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Five Great Gourmet Experiences Oporto

You may know Lisbon, but perhaps you’re not yet acquainted with Portugal’s lovely and lively second-largest city, near the northern border. Warning: it will steal your heart. Not to mention your nose, tongue, and palate. The city is replete with bars, cafés, restaurants and wine cellars featuring, well, Port --what else? That’s what the city is named for, or it may be the other way round!

Café Majestic

Don’t be put off by the breath-taking belle époquecharm that envelopes and transports you as soon as you come through the door, for the perfectly conserved splendour and luxury of bygone days does not signify inflated prices on the menu. At Café Majestic, which opened in 1921, you can have a wonderful cup of coffee accompanied by pasteis de Belém (buttery cream tarts), as you imagine the spirited discussions amongst politicians, artists and intellectuals that have animated the café for nearly a century.
Average price: 6 euros.

Concept store: A Vida Portuguesa

This is an excellent place to pick out some gifts and souvenirs of your visit to Oporto, and you should look at the local chocolate and even the salt. But for serious foodies, we recommend stuffing your suitcase with tins of the fruits of the sea: octopus, sardines, clams, and much more. The quality will surprise you, as will the very cool packaging. At under five euros per tin, they’ll help you can earn the gratitude of a lot of friends and relatives!

Café Santiago

If you’re the type who must try the paella in Spain and the lamb in New Zealand, then you can’t leave Oporto without sitting down to that copious calorie bomb known as a francesinha, a sort of hot Dagwood sandwich from heaven eaten with knife and fork, made with four slices of bread and containing roast veal, fresh sausages, chorizo, bologna, etc., and topped with melted choose slices, and with or without a fried egg. Oh, and the whole concoction is bathed in a semi-spicy sauce. In case that’s not enough, it’s served with a sizable portion of fries. A beer or two to wash it all down, and you’re away! You can get a francesinha in many of Oporto’s bars and restaurants, but we recommend the version served at the popular Café Santiago, in business since 1959, and though you may have to queue to get in, it’s worth the wait. The kitchen is open for all to witness the assembly of the francesinhas, and it’s a fascinating spectacle indeed!
Average price: 12 euros.

Restaurant O Gaveto

If seafood is your passion, and especially if cod is your god, here’s where you’ll have one of the best meals of your life! Elegant, classic, this is not for scruffy tourists but for serious worshippers of fine food, deftly served by an attentive wait staff. A favourite with local aristocrats for their Sunday lunches, O Gaveto is located in the Matosinhos district, a short tram ride, from the city centre, and near the harbour. You should start with the clams and goose barnacles (percebes), and then address the main dish, preferably the roast cod, or the rice with shellfish, keeping in mind that one dish will feed two people generously. The “special” house wine is excellent. You can walk it all off by returning to the centre on foot along the esplanade with its views of the roaring Atlantic.
Average price: 30 euros.

Wine-tasting at the Cellars ofVila Nova de Gaia

Gaia, the city across the wide Douro river from Oporto, is famed for its wineries. All are worth a visit, and the programme is different at each. The Sandman tour offers some history of Oporto as well as wine talk and tasting. Serious wine buffs can sample a variety of exquisite wines at Graham’s. The tours of the Cálem, Fonseca and Kopke establishments are also enjoyable and edifying. (You do like port, don’t you?)

Are you salivating yet? Then don’t wait another minute. Check out our fares here.

Text and photos by Laia Zieger / Gastronomistas


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