Perched on the edge of Europe and at the vanguard of maritime exploration, Portugal’s cuisine is sprinkled with spices from Africa and Asia and flecked with influences from earlier occupiers including Arabs, Greeks and Phoenicians. Portugal may be relatively small, but its varied landscape and climate create diverse regional cuisines from the northern highlands to the southern plains; while the isolationist regime that ruled until the 1970s preserved traditional foodways that have been lost in neighbouring countries. Despite its Atlantic location, thanks to the warm Gulf Stream Portugal’s diet is primarily Mediterranean, full of seafood, olive oil, chouriço and other charcuterie, wine, bread, cheese, fresh vegetables and herbs. It’s also famous for rich, often simple, desserts, many originating in convents and the best known of which is the custard tart, pastéis de nata.
Join chef Jose Silva (owner of Sweet Belem Patisserie in Sydney’s Petersham) and me, food writer Roberta Muir, for a delicious behind-the-scenes food and wine tour of Jose’s homeland. We’ll visit producers of the country’s most iconic produce and wines, eat regional dishes in local restaurants and enjoy hands-on cooking with like-minded food and wine lovers in a relaxed, comfortable environment.
The below itinerary covers the tour highlights, the order of activities and locations may vary.
We’ll start our adventure in Lisbon with dinner at a traditional taberna in the bohemian Bairro Alto district, overlooking the central city and river. We’ll visit the historic port and wander narrow cobbled streets housing bars and cafés selling famed Portuguese tarts.
In Alentejo, dubbed ‘the Tuscany of Portugal’ we’ll visit olive groves and vineyards, feast on Atlantic seafood and enjoy ham like no other, made with the revered black Iberian pigs that graze on acorns from the cork oaks that have grown here for centuries.
In Serra da Estrella, Portugal’s highest mountain range, we'll visit a producer of one of Portugal’s most iconic cheeses, Queijo Serra da Estrela, made from the milk of sheep grazing on the aromatic wild mountain herbs and grasses.
We’ll spend an evening in Vila Nova de Gaia, where Port is aged in ancient cellars then, in the morning, we’ll take a boat up the Douro River to see the vineyards and lunch at a winery that produces these most famous fortified wines.
In Ponte de Lima, one of Portugal’s oldest towns and part of the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route, we'll explore one of the country’s largest produce markets, meet artisanal producers and enjoy a delicious dinner at the local marisqueira (seafood restaurant).
In the village where Jose was born, he'll host a lunch in the garden of his family home overlooking the vines and valleys of northern Portugal. His aunts and uncles still live in the village, cooking traditional dishes and stomping grapes by foot to make wine.
On our final evening together we'll have dinner in one of Lisbon’s historic fado bars, dedicated to the soulful music genre that evolved in this city and often called ‘the blues of Portugal’.
Our tour ends in Lisbon's ancient Mercado da Ribeira, where locals buy fresh produce, meat, seafood, and more. We'll lunch in the food hall run by TimeOut Magazine on dishes from some of the city’s best bars and restaurants – and a final Portuguese tart of course.
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The Mediterranean climate (thanks to the warming Gulf Stream) and variety of landscape in this small country, ensures a delicious variety of regional cuisines. Add to this great wine, scenery and a rich history alongside warm, welcoming people and you have an exciting holiday destination that’s less touristy than most of Europe.
Outside of Portugal, the pastel de nata (plural: pastéis de nata) or Portuguese custard tart is most famous along with piri piri chicken. And while these dishes are both very popular in Portugal – there’s so much more to discover. Portugal’s Mediterranean diet is rich with grilled seafood, delicious cheeses and chouriço and other charcuterie, olive oil, wine, bread, fresh vegetables and herbs.
Lisbon is Europe’s second oldest capital city (after Athens). This beautiful city built on seven hills overlooking the Targus River, Lisbon is famous for its ornate architecture (especially the famous tin-glazed blue and white tiles), fado music (‘the blues of Portugal’), elegant cafés with excellent Portuguese tarts and coffee, and bustling waterfront from whence many set sail on voyagers of discovery.
Perched on the edge of Europe, Portugal occupies a narrow strip of land running along the Atlantic seaboard to the west of Spain on the Iberian Peninsula. With mountains in the north, rolling plains in the south, and the Gulf Stream ensuring a milder climate than its North Atlantic location would suggest, Portugal is a country of delicious, regionally diverse food and wine.
Port, the fortified red wine from the Portuguese city of Porto (called ‘O Porto’ in Portuguese, meaning ‘the port’) is definitely Portugal’s most famous export. But there are many more delicious wines to discover starting with the other red and white wines of the Port-producing Douro Valley. This steeply-terraced wine region is so special that it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Vinho verde, the crisp white wine from northern Portugal, is best drunk young and well-chilled when its aromatics are fresh and refreshing. While Alentejo, in the south, has been producing wines for millennia, it’s here that a new wave of progressive winemakers is experimenting with new styles of wine.
With the right insider network, food lovers in Portugal can visit artisanal producers of olive oil, baked goods, chouriço and other charcuterie. Due to an isolationist regime for much of the 20th century, rural Portugal is like a snapshot into the past. Unique cheeses have been made here for centuries in remote locations like the high Serra da Estrela mountains and cork is produced for wine bottles and other household objects from ancient cork oaks. And there are many delicious wines to discover beyond the famous (and delicious) fortified Port.