Exploring Porto’s Restaurants and Bars
Congratulations! You did it – you’ve settled into your new flat. The stress of getting into work on time on the first day is over and you’re finally ready to start exploring the hospitality scene of Porto.
You’ve been to all the famous spots. Ticked off the list are Casa Guedes and the famous pernil (roast pork) sandwiches, you’ve had your francesinha from Santiago and Brasão and Boom! You’ve even been super sociable and gone for an alfresco drink outside in the square at Adega.
This is a good start, but now it’s time to try something a little less famous and a little further away from the so-called “beaten track.”
I’m going to share my favourite breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drink spots in Porto. I dare not call them “hidden gems” because they are undeniably popular and not really that hidden – but they are damn good! And that’s what you’re here for.
So, let’s get going…
As is the case in many European cities, breakfast is a serious affair for many folks from Porto, or as they are so delightfully called, “tripeiros” (meaning “tripe-eaters”). Without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite breakfast spot is Molete Bread & Breakfast. There are a few dotted around town, but my particular favourite is on the corner by Jardim Marques de Oliveira. It’s big, clean, and pearly white – it’s so stripped back it makes you consider why on earth people bother with any other style. I love it!
So, in you go and join the queue. You can’t really go wrong from here. You can get one of the dangerously moreish Sandes de Panado com Ovo which is a schnitzel bap with an egg (what a breakfast!), or one of their Momentos combos, which is “one of those eggy custard tart things” with an espresso for a single euro! You can also try every other pastry or bread on offer because they’re all so cheap and tasty.
Well, that was a nice breakfast, wasn’t it! After checking out the Jardins de Cristal and feasting your eyes on the delectable views and peacocks, you will want to head somewhere for lunch. Are you ready for the place that served me the best food I had in 6 months in Portugal?
Sabores e Açores (S + A)
Mamma-frickin’-mia. These guys know how to cook. You may have read about how much I love Portuguese food on my personal blog, but one thing I possibly didn’t mention is that after a while, as delicious and comforting as it is, the cuisine can feel a little repetitive.
That’s where Sabores e Açores comes in. Why? Because this kitchen presents the hybrid cuisine of the paradise volcanic islands of the Açores, a mystic region of Portugal located in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, far from the mainland and with a unique history and culture.
I’ve never been to these islands, but bleeding ‘eck do I want to! Natural beauty to rival the likes of Iceland or New Zealand… and dairy. S + A make this butter… Nah. I have no words – just try it. They will serve it to you on some fantastic bread.
Then there are the mains. You cannot call their cooking bland: it’s spicy, rich, textured, and all so refreshingly different. I went many times and got the pork, the beef, and a rice dish. Each one was layered, complex, and utterly divine!
Oh, and did I mention that S + A is located in a repurposed shopping centre in the middle of the creative district of Porto? Surrounded by other exciting independent stores and restaurants? Whoops. Must have slipped my mind!
A special mention goes to: Amazonia Cafe. It’s just up the road from S + A and home to some highly regional Brazilian cooking, from the northern treasure trove of Amazonia. Charming staff and delicious food!
Oof! What a day. So where are we off to for dinner? This is harder for me to choose as there are so many restaurants and I want to stay on point and suggest places that are difficult to find otherwise. So let’s go with…
A trip down memory lane! An institution which fills my tum with the sweet nostalgic feelings of friendship, laughter, and that weird swooping feeling you get when you look back at times when you drank far too much wine.
This place has it all.
If you go on a busy night, the experience starts as you wait outside on the street, making friends with other avid diners, eagerly waiting their turn to be crammed into the restaurant. You’re greeted by a malfunctioning automatic door which provides some weirdly cathartic comic relief for diners, haltering and spluttering every time it opens, and a charming, brisk, and forthright host who ushers you in.
Before you know it, you have your food. Soup, main, dessert, half a litre (each) of dangerously drinkable house wine for under €7! And it is divine. Broths that are clear, well-seasoned, and simple, and codfish in all its marvellous iterations – it’s the perfect place to get a crash-course in good, home cooked Portuguese food.
Also, get the bolinho de bolacha, which is essentially Weetabix cake. But maybe try to forget that when you eat it.
A special mention goes to: Nabos da Púcara for the best quality petiscos ingredients and overall dining experience I had in the country. A 10/10 and slightly “finer” gastronomic experience.
Nearly there! Time for a quick drink before bed. You know you want to…
Drinks in Porto are very much wine or beer. Good beer is easy to find, as the only thing you really need to drink is Super Bock and they have it everywhere. Wine, however, is where there is scope for a bit of intrigue and adventure. My favourite wine bar is one of those beautiful places on a side street off a side street.
Welcome to Capela Incomum.
Find me a better priced wine menu in the world – but I warn you, you may struggle! The owner is a truly supreme sommelier and incredibly friendly. He loves explaining what he has on offer and, unlike some people, when I ask the most student-y questions (that is, “what’s the best but cheapest wine you have?”) he doesn’t scoff.
He walks you through each of the 6 or 7 wines they have on offer by the glass at a price of €4 or less and expertly describes everything you could possibly dream of knowing. Even if you’re not as nerdy as me, it’s a great opportunity to learn more about Portuguese wine – red or white (or green or Port).
The vibe is classy, quiet, and romantic. I kind of wish I had the chance to take a date there, but no luck yet. Last time I was in the city I drunk messaged someone I liked to see if they wanted to join me – but to no avail. This was about as close as I got!
A special mention goes to: Bar Santa Cachaça. Line your stomach and go. It’s one of the coolest bars I’ve ever been to, and the caipirinhas get the job done.