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Diners at Ponto Final Portugal
Courtesy of Ponto Final

The 15 best restaurants in Portugal

From salted swordfish by the sea to an Anthony Bourdain-approved ‘sandwich on steroids’, Portugal’s best restaurants are well worth travelling for

Written by
Lucy Bryson
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Fresh, flavourful, abundant and more affordable than many of its European counterparts, the food and drink scene in Portugal is worth travelling for. Having emerged from the shadow of revered foodie destinations like France and Spain, Portugal has stepped up to prove it brings a lot more to the table than pastéis de nata and peri-peri chicken – although by no means should you miss these.

For a compact nation (including the islands of Madeira and the Azores), Portugal is home to more than their fair share of Michelin-starred spots. But you don’t need to go haute cuisine to eat well here: family-run tascas and tavernas often offer lipsmackingly good dining at very reasonable prices. And although Portugal might be famous for its fish and seafood, an increasing number of vegan and vegetarian spots – especially in major cities – ensures nobody goes hungry.

Feeling spoiled for choice? Read on to discover the 15 best places to eat in Portugal right now, according to Lisbon local Lucy Bryson.

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Portugal’s best restaurants

Tasca do Isaias, Sesimbra
Photograph: Tasca do Isaias/Arlindo Camacho

1. Tasca do Isaias, Sesimbra

Less than an hour’s bus ride south of Lisbon, the traditional fishing village of Sesimbra is regarded by many Portuguese as the best spot in the country for fish and seafood. The locals are known as ‘Pexitos’ (‘little fish’) and all of them will tell you the best place to savour the catch of the day is this unassuming family restaurant tucked away on a backstreet. There’s no menu – the day’s haul is chalked up on a board by the entrance – but if you’re lucky you’ll find swordfish, a Sesimbra speciality, salted and cooked over hot coals at the outdoor grill.

Rua Coronel Barreto 2, Sesimbra

Tia Tia, Porto
Photograph: Tia Tia

2. Tia Tia, Porto

Be sure to book in advance if you want to enjoy dinner (Fridays and Saturdays only) at this in-demand little restaurant specialising in perfectly-crafted small plates and natural wines. Book even further in advance if you want a seat on the leafy terrace out back. The weekend dinner service sees culinary couple Tiago Feio and Cátia Roldão serve up a short, carefully-curated and largely plant-based menu. Pescatarian? Seared marinated horse mackerel makes a regular appearance, alongside vegan dishes like grilled pak choi with cashew nut cream. If you can’t get a seat for dinner, the hearty, healthy breakfasts and brunches (Tuesday-Saturday) should help sugar the pill.

Rua do Almada 501, Porto

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O Afonso, Porto
Photograph: Claudio Paiva

3. O Afonso, Porto

One of Porto’s greatest culinary claims to fame is the francesinha – a belly-busting combination of bread, meat and cheese that’s essentially a grilled cheese sandwich on steroids. The question of which Porto establishment serves the best version is hotly debated, but you can’t go far wrong by following in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain and sampling the heart-stopping sandwich at O Afonso. The secret, enthusiasts say, is in the rich, slightly spicy sauce.

Rua da Torrinha 219, Porto, Portugal

4. O Américo, Azores

In the Azores, the windswept Portuguese archipelago in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean, you don’t have to spend big to enjoy massive flavours. For proof, head to this unassuming-but-excellent family-run spot in the town of Mosteiros on São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores. For just a few euros you can tuck into delicious fresh fish burgers and just-caught seafood – including the cracas, a crustacean native to these islands, and some of the tastiest octopus on the islands. The super-friendly service and carafes of inexpensive house wine have gained this place plenty of loyal customers.

Rua das Pensões 13, Mosteiros, São Miguel

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Time Out Market Lisbon
Photograph: Luis Ferraz

5. Time Out Market Lisbon

You might call us biased, but the foodie crowds that flock to this converted market hall will back us up when we say it’s one of Lisbon’s hottest gastronomic destinations. Miniature versions of some of Lisbon’s best-loved restaurants and wine bars have set up shop around hotly-contested communal dining tables, allowing visitors to sample everything from octopus hot dogs (yes it’s a tentacle on a hot-dog roll) at Sea Me, to arguably the best pastéis de nata in town at Manteigaria.

Avenida 24 de Julho 49, Lisbon

Pica-Pau, Lisbon
Photograph: Pica-Pau

6. Pica-Pau, Lisbon

Lisbon is a city strewn with Michelin stars and chefs determined to reinvent the culinary wheel. So when Pica-Pau opened in 2022, it surprised everyone with its resolve in sticking to perfectly-crafted versions of traditional Portuguese dishes. The leafy patio, elegant decor and location in ritzy Principe Real suggest tiny portions and high prices, but in fact everything – from petiscos (such as the titular Pica-Pau: seasoned, lightly-fried cubes of beef) to heartier dishes (such as an excellent bacalhau á bràs: a rich combination of salt cod, egg, and shredded potato) are fairly priced and designed to meet the exacting standards of a Portuguese grandmother.

Rua da Escola Politécnica 27, Lisbon

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Jesus é Goês, Lisbon
Photograph: Jesus é Goês

7. Jesus é Goês, Lisbon

Spice-loving visitors to Lisbon will appreciate the enduring culinary connections between Portugal and its former colony, Goa. There are a handful of Goan restaurants in the city, of which Jesus é Goês (‘Jesus is Goan’) is particularly well-loved – and with reason. At the helm is charismatic Goan owner-chef Jesus Lee Fernandes, whose tiny restaurant is packed with colourful murals blending Portuguese and Indian religious iconography. But the real draw is, of course, the food. From the best samosas in town to an ever-changing roster of mains like spiced goat or lentil dahl, everything is made to set your senses a-tingle. Wash it all down with a vinho verde to take the heat off. 

Rua São José 23, Lisbon

Ponto Final, Cacilhas
Courtesy of Ponto Final

8. Ponto Final, Cacilhas

The south bank of the river Tagus is as rustic and unpolished as Lisbon is slick and sophisticated, but that’s very much part of the charm. Take the ten-minute ferry ride from Cais do Sodré in downtown Lisbon to the fishing town of Cacilhas and follow a crumbling pathway winding down from the ferry terminal and along the waterfront to this photo-worthy seafood restaurant. Take a seat outdoors, where tables and chairs are set out precariously on a narrow concrete strip jutting out into the water. The plates of garlicky prawns, white salty cheeses, and super-fresh grilled fish taste all the better for the sea breeze, not to mention the sunset views across the 25 de Abril bridge towards Lisbon’s breathtaking cityscape.

Rua do Ginjal 72, Portugal
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El Clandestino, Cascais
Photograph: El Clandestino

9. El Clandestino, Cascais

One positive legacy of pandemic dining restrictions in the beach town of Cascais is ‘Yellow Street’, a pedestrianised strip in the centre of town, where bars and restaurants set out their tables and chairs on the cobblestones. It’s a lively affair, and the most appealing of the many drinking and dining establishments is the Peruvian-accented El Clandestino, whose two cosy bar-restaurants sit on either side of the painted street, with al-fresco dining in between. The house cocktails are prepared with great care (try the Despues de la Cena, an intoxicating marriage of mezcal and Martini Rosso) and the food menu is strong on ceviches, as well as a delicious swordfish carpaccio. Vegetarians have some appealing and inventive bruschettas and salads to choose from.

Avenida Costa Pinto 10, Cascais
Restaurante Azenhas do Mar, Colares
Photograph: Duarte Drago/Azenhas do Mar

10. Restaurante Azenhas do Mar, Colares

Locations don’t get any more picture-perfect than this. Azenhas do Mar is a tiny clifftop fishing village just outside Sintra, where dozens of gleaming white houses perch precariously over the crashing waves and natural pools below. Jutting out over the water, Restaurante Azenhas do Mar has the best views in the tiny town, and the menu of just-caught lobster, crab, and freshly-grilled fish is every bit as mouthwatering as the view.

Lugar das Azenhas do Mar, Colares

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11. Zé Manel dos Ossos, Coimbra

This tiny, meat-heavy taberna in Coimbra would be hard to find if it weren’t for the giant queues that form outside. It’s strictly no-reservations, so arrive early and be prepared to join the snaking queue or take your custom elsewhere. (Ask nicely and you should be able to sip a glass of the excellent house wine while you wait in line.) Once inside, the collection of cartoons, sketches, handwritten notes and other curiosities plastered over every inch of wall is (almost) enough to distract diners from the serious task of deciding which tender cut of meat to choose from.

Beco do Forno 12, Coimbra

12. Restaurante Gourmet Convento de Belmonte, Serra da Estrela

The restaurant combines fine-dining flair with friendly service and an admirable lack of pretentiousness – plus a pretty unbeatable setting: a beautifully restored thirteenth-century monastery in the historic Serra da Estrela hill town of Belmonte. The menu makes great use of the natural bounty of the area, with wild mushrooms cropping up in various inventive guises to become the star of the show for vegetarians, while meat-eaters can enjoy locally-caught delicacies such as javali (boar). And the just-picked fruits and salad leaves come straight from the convent’s garden.

Serra da Esperança, Belmonte

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Rei das Praias, Algarve
Rei das Praias © Francisco Sousa

13. Rei das Praias, Algarve

It’s hard to pick just one seaside fish restaurant from the many excellent options in the Algarve. But the ‘King of the Beaches’ scores major brownie points for its fresh-off-the-boat ocean treats, as well as its stunning feet-in-the-sand setting in one of the region’s most picture-perfect whitewashed fishing villages: Ferragudo, a short bus hop from the coastal city of Portimão and the boisterous resort of Praia da Rocha. Ask to see the catch of the day before deciding what to order. Vegetarians are less well catered for, but won’t starve thanks to colourful salads and a tangy gazpacho.

Praia dos Caneiros, Ferragudo

Il Gallo D’Oro, Funchal
Henrique Seruca/Il Gallo D'Oro

14. Il Gallo D’Oro, Funchal

It’s hard to escape Cristiano Ronaldo, the so-called ‘Greatest Of All Time’, in the football star’s birthplace of Funchal, Madeira. But if you’re looking for another kind of GOAT, head for the elegant Cliff Bay Hotel restaurant Il Gallo D’Oro. The Michelin men have also lauded French chef Benoit Sinthon for his eco-friendly cooking – the restaurant holds a ‘Green Star’ for sustainability – with both the tasting menus and à la carte options making great use of the fruit, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood that’s abundant on Madeira.

Estrada Monumental 147, Funchal

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15. Botequim da Mouraria, Évora

One of the many jewels in the crown of the Alentejo region, the sun-baked, history-steeped city of Évora is held in high regard among lovers of Portuguese food and wine. And tiny, husband-and-wife-run bar Botequim da Mouraria is one of the best places in town to sample both. You’ll have to arrive early to grab one of the nine seats, and the raved-about food (think cured sheeps’ cheeses, veal steaks, and a surprising number of meat-free small plates) is served at the bar – all the better for eyeing up the vast selection of vinhos from Alentejo and across Portugal.

Rua da Mouraria 16A, Évora

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