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Treasures of Lisboa Review

Updated: Feb 24, 2020



Summary:

💶 Cost: 60 Euros

👪 Max People: 12

🍲 Number of Tastings: 14

🛒 Market Stop:

⏲ Duration: 3 hours 45 mins

🚶Distance: 2km

🌎 Languages: 🇬🇧 🇫🇷 🇪🇸

📅Closed on: Sundays

🥕Vegetarian/Vegan/GF: ✅ ❌✅

🎟️ Link to Book: Click Here.

Overview:

🏆 Overall Score: 85/100

🥇 Rated 1st in Lisbon


With excellent samples of food and an exceptional guide. This is one of the best tours I've had the pleasure of experiencing in Lisbon. The tour included some unique and interesting foods such as Bacalhau ceviche and the pastel de faijo. I would have liked to have experienced a market or interacted with more locals on the tour, but overall this tour was excellent.


Treasures of Lisboa Food Tour Review

I have never been late for a food tour before.


As I exited the metro station at Lisbon’s multicultural epicenter of Martim Moniz, Google maps told me that I was going to arrive 4 minutes past the starting time of the tour that I would be joining today.


I challenged myself to shave off as many minutes as I could from my ETA as I started jogging, following the arrow on my phone.


As I looked up from my phone, one of Lisbon's infamous hills confronted me. I knew then that my prospects of making up any lost time wasn't good. Opting to alternate between jogging and walking up this Everest of a hill, I thought at least I was going to be sufficiently exercised and ready for the food ahead...if my group hadn't already left without me. Eventually, I arrived just 1 minute late with a warm welcome from Marianna, our guide.

The starting point at Largo Portas do Sol is one of my favorite lookouts in Lisbon and it makes for an ideal starting point as you can enjoy the view while waiting for any latecomers (like myself) to arrive.




🍽️ The Food

Food Score: 42/50



First Stop: Manjerico Alegre Restaurant

As we were guided through this traditional Portuguese restaurant in the heart of Alfama, anticipation was high. What food would we try first? We would soon learn that, like a good symphony, our taste buds needed to be taken on a journey before we could reach the crescendo.


1. Olive Oil and Portuguese Bread

Portugal has an ideal climate for the production of olive oil. Due to its long narrow geography, with varying temperatures, the North and the South can have vastly different flavors of olive oil. The Algarve, in the South, has sweeter varieties than the cooler North, for example.



Olive oil is a staple ingredient for all Portuguese cooking (Marianna told us that she has a 6-liter bottle in her kitchen!). As we sat down we were told that this restaurant has been producing its own olive oil for the last 3 generations.

The golden oil was slowly poured into a serving dish and we were encouraged to use the locally baked bread like a sponge to mop up the olive oil.

I have had olive oil from California, Spain and many other European countries, but I have never really taken the time to appreciate the olive oil of Portugal until relatively recently in my life.


The oil had a uniquely smooth and buttery flavor, which combined perfectly with the soft dough of the bread and its crusty exterior.

It seemed a little strange at first, but with the encouragement of Marianna, we took a spoon and dipped it in the olive oil to taste the oil by itself. Doing this allowed me to experience the oil directly and notice the buttery and peppery flavors.


2. Pastel de Bacalhau with Beer


I have to admit that it was a little anticlimactic starting with a tasting as simple as olive oil, but looking back I am glad that we did as it helped to build up the experience. 

Our next tasting was Pastel de bacalhau.



Pastel de Bacalhau is the love child of a potato croquette and a fish finger. This typical mid-afternoon salty snack washes down perfectly with a beer.


We learned that in Portugal there are two mains beers, Super Bock and Sagres ...with a big, brotherly rivalry between the two. This rivalry, like so many, stems from sport, and not just any sport, the most popular sport in Portugal…FOOTBALL! 


Sagres sponsors the Lisbon football team while Super Bock sponsors Porto. Being that we were in the middle of Lisbon, needless to say, we drank Sagres. I encourage you to try both Sagres and Super Bock, but it's probably best to do so discreetly, especially if the two footballs are playing each other!


Ok, back to the Pastel de Bacalhau. It was interesting to learn how these savory snacks were expertly made using two spoons before being deep-fried. The secret to stop them from going soggy is to freeze them before frying.


The Pastel de Bacalhau was flavourful with the salted cod paired well with the mashed potato. However, they weren't the best that I have tasted in Lisbon. They were fresh, no doubt made that day, but they weren't hot, a sign of true freshness or someone making the effort to reheat them at least.



4. Canned Sardines on Toast


In most countries, canned meat is not considered gourmet food, quite the contrast since it is often given to soldiers as survival rations. But, suppress your skepticism, until you open a can of fish from a quality producer in Portugal. This experience really gives you the opportunity to try a snack that is close to the hearts of many Portuguese people. 


The Portuguese eat many varieties of canned fish. They are eaten with potatoes, bread, or straight from the can. It’s the original fast food; portable, quick, cheap, and (unlike McDonald's) healthy. In our case, they were served on toast. 


The silver skin of the sardines glistens with their freshness, sealed in a metal time capsule and canned on the same day it was caught. You may see bones, but don’t be put off or try and remove them. Due to the gelification they are soft and can be eaten, and with the added calcium, make for a healthier alternative to fresh sardines.

As I bit into the fish I was impressed by the rich, dense flavor of the sardines and the olive oil that it is preserved in. These sardines are something that everyone needs to try while they are in Portugal as they were without a doubt the best-canned fish that I have ever tasted. And, unlike most other foods that can't easily be transported home, canned sardines make the perfect gift.






Second Stop: Maruto Restaurant


As we entered this charming bistro we were guided towards the back to our table.


5. Vino Verde

Before I had the chance to sit down I was offered a glass of Vinho Verde, a wine unique to Portugal. Marianna told us that the grapes from this wine come from the North of Portugal, from the protected Minho region.



Vinho Verde literally translates to  'Green Wine' but the actual meaning is 'young wine' and it has an almost champagne-like fizz due to the fermentation process of production.

The wine is light and fresh, perfect for a hot summer day in Lisbon. Probably best after climbing the many steps of the city, not before!


6. Bacalhau Ceviche on Toast


The Portuguese like to eat cod. So much so that there are said to be over 365 cod recipes, one for each day of the year. In homage to this fact we were presented with our second cod tasting of the day and one of the most unique ceviches that I have ever enjoyed.

This ceviche is made from salted cod, which has a historic and uniquely Portuguese flavour. Go into any grocery store here in Portugal and you will instantly smell the pungent scent as expert fishmongers cut the dry fish into slabs. The concept looks, smells, and sounds peculiar but there is no other dish that is so unique to Portugal and it would be a sin not to try salted cod during a trip to this amazing country.


The salt is always washed out, but the flavour that remains makes your mouth water for more. Even as I type this now, I want to go back for round 2!


7. Flame Grilled Chouriço Assado


As I finish up the last mouth-watering bite of my ceviche, in the corner of my eye I see the flames of a grill light up. This grill is not fuelled by gas or charcoal though. This little grill uses moonshine!

On top of the grill is a U shaped sausage, immersed in the flames, its skin slowly cracking open as the caramelized smell of the meat wafts over - just like you’d see on a cartoon.

After a few more minutes of cooking, the sausage is ceremoniously presented to the table and cut up into individually bite-sized portions.


Still piping hot as I place a piece into my mouth, the infusion from the moonshined fuelled grill helps to enhance the smokey, paprika flavor of this chourico assado.






8. Cheese with Marmalade and Honey

After we polish off the chourico, we are royally presented with another platter, this time piled high with cheese.

The people of Portugal have been making cheese for thousands of years, but just like their wines, their cheeses don't get the credit they deserve.

This Fromage is the trifecta of cheeses. Made with cows, goats and sheep milk, the result is a unique flavor profile that is unlike any other cheese I have tasted.


On the platter, next to the cheese are two of the smallest jam jars that I had ever seen. In one is a quince marmalade and in the other a local honey. These condiments go surprisingly well with the cheese, providing a balanced sweetness to the crumbly, savory cheese.


9. Gingha - Sweet Cherry Liquor

As with any good meal, you need a beverage to help with digestion and your onward travels, and I can't think of a better drink than Gingha.


Gingha is a sweet cherry liquor originating in Lisbon that is said to be the cure for any ailment, including indigestion and full stomachs! Made from a sour cherry and copious amounts of sugar this drink has an almost medicinal quality and taste to it.

Don't make the mistake of drinking it in one shot (as one person did on the tour). Sip it slowly and wait patiently for the best bit that is waiting for you at the bottom.....a bloated, sweet, drunk cherry!




Third  Stop: Fabrica Cafe

Marianna hinted that at our next stop we would try something sweet.

When a country is famous for a particular food, like Portugal is for the Pastel de Nata, it is almost inevitable to experience this classic pastry on your food tour.

This can be both a blessing and a curse.


On the one hand it is an opportunity to taste one of the best versions of a dish that a country has to offer. On the other, it seems like a wasted opportunity, as you could easily find the best place in the city to eat a Pastel de Nata by Googling. On a food tour I want to try foods that are unique, that I couldn’t easily find myself.


So when we arrived at Fabrica Cafe I was pleasantly surprised to discover that we weren't having a Pastel de Nata but instead something that I have never tried before.


Marianna told us the story of how the owner, António Amorim, spent 4 years devising the concept for this dessert. Made from white beans, almonds, egg and lots and lots of sugar, this pastry quickly became my favorite item on the food tour. 



Ceremoniously presented to you in a cradle-like a sleeping baby. I suggest reading the instructions on the wall before attempting to open the box and eat this dessert (apparently people often do it wrong and many pastries have fallen to the floor with despair).


With a creamy taste and wonderfully contrasting textures, crunchy on the outside and smooth on the inside, I couldn't get enough of this gem of a pastry and wanted to order another as I finished my last bite.


As I had been concentrating on each bite, I almost forgot about my espresso sitting on the counter beside me. I chased the last bite with the wonderfully bitter taste of this Portuguese roasted coffee.


Fourth Stop: Miradouro de Santo Estevao

I was not expecting more food, but as we weaved our way through the narrow streets of Alfama, past a lone orange tree and up some stairs, we were greeted with an amazing view over Lisbon from a secret lookout. Lisbon is endowed with a large number of lookouts but most are well known and you end up sharing the experience with selfy-stick wielding tourists.


Our little group had the entire area to ourselves, it was like our own little private lookout over Lisbon.


As we enjoyed the view towards the bridge, Marianna reached into her bag and presented us with a box that she opened to reveal a multitude of Pastel de Natas. We took turns, each taking one. There couldn't be anything more Portuguese; eating this iconic pastry while overlooking one of the best views in Lisbon.



I asked Marianna where the pastries were from and she told me that they were from a small bakery called Alfama Doce, which she recommended that we visit if we had time.


The pastries were good and I liked the signature notes of lemon that made this pastry more unique than other Pastel de Natas that I have eaten. However, the fact that the Pastel de Nata was not straight out of the oven means that, in my opinion, the ones from Manteigaria are still better.


Overall, despite a couple of small issues with the pastel de bacalhau and the pastel de nata not being as fresh as I would like, the whole experience was a greatly positive one. I am especially grateful for having being introduced to the bacalhau ceviche and the pastel de faijo, which were the highlights of the tour.


Cost:

💵 Score: 19/25


The cost of this food tour was 60 Euros. Compared to other tours in Lisbon the price was average, ranking 7th (out of 18)  of those we have reviewed. Often tour companies will seduce you with the lowest price. Before you make a decision, think about:


1. The Number of Stops

2. The Duration of the Tour

3. The Number of Guests


1. The Number of Stops:


When you factor in the 14 tastings, the cost is 4.29 Euros per tasting. This is the second-best value of all the food tours in Lisbon we have reviewed.


2. The Duration of the Tour:


When thinking about the price, it is also worth considering the duration of the tour. This tour lasts between 3.5 hours and 4 hours. Assuming an average tour of 3 hours and 45 minutes, the price works out at 16 Euros per hour. Which puts it in 5th place compared to the other food tours in Lisbon we have reviewed.


3. The Number Guests:


There were 12 guests on our tour; the maximum number possible. In my opinion, 12 really is the maximum number of people you can have without it feeling overcrowded. Some tours are able to charge lower prices by having more guests, but this can detract from the experience, especially in a city such as Lisbon with its winding paths and doll-house sized restaurants.


In terms of price, based on a 60 Euros price tag and 12 guests this tour ranks well compared to the other food tours in Lisbon that we have reviewed. If you prefer a smaller sized group, it might be worth looking at TakingUThere's Traditional Gastronomy Tour or Lisbon's Favorite Food Tour: the 10 Tastings.


For the majority of the tastings, there was just a single item for each person. We weren't offered extra like on other tours. However, I definitely ate my fair share of food. As some guests were either full or saving their appetite, I was able to get an extra Pastel de Bacalhau and more than enough of the cured black pork. However, it would have been nice to have the opportunity to have an extra Pastel de Feijao.


When I book a flight or hotel, I am prepared to pay extra for a refundable or flexible ticket. Consider this also when booking a food tour, for example if you are ill, tired, or the weather isn't ideal. This tour had a relatively strict cancellation policy:


- Reservations canceled at least 21 days before the start are reimbursed up to 100%.

- Bookings canceled at least 7 days before the beginning are reimbursed up to 50%.

- Reservations canceled less than 7 days before can not be refunded.


💁 Guide:

Score: 24/25


Our guide, Marianna, made you feel like you were getting a history lesson as well as educating us about the food we were eating.


Not only did we learn about the history of Lisbon but Marianna also made us feel like a local, sharing a number of 'secrets' such as: to avoid the line at the Pastis de Belem - use the door next to the queue to eat inside instead of buying your pastry to go (which most people are in line for unknowingly). The cafe is a labyrinth with seating for 400 people, so you'll be seated instantly and you can have your cake and eat it!


When I travel, I am obsessed with learning the little, quirky things that are not so obvious or included in a guide book.


Marianna magically combined elements into the tour, which meant we experienced secret lookouts and neighborhoods where we saw local life; like residents chatting to each other out of their windows as they put their clothes out to dry. In one square we encountered a single orange tree. Marianna stopped us to point out the lone orange hanging from a branch. "Tourists often see the fruit and (like Eve taking from the tree in the garden of Eden), they are often disappointed." These oranges are known as "Tourist Traps” picked by unsuspecting foreigners looking for a snack. There is nothing wrong with them, they simply lack any flavor and most are seen discarded close to where they are picked. However, locals still make use of these orange trees. After eating grilled sardines, you inevitably have oily, fishy hands. Locals will take a leave from the tree and use it as natural wet-wipe! How ingenious and exactly the nugget of information I want to learn on a food tour.


In addition to  keeping us engaged with fun facts and questions, Marianna was a wealth of knowledge, providing answers to our questions including her favorite restaurant in Lisbon (for those wondering, it is: À Brasa Churrasqueira Aryana’s and be sure to order the fish of the day)





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