by Toby Feldman
Congratulations! You did it. You have settled into your new flat, the stress of getting into work on time on the first day is over and you are finally ready to start exploring the hospitality scene of Porto! How exciting?
You have been to all the famous spots. Ticked off the list are Casa Guedes and the famous pernil (roast pork) sandwiches, your francesinha from Santiago AND Brasão and BOOM! You have even been super sociable and gone for an alfresco drink outside in the square at Adega…
But now, it is time to try something a little bit less famous and a little further away from that infamous ‘beaten track’. But where? Where can I find these treasures?
Fear not. I am going to share my favourite breakfast, lunch, dinner and cheeky beverage 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 is what you are here for. So, starting with:
Moelinhas. Fininho. Bom pão.
As is the case in many European cities, breakfast is a very serious affair for many folks from Porto, or as they are so delightfully called “tripeiros” (a rough translation to this could be “Tripe People” <3 ).
For me, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite breakfast spot is Molete Bread + Breakfast. There are a few dotted around town, but my fave branch is the one on the corner by Jardim Marques de Oliveira. It is big, clean, clinical, pearly white like a dental salon and so stripped back it makes you consider why on earth people bother with any other style. I just LOVE IT.
In you step. You join the clue and from here, you can’t really go wrong. You can get one of the dangerously moreish Sandes de Panado com Ovo which is a schnitzel bap with an egg (what a breakfast!). Order one of their Momentos combos which is ‘one of them eggy custard tart things’ with an espresso for a SINGLE EURO!
You can also try every single other pastry/bready thing that they have on offer because they are all cheap, cheerful and delightful.
1 pm: Lunch
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 make your way 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)
Mama, fricking mia. These guys know how to cook. You will have undoubtedly read about how much I love Portuguese food here and here, but one thing I may not have mentioned is that after a while, as delicious as it is, as comforting as it is, the cuisine can feel a tiny bit repetitive.
And that is where Sabores e Açores comes in. Why? Because this kitchen presents the fascinating 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, culture and emotive feel.
I have never been, but bleeding ‘eck do I want to! Natural beauty to rival the likes of Iceland or New Zealand… and dairy.
Guys, they make this butter… Nah. No words. Just try it. S + A will serve it to you on truly fantastic bread.
Then there are the mains. You cannot call this bland cooking: it is spicy, rich, textured and all so refreshingly different. I went many times, got the pork, the beef and a rice dish and each one was layered, complex and utterly, 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. 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.
7:30 pm: Dinner
Oof! What a day. So where for dinner? This is harder for me to choose as there are so many restaurants and I want to stay on point and continue giving you places you couldn’t find yourself. 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 that you drank far, far, 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 are greeted by a misfunctioning automatic door which provides some weirdly cathartic comic relief for diners as it halters and splutters every time it opens, and a charming, brisk and forthright host.
In you are ushered, and then 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. Codfish in all of its marvellous iterations: this is a perfect place to get a crash-course in good homecooked Portuguese food.
Also… get the bolinho de bolacha which is essentially Weetabix cake. Try unthink that when you try it- go on. I dare ya.
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 ‘fine-r’ gastronomic experience at about 20 squid a person.
9 pm: Drinks
Nearly there! Time for a quick drink before bed. You know you want to…
Right. 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 place is one of those beautiful places that is on a side street off a side street.
Welcome, my apprentice, to Capela Incomum.
Find me a better-priced wine menu in the world? Go on! I mean it.
The man that owns the place is a truly supreme somellier and is incredibly friendly. He loves explaining what he has on offer, and unlike some people, when I ask the most studenty of questions that is “what is the best cheap wine you have?”, he doesn’t scoff.
He walks you through each of the 6/7 wines that they have on offer by the glass at a price point of €4 or less and expertly describes everything you could possibly dream of knowing. Even if you are not as nerdy as me, this is an amazing opportunity to get a free course in Portuguese wine, red OR white (or green or Port).
The vibe is classy, quiet and very romantic. I kinda hope I get the chance to take a date there, but no luck yet. Last time I went, I drunk messaged someone I liked in the city to see if they wanted to join me… but to no avail. This was about as close as I got!
Real blurry footage from the night I messaged the menina…
A special mention goes to: Bar Santa Cachaça. Line your stomach and go. One of the coolest bars I have EVER been to, and the wonderful lady’s caipirinhas GET THE JOB DONE.