Ever since our trip to Lisbon last year, Porto had crept up quite high on my list of places to visit next. This relatively under-the-radar city in Portugal has now risen to the forefront of everyone’s travel goals.
This year, as an extended birthday celebration and thanks to some awesome January deals by easyJet, we decided to make this happen. As is typical with my city breaks, food was definitely on the agenda and I did a lot of research beforehand on places to eat in Porto.
Generally speaking, food and wine in Porto is exceptionally good and very reasonably priced, even in the fanciest of restaurants. To avoid disappointment, we booked most places in advance, especially the ones that came highly recommended.
We were visiting Porto only for a long weekend so we took a three day travel card (called Andante Tour 3 Card). You can easily pick one of these up from the Tourist Information Center at the Airport. At €15 euro each for three days, it was the best way to see Porto on public transport (although it’s not valid on trams or the funicular). The state-of-the-art Oporto Metro and buses are fairly well connected to the key spots. Uber is pretty cheap too. A combination of all three worked well for us to travel seamlessly across town.
As soon as we landed, we dropped our bags at our hotel, the Porto Palacio Congress Hotel and Spa. This is a five-star hotel, slightly away from the main stretch of the city. I like my well-designed spaces and this hotel definitely ticked that box. Overall, it was a great base to explore Porto from.
BRUNCH | EPOCA
Our first stop was Epoca. It is a modern and pleasant cafe with minimalist interiors, serving well-made coffee and great brunch. Unfortunately, their kitchen closes at 3 pm so we missed out on the food and had to content ourselves with a top quality Long Black and a Lemon Cornflour Cake. The staff were friendly and engaging and the force of the WiFi was strong. This is a good spot for a relaxed brunch or to unwind with endless cups of coffee. epocaporto.com
BAR | CAFE CANDELABRO
On our way to dinner, we stumbled upon this cosy and intimate candlelit wine and coffee bar. There are no formal wine lists here; the bartender simply asks you about your preference in terms of palate and suggests something. They have a formidable collection of wine and two 150ml glasses of red came at a reasonable price of €6. That is just over £5 for two glasses of good quality, delicious tasting wine! instagram.com/cafecandelabro
DINNER | FLOW
We couldn’t have asked for a better venue for our first dinner in Porto than Flow. The menu has Italian leanings and the interiors are tasteful. This is a snazzy, destination restaurant without being pretentious. Staff were informal and chatty and looked after us well. Two impressive courses later, we were truly satiated. www.flowrestaurant.pt
Things we ate
Scallops with Quail Egg, Truffled Cauliflower Cream with Chives, Black Roe, Mini Eryngui
Sea Carpaccio of Octopus, Sweet Potato, Corn, Chipollini, Padron, Paprika
Black Pork on Coal, Chimichurri Sauce and Bread Crumble and Beans
Chicken Breast “Supremo” with Mozzarella Gratin, Potato Gnocchi and Sage
BREAKFAST | CAFÉ MAJESTIC
Our first full day in Porto started with a jaunt to the iconic Café Majestic. Being popular with tourists, we were expecting queues, but got a table pretty much straight away. The opulent, high-ceilinged room was full of lavish details including a piano and candelabras. We had a pleasant and relaxed time here and the whole experience did not feel touristy at all. The staff were fast and efficient, but served with a smile. We only stopped by for a quick snack but next time we will explore the menu in a bit more detail. www.cafemajestic.com
LUNCH | TAPABENTO
This place came highly recommended from a work colleague. In fact, I was barred from returning to the UK until I had dined in this spot. The place is simple and casual in aesthetics and its location near the São Bento Railway Station may give you the wrong impression that it is a tourist trap. But behind the unassuming facade lies hidden a gem of a place. The food is mostly seafood focussed and everything smelled and tasted remarkably delicious. In fact, our meal was so good that it made me emotional (yes, I am known to weep over good food). We also met Isabelle, the warm and gracious owner of Tapabento, who herself is very well travelled and speaks several languages. Sadly, the building the restaurant is located in is up for sale so Tapabento are on the lookout for a new home as we speak. To echo my colleague, I too would strongly recommend you visit this restaurant when in Porto. It is worth missing your flight for. www.tapabento.com
Things we ate
Potato tortilla | Eggs, Potatoes, Comfited Onions and fresh parsley
Fish Soup | Meagre, Monkfish, Shrimp, Crab, Egg and Coriander
Razor Clams from the Algarve | Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Lemon, Garlic and Coriander
72 degree Cod | Crispy Onion Crust, Sautéed Vegetables, Baby Spinach
Wild Shrimp Sautéed with Garlic | Citrus Butter, Sweet and Sour Mayonnaise
If you read my blog, you will know that we are big fans of Portuguese restaurant Bar Douro in London. In fact, I messaged them prior to my trip and they recommended this place to us. The unorthodox menu is creative, complex and pushes boundaries; the interiors subtle and lovely. Chances are you won’t see the same menu twice. ‘Almeja’ means desire; and this is exactly the kind of menu that you will desire to end your holiday on a high. www.almejaporto.com
Things we ate
Almeja Toast | Pig’s Head, Pickle and Apple
Black Garlic | Malt and Leeks
Goatling | Chervil Root, Beetroot and Pistachio
Wood Pigeon | Pear and Celery Root
Our last day was reserved for more of a browse around the city and to take in the final sights and smells of Porto before we took the flight back home.
LUNCH | TRACA
This was an upscale, meat-focussed restaurant, complete with crisp white tablecloth, sparkling glassware and glimpses of the river Douro through its large windows. We gorged on some delicious Crispy Prawns with Garlic Mousseline before moving onto Charolais T-Bone Steak with Julienne French Fries and House Salad. The steak was well-seasoned and tender and the chips cooked well. Only the salad missed the mark. The quality of meat served was pretty decent and the prices affordable so this is a good-value-for-money restaurant for a convivial meal in a somewhat touristy location. restaurantetraca.com
And with that, our fabulous gastronomic trip to Porto came to an end. Porto really impressed us; it had history oozing from its every pore. For us, it was not so much a city to see but to live in, even if it was for three days. We wanted to experience this city through our love of good food and Porto delivered it on all accounts. This is our version of Porto. What does your Porto look like?