Thanks to the vagaries of budget airline itineraries and the American holiday schedule, we’ve found ourselves arriving in Lisbon again and again and again. Roundtrip from Tangier, one-way via Casablanca, on a forced layover from Rome—you name it.
If you are indeed lucky enough to have a night or more in the city, make your way up the hill from the Martim Moniz station to Santa Maria Maior, where Marília Silveira of Chez’L Lisboa Mouraria will greet you with a welcoming glass of port. Once a psychologist, Marília turned to innkeeping as a more direct way of “making people happy.”
After dropping your bags in the attic room, descend to No. 1, Avenida Almirante Reis, where you are likely to encounter a line of not unhappy people outside the venerable Cervejaria Ramiro. Join the eager crowd, who will be talking animatedly, shifting their weight hungrily from foot to foot, doing their best to balance that ticklish combination of patience and expectation.
Judging by the name alone, you might guess that this place is a family
beer hall, but that represents only a small portion of its DNA. On the
night we first ate there—Thanksgiving 2015—we sat at a large table with
strangers from as near as the next Metro stop and as far as Taiwan.
Although you could order beef, what you really want is shellfish: oysters, shrimp, cockles, and so on—they’re all fresh here and prepared in a way that doesn’t overwhelm the individual flavors. If you’re feeling flush, splurge on a plate of carabineiros, an unusually large scarlet prawn that tastes richly of lobster.
The next morning, set your sights on the sixteenth-century tower of Belém, about five miles south and west from your room chez Lisboa.
The pleasant two-hour walk along Lisbon’s waterfront will provide both grand views of the River Tagus and sufficient appetite for an expansive breakfast at Pastéis de Belém. (Hint: Get there early to avoid the sometimes insanely long lines of tourbus passengers.) Though the throngs rightly gather for a taste of the iconic custard
tarts, it’s worth experimenting with the bakery’s savory options as
well. Both pair well with coffee and Moscatel de Setúbal, a fortified wine with the winning flavor of sunlight and raisins.
But what if you have only a three- or four-hour layover? In the afternoon or early evening, ride the Metro to Cais do Sodré, then find your way to the chefs’ counters at the Mercado da Ribeiro, where some of Lisbon’s best culinary talents serve fine-dining plates at takeaway prices.
To give yourself time to eat, you’ll want to make your choices quickly. We particularly recommend Marlene Vieira for her tempura green beans and duck-and-asparagus risotto, but you really can’t go wrong.
And if your brief layover is in the morning? Then you should forget about eating at the Mercado, because most of the restaurants won’t open until noon.
But you might still want to make the trek to Cais do Sodré, about forty minutes from the airport.
Your reward? Repeated iterations of painter António Dacosta’s “I’m Late,” an homage to Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit. (Perhaps because I’m no longer a commuter, I find myself increasingly appreciative of subway art.)
A few steps away, you’ll find a wide range of cafés—some adjacent to the Mercado, others by the river—where you can fortify yourself against the next flight . . .
Note: My earlier post on Lisbon appears here.