💶 Cost: 125 USD
👪 Max People: 7
🍲 Number of Food Tastings: 9
🍷Number of Drinks: 6
🛒 Market Stop: ❌
⏲ Duration: 5 - 6 hours
🌎 Languages: 🇬🇧🇪🇸
📅 Closed on: Sundays
🥕 Vegetarian/Vegan/GF: ✅ ❌ ✅
🎟️ Link to Book: Click Here 🎟️ Discount Code of 5%: FOX5
I experienced a number of "best evers" on this tour including the best-ever hot dog, eclair, and a Portuguese version of a hot pocket known as a Rissóis. A couple of the tastings were disappointing but what made this tour special were the characters you meet, not just the exceptional dishes.
🍽️ Food Score: 46/50
💵 Cost Score: 15/25
💁 Guide Score: 22/25
Overall Score: 83/100
🥇 Rated 1st in Porto
Culinary Backstreets 'Beyond the Barrel' Review
The average food tour will set you back about 60 Euros. Today, I would be experiencing the most expensive food tour that I have ever been on. At twice the cost of what I would normally pay, would the experience be twice as good? Would there be twice as much food? I was interested and a little nervous to find out.
Despite the chill in the morning air, the sun was shining in Porto. I finished my coffee at the train station, and put my bag into a locker before setting off to find the meeting point for the food tour.
It can often be a little unnerving at the start of a food tour. You might be a little late, you aren't sure if you are in the right location, and the prospect of approaching a random person who may, or may not, be your guide is a little daunting. As I arrived at the designated meeting point, I saw someone waiting a few meters away. They weren't wearing a branded T-shirt or holding a tote bag that often tour guides use to identify themselves, but as I took a wide berth around the nearby fountain I noticed a lanyard around the person's neck. As there was no-one else around, I approached and introduced myself.
As soon as Carine started talking I could feel her positive energy. She told me about her background, how she was born in Paris and moved to Porto at the age of 13. Originally from France and now being a local in Porto, I was optimistic that she would introduce me to some memorable food today.
Portugal was still feeling the effects of COVID and this was only the second tour Carine had guided for the entire month. With no other bookings, it meant that I had the privilege of having a private tour today. Now the $125 price tag, seemed like a bargain!
Carine gave me an introduction to the local area. Pointing to a church that stood opposite, she said. "If you look closely, you can see that there are actually two churches, built side by side."
In Portugal, it is forbidden to have 2 churches built side by side. So how did this happen in Porto? The first church was constructed in the 18th century and not long afterward a hospital was built next door, funded and operated by another church. As is common with most hospitals, many people died, and so the hospital asked their neighbor for permission to build a chapel inside the hospital. Eventually, the hospital closed down but the chapel remained, expanding into the building of the hospital. In order to avoid breaking the rule of having 2 churches next to each other, a hobbit-sized house was built in-between the two churches, which you can see if you look closely.
As we started walking, I saw a line starting to form outside a nearby shop. Livraria Lello is quite possibly the most renowned shop in Portugal, made famous by JK Rowling who used the shop as inspiration to write the Harry Potter books.... or so I thought. Like a child being told Santa Claus doesn't exist, Carine enlightened me that JK Rowling recently denied the claim! Despite this realization, the beauty of the shop is not in question and I suggest visiting if you are ever in Porto.
🍽️ The Food
Food Score: 46/50
1st Stop: Leitaria da Quinta do Paço
Starting as a milk shop in the 1920s, the photos on the wall show a timeline of the history of this innovative business. Using glass bottles, they were the first company in Porto to pasteurize milk. They soon became the Uber Eats of their day, delivering dairy to the people of Porto, with a team that would carry grates of milk bottles over their heads.
Their reputation grew and so did their product line, selling not just milk but also butter and cream in waxed paper bags. The cream was so good that people would eat the cream straight from the bag.
(1) Éclair + (2) Espresso
If you go into any bakery in Portugal, you'll see shelves filled high with pastries, oozing sweet, rich custard. This shop is different. The owner was inspired by a trip to Switzerland where he was surprised to find the pastries filled not custard but with cream. Having a eureka moment, he realized that he could use his cream to introduce the same concept to Portugal. Porto fell in love with this new filling and the eclair became the pastry of Porto.
The thin layer of chocolate was still wet. The French choux pastry made with their own butter as well as water, flour, and eggs, was fresh out of the oven. As I bite into the eclair the sweet and airy cream combined with the chocolate and pastry perfectly. It was without question the best eclair I have ever eaten.
They don't just sell classic eclairs, you can also buy more decadent options including a banoffee and a Ferrero Rocher eclair. I told myself that I would definitely be coming back to see how they compared.
The Espresso which accompanied my pastry was made using the shops own blend of coffee which had a smooth, aromatic and full-bodied flavour.
The Portuguese like to have a sweet breakfast, and our next stop would double down on this:
2nd Stop: Arcádia
Located in the center of the city, Arcádia is an artisanal candy factory.
As I stepped inside, I felt like I was entering a grotto.
I had flashbacks of reading 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' as I watched a worker hand-making edible pieces of art. It was mesmerizing to watch, as she carefully selects only the best pieces, rejecting any that were not up to standard and skilfully painting unique designs on each one.
I asked which of the candies were her favorite to make, she pointed to the little babies, which I imagined customers would buy to give to a new parent.
After inspecting how the candies were made it was time for a tasting:
(2) Chocolate Covered Oranges + Chocolate Cat Tongues
How can anyone not be a fan of fruit covered in chocolate? This tasting didn't disappoint with the zesty orange rinds covered in dark Chocolate. However, I was a little disheartened to learn that the chocolate was from Belgium and I didn't get a clear answer as to whether the oranges were from Portugal. It felt a little commercial, especially after discovering the shop had other locations around Portugal.
Nevertheless, the chocolate-covered oranges were a hit, how could they not be?
As we walked from the narrow road where the cave-like chocolate shop was located, we found ourselves in the main square of Porto.
Here Carine shared some of the history of Porto including a story of a battle between two brothers who both wanted to be the rightful rulers of Portugal.
As we were about to leave, Carine seemed a bit hesitant to show me something....
With slight trepidation, she pointed and said: "on the corner here is the most beautiful McDonalds in the world."
Being the poster child for globalization and the opposite of local, slow food, I'm no fan of McDonald's, however, it was fascinating to step inside and to see the original chandeliers and stain glass windows. I appreciate, that despite her hesitation, Carine took the opportunity to show me this McDonalds, as it helped to highlight how something that is known for being standardized can be unique and special.
As we walked away from the main square, a new layer of Porto started to emerge with its narrow hilly roads, cobbled streets, and a more traditional side with cafes, bars and locals pottering about.
Before we arrived at our next stop, Carine warned me that the owner was very passionate about football. Half joking she said: "It's a good thing that you aren't wearing red, as many Porto football fans will use that as a reason to hate you!" Relieved on my choice of attire, I was intrigued on who we would be meeting...
3rd Stop: Casa Louro
As you enter Casa Louro the first thing that you notice is not the legs of ham and the bushels of bay leaves hanging from the ceiling.....it's the souvenirs and mementoes that adorn the bar, like a shrine, to the owner's pride and joy, Porto Football Club.
Wearing a blue, Porto FC face mask, Carine introduced me, with a fist-bump, to Antotio.
Antonio's father had started working in the bar 50 years ago at the age of 13, and when given the opportunity, he bought the business from the original owner. Over the past half century this father and son team have been serving customers cured pork and other salty snacks, selling on average 10 legs a day.
Antonio pointed to a photo on the wall showing his father in 1967 when he first started working in the bar. I asked about the photo hung above, and Paulo said the man with the big belly standing next to an equally large pig was the original owner. Pointing to the pig and laughing he said: 'This is my uncle'!
Antonio was a true personality, full of life, and the personification of Porto. I imagined him being the perfect bar tender, joking with regulars as they downed beers and scoffed on pork snacks.
I wanted to get to know more about Antonio and his love of football and I asked him what his most memorable moment was as a Porto Fan. Without hesitation he said "The last game of the season in 2013, when Porto played Benfica". It was the 92nd minute with only a few seconds of injury time remaining. The ball is crossed over to Porto's striker and with pinpoint precision and what seemed like an impossible angle he kicks the ball into the Benfica net as the stadium erupts.
In the UK people will often go to the pub to watch their favorite football team, and I ask Antonio if his bar is full of people on match days. Antonio shook his head and said that he prefers to watch games at the stadium or at home because when Porto losses he doesn't like to talk to anyone for 3 or 4 hours.
Carine pointed to a dark patch on the sidewalk outside the bar. "Tell David what caused those black scorch marks" she said. Sheepishly, he took out his phone and played a video of himself joyously setting fire to a Benfica scarf. I now understood why Carine didn't want me to wear red!
I found Antonio's passion contagious and I wondered if he was as passionate about the Portuguese national team when they played. "I don't really follow the national team" he told me, they are like family but more like distant family". Porto is his close family and the only thing he really cares about.
Football is not the only rivalry in Portugal, there is also a fierce competition between the beers (this rivalry stems from football also!). Carine told me that people often mix their beer with lemonade like a shandy or with a gooseberry cordial, something that I had never heard of before and something she promised we could try later as we now had something different to experience:
(4) Salpicão Cured Sauage (5) Rye Bread (6) Cod Pastry (7) Muscatel Wine.
From a butchers hook hanging from the ceiling Antonio took a cured sausage, cutting it into thin slices. Accompanying the meat was a hunk of dark brown, rye bread called Broa de Avintes. On another small side plate was an oval shaped cod and potato pastry known as a Pastel de Bacalhau.
The sausage was made from pork loin, bay leaves and paprika, marinated for 2 days in red wine and garlic to give it a smokey and spicy flavour.