It’s not often I make it up to Lisbon these days but, for many years, I visited weekly on business and was once something of an authority on the restaurant scene there. But over the last five years or so, I have lost touch almost completely, save a few enduring old favourites.
I found myself there for one night earlier this week and met a friend for dinner who lives in the area and had heard good reports about Cavalariça Lisboa. This is what started out as a pop-up of the famous Cavalariça restaurant in Comporta, housed in an old stable (‘cavalariça’ in Portuguese).
The Lisbon outpost, which now looks set to stay, is located on Rua da Boavista in the now trendy and once dodgy Cais de Sodré area. I was expecting to eat well and indeed we did. The food is highly original and packed with flavour, with tapas-style starters such as cured ‘gambas da costa’ (fresh prawns from the Algarve) served sandwiched between two pieces of crispy chicken skin.
The unicorn head on the wall sets the scene for some truly unusual cooking, dishes that play with both the mind and the palate and an unusual wine list to match.
Many of the wines on the list were unknown to me, but I was pleased to see the Algarve represented in the Orange Wines section with the excellent example from Monte da Casteleja, near Lagos. But I headed for Dão and savoured a bottle of the outstanding Vinhas Velhas made by António Madeira in the foothills of Serra da Estrela, to accompany a main course of matured Iberian black pork chop for two garnished with fresh black truffle.
This is a wine that costs around €25 in the shops and is worth every cent. Made from a field blend of local varieties predominated by Alfrocheiro, Baga and Jaen, it has intense character with notes of pine and earthy forest floor on the nose, medium to full bodied in the mouth with supple tannins and great depth of flavour. I will be returning to this restaurant and looking out for this excellent wine.