Mercado da Ribeira has had many guises – its roots can be traced back to the 13th century, and it was once one of the most famous fish markets in Europe. Many of its traders have been selling fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and flowers there for decades – the place is part of the fabric of Lisbon. When Time Out learned in 2010 that the city council was seeking bids for the chance to manage a large part of the iconic attraction, it couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The Time Out Mercado da Ribeira now brings together some of the city’s most loved names in food and drink. Here are eight big names that you should get to know: first in the market, then on their own turf.
Café de São Bento
The Café de São Bento is generally acknowledged to have the city’s best sirloin steak. The restaurant, in the road of the same name, has served it for 32 years, with a sauce inspired by the one served in Lisbon cafés in the 19th century (and which is great to dip your chips into). They also sell flavoursome pregosteak sandwiches, grilled entrecôte and meat croquettes.
Conserveira de Lisboa
Lisbon’s most iconic tinned goods retailer just had to be in the Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, in the form of a faithful replica of the original shop in the Baixa. The Conserveira is 84 years old and has its own production lines, packing superb gourmet fish in several factories around the country under the brand names Tricana, Minor and Prata do Mar.
There’s no need to ask where any of the drinks on sale here come from: they’re all Portuguese, whether aged port or Madeira wines, white, red or rosé table wines, or liqueurs. They have been carefully selected by the expert team at this 87-year-old family business.
Casa da Ginja
Ginja wild cherry liqueur – commonly known as ginjinha – is one of the locals’ favourite drinks, invariably sipped while leaning on a counter in cafés and snack bars around town. One of the best places to do it is at the Casa da Ginja, which stocks several different brands in one place.
Henrique Sá Pessoa
One of the country’s most high-profile chefs, thanks to his television shows and published books, Sá Pessoa studied in Pittsburgh and has worked in places from London to Sydney. He has been in Lisbon for a decade now, running one of the city’s best kitchens. You can catch him here or at his gourmet hamburger joint at Santa Apolónia, Cais da Pedra.
A classic Lisbon charcuterie housed just off Praça da Figueira, Manteigaria Silva is renowned for the quality of its cheeses and sausages. It also has a secret trump card: a queijo da Serra (made from a mix of sheep’s and cow’s milk) that is cured in the back of the shop. You can buy it at the Mercado da Ribeira, where it’s available at various different ages.
Known for its delicious pasteles de nata (Portuguese egg tarts), Aloma is a 70-year old Lisbon institution. Based in Campo de Ourique, it specialises in home-made, high quality products. Try the famous pasteles, the doughnuts (or ‘Bolas de Berlím’), the palmiers, croissants, or kidney bean cakes. There’s lots to pick from.
If you define Lisbon as including its far-flung suburbs, then the Santini ice-cream parlour, which started at the Praia do Tamariz in Estoril in 1949, is definitely a city icon. Not least because it now has a franchise downtown, in Chiado. Make sure to try the fruit flavours.