ubbo “the delightful shore”, Lisboa authentically whiffs the chaos of its 18th-century earthquake in a charming puzzle of the new, the abandoned and the resistant.
wine bar in Lisbonwine bar in Lisbon

Connecting past and present in rapidly gentrifying Lisbon

As with the tremor, times are changing rapidly in Lisbon these days. Graça is one of the last central strongholds of the locals. Yet, the Alfama and Castelo backyard is hip now with trendy young Lisboetas moving in and the older generation upset that prices are climbing higher than the capital’s mythic seven hills. I was staying at one of the loveliest, homy, cosy and cool, boutique hotels in Europe. A labor of love of its owner, a Portuguese journalist who knows local food scene better than any guide, and her hands-on guardian. The tip to go to Graça do Vinho came from her.
Hungry and with a whetted appetite for some local wine, I asked where to lunch around casually. My sister, a sommelier would not settle on any bar, so an authentic, ideally local, approach to the wine selection was key to pleasing us. Sadly, with gentrification looming and rents hiking up, the park-side building is changing hands. Every personally curated design or vintage peace is being currently sold out in an Instagram auction. Hopefully, the cosy wine bar survives the boom and bust.
Graça do Vinho strongly claims its sense of place. Local artists exhibit here regularly, cheeky old movie posters fit in the cinephile city, while street life photos by Vagabundografia, tell the stories of the easy-going yet rough life in Lisbon. I could not resist buying the polaroid postcards. My parents probably did not appreciate the retro look as I did, but remembering while on the road counts.
polaroid postcardsLisbon steep streets

Graça do Vinho: slow-food wine bar: local, seasonal and authentic

Whatever is in season appears in baskets and bowls around the cheese, cold cuts and fresh oysters “kitchen” counter. Preserved olives, fish and seafood conservas stacked up on the shelves, marinated or smoked fish and creative dips accompany your wine for a small change. Ordering a generous tabua mista or a mixed plate of whatever is around is then a natural choice. 
Like most food in Lisbon, it’s cheap for the quality you are about to savour. Ripe persimmons, swollen grapes like cows’ udders calling to be juiced out (in the electric extractor de sumos set next to the coffee machine and sturdy toaster), crisp celery, a pea shoot, even edible flowers, all accompanied my Portuguese cheese plate. Preserved jam sweetened the dairy treats. Unspoiled by experience and knowledge, always more open in a new country where I am not familiar with local food, I ordered whatever the only waiter suggested – unpasteurised semi-soft sheep’s milk cheese made at the foothills of the Arrábida Mountains – Queijo de Azeitao D.O.P. and a blend of goat and sheep milk by Joaquim Duarte Alves. Sheep cheese is most typical, but the harder goat’s blend was decent.
A terracotta bowl of vegetables and fruits suggests what the daily options are. The millennial chef merged with a dreadlocks-haired waitress sliced a mixed salad topped with green shoots to go with my bread, cheese and fruits. The bread is bought at local padaria, wrapped in paper bag, some of it toasted if not from this morning batch. No wasting of great food, please. You hardly find plastic at Graça do Vinho, polluting and wasting is not trendy within the natural wine community. The meat and cheese though came wrapped in foils, so if you aim for zero plastic in your life, go directly to the farmers.
slow life Lisbonwine bar in Lisbon
Portuguese cheese

Organic and natural Portuguese wines

Starting with a refreshing half bottle of local sparkling vinho, the Murganheira brut by Tavora-Varosa “super reserva” 2014 was not bad. I would say like an average cava. She treated us to other wines by the glass currently opened in her coolers while chatting about the Portuguese vinous potential. An organic Albarinho from the northern Vinho Verde region where these super-dry crisp wines pair with the seafood and the scorching heat of the summer was my choice. A red Macanita from the Douro DOC was too strong for a midday cuppa, but the fingered t-shirt clad young lady gave me a sample at least, so I knew what she liked. Obrigada! I thanked her in Portuguese, quieting my Spanish speaking sister with her “gracias“. I heart that they are quite sensitive to language mixing here. English or French seems more accepted by the worldly locals.
seasonal foodOrganic wine Portugal
The rustic, bare-stone-walled Graça do Vinho relaxes your soul like chilling in your living room. There are is a lamp in the darkest corner, even books to borrow, so if you are solo, dive in. Leather sofas in one corner tempt to slow sips and a conversation with a friend, while a delicious, quick and simple, locally sourced lunch (daily changing soups and salads next to the small regular menu) or tapas can be served at the tiny bar counter. The spinning stools are comfortable just for that quickie.
vinho Lisboa
Eye-catching bottled IPAs from small Portuguese breweries all lay by the feet of sexy beach girl in a bikini. In an orgasmic pose facing the sun, the flower-nippled beauty, her hand from writs down missing, was spared of her dignity is a straw hat someone placed over half of her face. A weird decorative piece, whose attire is subject to change, but it suggests the bohemian indulgence you are about to relish.
If you drink too much, do not panic – the salvaged flying chairs indeed hang upside down from the ceiling. So much vintage ‘crap’ decorates the quirky wine bar. From dial phones, large glass spirit and wine carafes, to useless travel souvenirs of the owners (charms and necklaces).
wine bar in Lisbonhip Lisbon
The coffee is almost always superb and cheep in Portugal. Unlike at the ubiquitous cafeterias, each of you might sip from a different cup. Uniquely distinguished in its shape, colour and the overall design – blue-haired fairy, floral paint, a wide white mug, an ochre thick glass… as if these were leftovers from what was left over after the earthquake. The ease and friendliness of this wine bar is so attractive in today’s copy-cat style of globalised design cafes and bars. Go before the tremor shakes the metropolis once again.

 Graça do Vinho: Calçada da Graça 10 A/B, 1100-266 Lisboa, Portugal
Mon-Thurs: 11AM–12AM
Fri0Sat: 11AM–12:30AM
Sun: Closed

Monsaraz: slow, prehistoric Portugal where crafts and rural beauty sooth the soul

Monsaraz is the walled in triumph of a fiercely battled past. Reaching deep into the abyss of conquest, the prehistoric settlement had imprinted pagan whispers in the megaliths crumbled like galactic sermons across the rocky region. Later, Christians, Moors, and the Knights Templars, all stamped their presence on this Iberian hilltop phenomenon. Circling the hilltop parish in a defensive pose, the walls survived millennia of domineering desires.

Car-free, Monsaraz is the UNESCO heritage contestant for the prettiest tooth-white village in Portugal. It is like a Greek village with a longer history. Enter through the Porta da Vila to rub your feet with the keyboard of hardy stones that as if someone played an impromptu jazz set, crooked, spiking up and down, edge against your soles. Stopping by the wall or climbing up to the remains of its Castle, your fingers can literally touch Spain as you point over to the glistening and expansive Barragem de Alqueva reservoir. Not just a game-changer for Alentejo, but it is also the largest manmade ‘lake’ in Europe. Sailing, paddle boarding, and boating in summer turned the borderline reservoir into a recreational hotspot. A plus and a bummer at once.

Mysterious doors

The fascinating doors in Monsaraz emblem each house with a unique pride that keeps you wondering – what inspired the choice of horse shoes, why the sword, the dachshund with a cow’s head? The female hand on the door knob looks elegant, but the rest must be related to the livelihood of its inhabitants. In Monsaraz, roosters halo the chimneys, pottery and flowers dot the window rims, and pomegranate, orange, and other, distinctively local flora decorate the painterly village.

The charms of Monsaraz

The frames of the white houses, the wrought iron balconies with pelargoniums hanging down in all shades of red are matched by the ochre of the brick roofs. Monsaraz is pretty by all accounts. Enter the 16th-century Igreja Matriz and the mood instantly changes. The church feels like a deep cave in a bright blue sea. The edifice shields Monsaraz’s darkest public space. My positively-tuned self much preferred a small chapel hidden from the main paths. Repainted with respect to its original frescoes it now houses contemporary local art. In the saintly named surrounding villages, such charming catholic chapels, walled in convents and opulent churches are still the social hubs of local gossip and worship. The tow somewhat go along. If you like hand-painted ceramics then visit also some of the 22 potteries in the nearby village São Pedro do Corval.
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Portuguese crafts: carpets, cork, honey, pastry, pottery, and shoes

Come in fall, winter or early in the spring. Skip the herds of visitors that brave the heat spiking towards the 50 degree Celsius longitude of mercury. Not that it is just dessert hot, the crowds spoil the experience. On the last Sunday of every month a flea market, then in September and on Easter the bull-fighting season draws in thousands of visitors. In the tiny, narrow patched village this December only four people joined our bumpy promenade on the cobbled fangs that bleed your thin soles. Wear hardy shoes, otherwise you are screwed.
The Japanese revel in such rusticity and particularly in the hand-woven wool carpets by Mizette Nielsen. In the trendy boutiques of Lisbon you pay double for her pieces. In winter the craft shops do not hive in throngs of photo hunters, it is all yours!
handcrafts in Portugallamb wool shoesPortuguese craft shop MonsarazPortuguese honey

Snail life, slow food

Alentejo region is poor but now thanks to the reservoir also known as the breadbasket of Portugal. Apples, asparagus, grapes, olives, and acorns (bellotas) thrive. Following these oak nuts are the celebrated black pigs of the same breed as on the Spanish-side of Extramadura, the king of pork made into an excellent “jamón iberico“. The land of cork now protects its slow growing trees, but you can still buy long-lasting wallets, coasters, even umbrellas made from this organic material. The shaved off bark trees characteristically dot the region as do sprawling vineyards. Alentejo is the largest wine producer in Portugal, known more for its port wines, but one should broaden his vinous horizons beyond the fortified vinho. Honey sweetens the typical egg cookies.
If you need to eat in Monsaraz, be open to rustic home cooking of the Portuguese ladies at Sabores de Monsaraz. Often, vintage oak barrel tops left over from winemaking front a cafe or eatery in the village making your orientation easier. For a finer local cuisine, head out of town to restaurant Sem-fim. Set in a former olive oil mill bought by a Dutch-born sculptor where his wife makes rugs for sale, the restaurant is of many locals favourite. Grilled meats like lombo de assado no forno (pork) and rego assado (lamb) are local specialties.
grass-grazing cowsbrown sheep
The sheep roam and hum in baritone on the lush pastures surrounding Monsaraz. I recorded the wooly creatures in a spawn of excitement as a dog herded them towards another herby and grassy patch of land. The sheep’s wool and skin is used to make cosy fluffy shoes sold in the village stores. Cows lead happy grazing lives here too. At São Loureço do Barrocal farm, recently converted into a superb luxury hotel, the fleet of hazelnut butter haired bulls and cows with babies zoom in any approaching living thing. They seem peaceful and keep roaming the pasture if you just continue on trotting on the ironed path.
pre-historic cultures

Alentejo: the region of millennia-old monuments

A few minutes walking downhill from Monsaraz, over six thousand years old megaliths rise oomphs and ohs. Graceful feminine fecundity circles a phallic menhir. In the background the palm-framed silhouette of a former covent (a hotel for some time before the government shut it down) mysteriously shadows the millennia old formations. The region is full of these pagan stone statuettes associated often with the Celtic tribes. Unlike Stonehenge up north though, these mystic manmade sculptures do not yet attract buses of selfie hunters from around the globe.
pre-history in Europe
From the fortified Monsaraz, the cloudless nocturnal sky is perfectly suited for plain stargazing. Reportedly, the galactic canvas is so clear here that only the far-flung deserts can promise such an experience. An observatory nearby allows for a closer exploration of the Universe in two-hours lasting daily sessions starting at 18:30(except for Sunday and Monday).
The poor area has become so rich in experience, that there is no need to drive 45 minutes west to the much larger Evora. Although this is one of the most historic towns in Portugal with a castle, museums, bone chapel, and cobbled streets with Rua 5 Outubro offering a broad diversity of handicrafts, Monsaraz is eons more beautiful. Evora was just too shabby for our purist tastes. Stay in the countryside.
A bonus: when the brown sheep were herded to a fresh pasture on the verdant hills of Montsaraz, I stopped and immersed myself into their meditative singsong. Listen…

Tasting port at Sandeman in Portugal – video

In my early years of vinous exploration, I visited the spectacular Douro Valley. There, the port wine has been made for centuries. This fortified wine is made from the indigenous local grape varietals not found easily anywhere else in the world. Sandeman was one of the most successful port producers employing a smart marketing ploy. I visited the modern, renovated, winery in fall. Watch my video to see what mystery can do to wine sales. Have you ever wondered how and why the colour of wine changes?

Sandeman is like most of the traditional port producers a large scale project. Visiting the winery has been accommodating to any level of the wine consumer. If you are new to port, this is the perfect winery to check out.

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