Jose Avillez

Jose Avillez knows what’s happening in Portuguese dining circles. Not just at the top end – his restaurant Belcanto by Jose Avillez is currently ranked 42nd on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and was Portugal’s first restaurant to receive two Michelin stars – but at the casual, family-friendly end of the spectrum, too. From tascas (a casual, local restaurant) to white tablecloths, this is where the influential, award-winning chef takes visitors to when they come to Lisbon.

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Dinner And A Show

This year we opened Canto, a dinner and live music restaurant. The menu is based on traditional Portuguese cuisine, but after dinner, the music can take you from Spain to Brazil. It’s a very intimate and special performance. This type of dining experience is something I am fascinated with. My great grandfather opened the first cabaret show in Portugal in 1908. I was inspired by this and wanted to build on his concept, which is why I opened Beco Cabaret Gourmet. It’s a place where creative fine-dining and cabaret come together. It’s so much fun. It’s where I celebrate special occasions. I just love it. It’s an amazing cabaret show but – to use a culinary term – not too spicy.

Sunday Lunch With The Family

In Cascais, my home town when I was born, there’s a lovely seafood restaurant called Mar do Inferno. It’s only a 25-minute drive from Lisbon, so it’s quite easy to get to. It’s right on the ocean, by a fishermens’ village, so the waves are breaking on the rocks. It’s a very beautiful place. The seafood is amazing. I like to go there on Sundays and have lunch with my family. We always order bruxas, a small type of lobster. My kids go crazy for it.

Beco Cabaret Gourmet. Photography: Courtesy of Beco Cabaret

The Most Magical View

On the way to Cascais beach is Estrada do Guincho: a road that has two or three restaurants that are in the most amazing spots. There are no houses nearby – only the landscape with the sand dunes and the sea, which is no more than 20 metres away. It really has the most magical view. It’s the perfect place to go and relax. We’re actually opening Maré, our new restaurant. there very soon. Maré will offer something different to the surrounding restaurants; the focus will still be on seafood, but we will be bringing those ingredients together in a more contemporary way.

Seafood In Central Lisbon

For seafood in central Lisbon, go to Cervejaria RamiroIt’s a very good place, but now it’s full – I mean, really full of tourists. But I still really like to bring a lot of people there, but preferably during the summer when it’s less crowded. It’s popular for a good reason. The ingredients and products are very good. Look out for blue lobster, crayfish and carabineros (scarlet shrimp). It’s maybe the best in the world. I love the prawns with garlic and piri piri, and of course, you have to have bulhão pato clams (clams with lemon, olive oil and garlic). The atmosphere is casual, but when it’s busy people will be lining up by the door, putting coins in the vending machine to drink beers while they wait.

“One Of The Best Places For Traditional Food In Portugal”

Magano is a neighbourhood restaurant where Portuguese locals really love to go. You won’t find any tourists here. It’s a simple restaurant serving traditional food from Alentejo, a region in the South of Portugal. For me, it’s one of the best places for traditional food in Portugal. It’s honest cooking, using fantastic ingredients to make very typical, flavourful dishes. It’s really a restaurant that people should know and visit. Be sure to get a few starters to share – the rice and cod dishes are amazing. Everything on the menu is really good. It’s a restaurant you can feel very confident about.

Seafood at Mar do Inferno. Photography: Courtesy of Mar do Inferno

Where The Locals Lunch

Zé da Mouraria is another neighbourhood restaurant that I really like. This is the place that I bring friends and chefs when they’re visiting me in Lisbon. Everyone loves it. It’s what we call a tasca – a very casual restaurant that’s always full of locals. It’s on a small street in one of Lisbon’s oldest neighbourhoods and serves very typical Portuguese food. It’s only open for lunch and offers about five or six dishes per day. On Fridays and Saturdays, you can try its specialty: a beautiful grilled cod fish with chickpeas and onions. It’s amazing. It’s very simple, very honest food, but with a lot of identity. The restaurant  also does an amazing dish of pork liver that is sliced very thinly and served with a beautiful sauce. It’s a dish that’s very typical in Lisbon, but it’s done so well. The portions are big, so bring some friends to try a few different dishes.

Modern Portuguese, Casual Dining

Tasca da Esquina is a contemporary restaurant from Vítor Sobral: one of the first chefs to create and cook modern Portuguese cuisine. He never went into fine dining but was the first to develop creative dishes using traditional local flavours. You taste interesting combinations of ingredients that are unique but work well together. It’s a restaurant worth visiting to learn about the evolution of contemporary Portuguese cuisine. It’s a must go-to.

There’s also Prado; a great restaurant from chef Antonio Galapito. For me, Prado has a lot of London influence, which makes sense as Antonio used to work for Nuno Mendes in London. He uses great Portuguese ingredients to make creative but simple dishes. It’s good, tasty food that isn’t pretentious. The ingredients are always the star, and impressive smoking and fermentation techniques are common. It’s not very usual to see that kind of food, and it’s certainly not very usual to see in Portugal. The atmosphere is just as amazing. I think it’s a great place for people to try when they’re in Lisbon.

A New And Exciting Restaurant

New restaurant Taberna do Calhau is the hottest reservation in town right now. It’s cooking food from the region of Alentejo, one of my favourite regions for Portuguese food. Traditionally this region is very poor, so its people had to be creative with the few ingredients they had access to. The results are both clever and flavourful. At Taberna do Calhau, architect-turned-chef Leopoldo Garcia Calhau takes typical dishes from Alentejo and makes them creative and contemporary by bringing his own identity to the plate. It’s very interesting and incredibly delicious. He’s a great chef but also an amazing person.

Porco pork ramen at Rei Da China. Photography: Courtesy of Rei Da China

For Something Different

Rei da China, meaning King of China, is a restaurant that I helped my friend Estanis Carenzo open. He’s an Argentinian chef cooking Portuguese-Asian cuisine. Culturally, it’s very interesting. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to arrive in most Asian countries, so there’s a lot of influences:what we took with us, and what we brought back here to Portugal. It’s beautiful food.

When I Want to Escape The City

On my days off I try to leave Lisbon and get out of the city. Less than an hour’s drive from Lisbon is Ericeira, a beautiful seaside fishing town. It’s full of great seafood restaurants, and there are a few good pizzerias with a nice beach view. It’s quite cheap, too. When the weather is nice, it’s the perfect spot to go and have a good time.

Natural Sourdough

Gleba is an amazing bakery changing the city’s perception of bread. It’s owned by Diogo Amorim, a young baker that’s very good and thoughtful with what he does. He works with sustainable Portuguese cereals like barbela wheat and mills it in the store. He also does a long fermentation (of at least 24 hours) using only natural yeast. It’s amazing.

Dessert at Belcanto. Photography: Courtesy of Belcanto

Where To Find The Best Portuguese Tarts

I might be biased, but I think the Pastéis de Nata at my restaurant Bairro do Avillez are the best in the city. For me, the flavour and texture is perfect. The second best are at Manteigaria.

Come Say Hi!

To eat the tasting menu at Belcanto is to travel around Portugal. It helps you better understand Portuguese culture. The menu visits traditional cuisine in different regions of the country. It’s also inspired by our country’s past; ex-colonies that were first to arrive and the discoveries of Portuguese people. We work hard to discover and bring to the table those inspirations and 95 per cent of the ingredients come from Portugal. It’s hard for me to promote my own restaurant, but to understand our food culture, people say it is a place that you cannot miss.

Selected Works: Cantinho do Avillez – As Receitas (Portuguese Edition) (2013)

Guide last updated March 2020

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