Everyone likes a different kind of holiday. Some people like sunshine, some people like food and some people like activity. However, we found a way to combine them. Rather than spending a lot of effort to find the best Lisbon food and drink, we decided to take a short cut by booking ourselves onto a guided walking tour of Lisbon, offered by Eat Drink Walk. And so we found ourselves outside the Mercado da Ribeira in the bright sunshine, waiting for our guide Celia Pedroso, and our introduction to the petiscos of Lisbon.
As it was a Monday, the fresh produce sections of the market were regrettably quiet, while the fish market was closed altogether. Entire sections of the market are sectioned off behind plastic curtains and construction sounds echo around the halls. The whole market is undergoing modernisation, starting with the opening of the TimeOut food hall. This wide open space is filled with communal tables in heavy blond wood and lined with a selection of Lisbon's finest restaurants and food outlets.
|The Timeout food hall at the Mercado da Ribeira|
We started our eating tour with a very fine selection of cheeses (sheep and goat) from Manteigaria Silva along with plenty of crusty corn bread, ham-wrapped figs, all accompanied by some crisp, refreshing glasses of Vila Santa Loios white wine, made in the Alentejo region.
|Cheese platter from Manteigaria Silva|
|Ham-wrapped figs and cheese from Manteigaria Silva|
Then it was time to leave the Mercado and start walking the streets of Lisbon in search of the tastiest snacks and drinks. As we walked, Celia pointed out historic buildings and interesting sights, including a bakery with wonderful animal creations and a food shop where slabs of dried salted cod were stacked high.
|Bread animals in a shop window|
|Stacks of dried salted cod|
Then it was time to visit Restaurante Nova Pombalina for some leitão - or suckling pig sandwich. The cafe assembles sandwiches on freshly baked bread in lightning fast time, accompanied by a delicious selection of fresh juices and potato chips. The rolls are filled with a mixture of crackling and meat, with a hot piri-piri oil available for those who like to spice it up. Rissois de camerao, or crispy prawn pancakes, had a tasty cream filling balanced by fresh herbs. Several glasses of fresh pineapple juice with ginger or mint worked their refreshing magic before we headed back out into the sunshine.
|Rissois de camarao - or crispy prawn pies|
|Refreshing fresh pineapple and mint juice|
|Roasted suckling pig rolls with potato chips|
The tinned fish industry is very important in Portugal where they have elevated it to an art-form. There are many shops dedicated to the sale of tinned fish, with shelves stocked neatly in a rainbow cacophony of tins. Sardines, mackerel, octopus, mussels, tuna… if the Portuguese can't tin it, then it probably isn't worth eating. Conserveira da Lisboa on Rua dos Bacalhoeiros is a beautiful old-style shop with tins stacked behind the serving counter.
|Conserveira de Lisboa|
|The first mountain of tinned fish|
It was time to taste port, courtesy of the Garrafeira Nacional on Rua de Santa Justa. The entire shop is lined with bottles but especial focus is given to port and sherry. Bottles of different vintages and sizes are everywhere, and it was fun for our party to see who had the most expensive port vintage birth year. (I only clocked in at €200).
We got to taste a wide selection including white, ruby, tawny and aged ports, with colours ranging from light to dark deep red. The final bottle was a sample of the local Moscatel de Setúbal, a delicious sweet wine suitable for aperitifs.
|Vintage ports at the Garrafeira Nacional|
|Our port and Moscatel tasting at Garrafeira Nacional|
|Presenting Moscatel de Setúbal|
At this stage we had walked well away from the Mercado and it was time to start turning back. But not before we stopped at a little food store specialising in food from the Portuguese Azores islands. Here we nibbled on cheese, spicy chorizo and fresh pineapple marinated in the sweet liqueurs produced on the islands. It seemed that every type of fruit was bottled on the shelves, even going to so far to produce a creamy Bailey's-like drink from rice.
|Cheese, spicy chorizo and liquer tasting|
|Yet more tinned fish|
Yet more tinned fish, this time at the modern and sleek Loja das Conservas, which is more like a modern art gallery than a tinned fish shop. Tins from different canneries are arranged artfully underneath mini-histories of the cannery. Even the purchases are beautifully packaged, with tins carefully laid into cardboard boxes or even wooden boxes.
|And even more tinned fish|
Lisbon even has a tapas restaurant, Sol e Pesca, that specialises in decanting tinned fish, housed in a former fishing tackle shop. You simply pick your choice of tinned piscine delight and the staff will deliver them, in their oils or sauces, to your table. Simplicity is the key here, with fresh bread and carafes of crisp white wine to wash it all down.
|Tinned fish tapas at Sol e Pesca|
|And more tinned fish tapas at Sol e Pesca|
By now our legs were feeling the effects of spending 4 hours walking in the Lisbon sunshine. Our final stretch took us back to the market for a Portuguese treat. Ginjinha is a local liqueur made from sour cherries and the little bar from Mariquinhas Óbidos serves it in a little chocolate cup for added sweetness. Careful handing is required in the heat, but to be honest, the little cup doesn't tend to last long.
|Tasting ginjinha - with a shot in a chocolate cup|
Our little group of Irish, English and Americans had great fun wandering around Lisbon in the company of Celia and Eat Drink Walk. Sometimes having a local food writer show you around is the best way to find those little gems. Our tour lasted about 4 hours and cost €60 per head including all eating and drinking. Other tour options are available, just contact Eat Drink Walk for details.