When it comes to the restaurant game, Nuno Mendes has pretty much done it all.
He’s scooped up Michelin Stars at both Mãos and Viajante. He’s had celebrities grovel to get into The Chiltern Firehouse. Half the chefs in London owe their careers to him. So now, he’s decided it’s time to do something a little more personal, and a little closer to his heart – he’s opened Lisboeta, which he’s calling his “love letter to Lisbon”.
And in fact, if you scan the picture-covered walls upstairs, amongst the images of Lisbon itself – its docks, its seafood, and its people – you’ll see that he literally wrote one too. Right there on the wall, there’s a very real, framed letter penned by Nuno himself espousing his love for both the Portuguese capital, and you, the person eating food from there. There’s an earnest passion there that really shines through, and that’s before you even try the food.
It’s over on the left, in the centre
The address on the front of this big ol’ envelope is a beautiful three story townhouse about halfway up Charlotte Street. Walk into the rich blue front door and into the ground floor, and you’ll be immediately presented with an elegant limestone bar. It’s lined by stools topped with fat buns of mocha brown leather, and backed by shelves made from former Lisbon tram cars, handsomely striped by the dark, eccentric ripples of the meandering wood grain.
This is the more casual area, built to embody Lisbon’s buzzing cafe scene. If you’re after a languid sit-down meal, head up the stairs, and you’ll find a more restaurant-y set of tables and chairs and whatnot, all wrapped in pale eggshell blue walls with a sea green trim. Oh, and all of those pictures of course. And if you want to get more serious still? There’s a private, high-end chef’s table in the cellar (opening in late April).
The food is all classic Lisbon stuff, but it’s also classic Nuno Mendes stuff too, so it goes a little further than just some piri piri and a custard tart. It’s built mostly around ‘petiscos’ (aka small plates), and boy there are some stunners in there. Start with a little Vindalho Empada pork pie (just £3), as a small, nourishing burst of flavour draped with a near-transparent slice of jamon.
Move onto the likes of Morcela sausage & razor clams on toast; perfectly grilled asparagus with a rich wild garlic ‘alhada’ sauce; cured amberjack with orange & onion; and an acorn-fed black pork chop with fermented red pepper paste. If you want to go bigger, there’s a hefty lamb shoulder & red wine stew, or a satisfying plate of roasted celeriac & cauliflower in a rich coriander ‘coentrada’ sauce.
And for dessert? You can’t really do better than the ‘abade de priscos’, a thick wedge of pork-fat custard drenched in a port wine caramel that you may well be dreaming about for some time after.
That bar is home to a few cocktails, starting with a white port & tonic that somehow involves fig liqueur, and finishing with an ‘Antiquado’ of brandy, madeira, and orange bitters. And the wines, meanwhile, are build from a list of (obviously) all-Portuguese bottles, with all manner of low intervention, skin contact, and sparking vintages floating around, but you’ll also find (not obviously) an ‘underwater wine’ which is apparently aged while submerged in the ocean.
Just remember to let it breathe.
NOTE: Lisboeta opened on 21st March. You can find out more, and book a table at their website right HERE.
Lisboeta | 30 Charlotte Street, W1T 2NG
Like Portuguese food? Bar Douro is calling your name.