Porto is Portugal’s “capital of the north”, a bewitching city that has one foot in its historic past and one foot firmly striding out for the future. Porto’s city centre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site for its architectural, cultural and historical importance. This is reflected in the city’s gastronomy, and yet Porto cuisine embraces all that is new, contemporary and sophisticated in the world of food and drink.
For a taste of the “traditional” Portugal, head to Chez Lapin Restaurant on the Rua dos Canastreiros. Chez Lapin is located right on the banks of the Douro river in a converted stable block that dates back to the days when the area played a major role in Portugal’s shipping and export industry.
This is a delightful family-run restaurant offering hearty Portuguese food and well-chosen wines to a motley collection of Porto locals and visitors from far afield. The family atmosphere provides a warm welcome and the menu provides some exceptionally tasty surprises.
Despite its French-inspired name, Chez Lapin Restaurant serves well-executed traditional dishes that every visitor should sample during their stay in Portugal. This is the place to try Bacalhau a Lagareiro (salt cod with potatoes), grilled sardines accompanied by rice and beans, and hearty beef medallions covered in generous amounts of rich port wine sauce. Expect to spend around 15 or 20 euros per head – the views of Porto city centre from the riverbank here are worth the money in themselves.
At the other end of the spectrum is DOP Restaurant, the brainchild of talented chef Rui Paula. Located on the Palacio das Artes Largo de S. Domingos, DOP Restaurant opened in 2010 and has rapidly established itself as one of Porto’s most sophisticated and successful restaurants.
DOP Restaurant’s setting is as magical as the gastronomy it serves. Once the building of the S. Domingos Convent, it dates back to the 14th century and is now, following renovation, an leading arts centre dedicated to developing talented young performers and artists. It couldn’t be a more fitting home for one of Porto’s most creative chefs.
The concept of DOP’s food is to take traditional dishes and transform them with contemporary inspiration and style, and the best way to enjoy a meal her is to opt for the six or seven course tasting menu. Cheap it is not – with a meal for two nudging €300 – but if you are looking to push the boat out and mark a special occasion during your visit to Porto, this is the place to do it.
For touch of Michelin splendour, head to The Yeatman Restaurant on Rua do Choupelo. Porto’s first Michelin-starred eatery is located in the famous Yeatman Hotel, in the heart of Porto’s wine cellar area on the Cais da Gaia.
As you would perhaps expect of a restaurant run by one of Porto’s most successful port wine families, wine at The Yeatman Restaurant takes equal billing with the exquisite food. Like DOP Restaurant, The Yeatman Restaurant is best enjoyed with a generous budget and by letting the professionals do the work but opting for one of the multi-course tasting menus with exotic wines matched to each and every dish.
The Yeatman’s setting is second to none, with panoramic views over the Douro River, right across to Porto’s historic centre. If budget allows, book in for the night to give you the opportunity to enjoy the famous spa facilities and relax in comfort, safe in the knowledge that you don’t have far to go to get home. If you are celebrating a special occasion, you can even arrange to have your meal served exclusively on your own private terrace.
Porto may be a bustling urban centre but it also offers many green spaces and, to the west, gives way from busy streets to relaxed beach life as it stretches out to the west to meet the sea and sand of the Atlantic Ocean. Foz is one of the principal beach areas on the outskirts of Porto, and it is here, on Praia do Ourigo, that Shis Restaurant can be found.
Shis Restaurant is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, but once discovered it is certainly never forgotten. Offering lovely waterfront views out over the Atlantic, this is the perfect setting to enjoy a relaxed lunch by the sea or a sophisticated evening meal against the backdrop of the sun setting over the sea.
The menu features a delightful fusion of dishes from Portugal and the Mediterranean, combined with lovingly prepared Japanese specialities. Sushi and sashimi play a starring role on the menu along with delicious fish and seafood dishes such as miso with clams and tofu and codfish confit. Order a crisp bottle of white to accompany with you meal and all that remains is to sit back and enjoy the beautiful sea views.