Northern Portugal

I am planning a trip in a couple of weeks to Northern Portugal and hopefully some parts of the Galician coast. I was in Algarve, Alentejo and Lisbon recently and loved it.

Looking forward to some input from Maribel, Monchique and others about food and wine stops not to be missed. I will have two weeks and a car.

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Sorry, I am not familiar with this part of Portugal…and my last trip to Galicia was years ago :o(

I was in Porto for 10 days in 2012 (and did make some non food related day trips to PinhĂŁo, GuimarĂŁes and Braga). Most tourists eat in Porto but I took the tram a bunch of times to Matosinho just to eat. Porto locals all recommend that as they themselves go there for the seafood. Easier for you with own transport, I did everything by public transport.

But I think, by now, the tourists have heard about the good (and cheaper) seafood to be had in Matosinho so prices have probably gone up and become more touristy. Try to find restaurants in Matosinho that have perceves/goose neck barnacles, if you have never had this beautiful and delicious creature before. It’s not something a restaurant has every single day so you’ll need to ask around. It costs 2 or 3 times in Spain!

Check out as many port lodges as you can and do port tastings there. They only export lowest quality port so here it’s your chance to drink the good and best stuff at the source.

Whatever you fancy, I urge you to refrain from eating Francesinha. I tried it 3 times. Enough to slag it off.

Some photos from my trip in 2012.

I want to do it again but only for a couple of days (flying into Porto is most convenient for me) and spend a few weeks in Minho province. It’s said that Minho is the most traditional and the food is also the most “authentic”.

(Interesting and unrelated info: many early settlers on Madeira came from Minho and Algarve. Madeirans in Santana village are called “Bragados”. Bragados are ones from Braga in Minho province. They came to Madeira around 1425 and are still called Bragados.)

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We’ve loved our seafood meals in Matosinhos, a Porto suburb to the north, easily reachable by the double decker bus 500 or the metro from Porto.
Some of the seafood restaurants are lined up in a row on the Rua Heróis de França, directly across from the fish market. And they have outdoor charcoal grills where the grill the freshest fish imaginable.
Our favorite on this street is O Valentim, but Salta o Muro is also popular with locals.

For shellfish (scarlet prawns, lobster and the like), there are restaurants, or Marisqueiras, that specialize in them–Bourdain filmed at the Esplanada A Antigua, but there’s also O Gaveto, Toupeirinho, A Marisqueira de Matosinhos, Os Luisadas.

For GuimarĂŁes, you have plenty from which to choose: the Kool restaurant of the Hotel da Oliveira,
le Babachris (a Michelin Bib Gourmand), A Cozinha (Michelin star), HistĂłrico by Papaboba or for ver traditional, the Solar do Arco.

In Caminha, at the border, there’s Solar do Pescado with vaulted ceilings and blue/white tiles.

Also at the border in Vila Nova de Cerveira, there’s Froneira Gastro Bar.

In Ponte de Lima, Taberna Alfonso

In Viana do Castelo, Tasquinha da Linda and Louro

In Barcelos, Turismo (chef driven)

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Hi @Maribel (and anyone else that wants to chime in),

Also regarding Northern Portugal, do you have any recs for the following?

  1. We are driving from Lisbon to PinhĂŁo, are there any must do lunch spots on the way, preferably closer to the Douro due to timing of lunch? This could also include a winery with great food. This will be a Tuesday so DOC is closed but it was on my list if not.

  2. Later on in the trip, we will be driving from Pinhão to Porto. Any must do lunches, preferably closer to Porto or even out on the ocean side? I’ve considered Casa de Chá da Boa Nova in this slot but we are also going to Euskalduna Studio that night for dinner so I think that is too much food with both being large tasting menus.

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  1. Given that DOC will be closed, we like very much the Castas e Pratos in (Peso da) RĂ©gua, next to the train station, housed in a former railway warehouse. Very updated cuisine and great wine list.

Or…for a very nice winery lunch, better still, we really like Quinta da Pacheca’s restaurant in their Wine Hotel, just outside of Régua, a very short detour.
Traditional, updated cuisine and a lovely room, decorated with Bordallo Pinheiro ceramics. That would be my choice for a great winery lunch. Next available table open for April 18.

  1. From PinhĂŁo to Porto, closer to Porto, on the ocean side, how about a seafood lunch at one of the acclaimed Marisqueiras in Matonsinhos? O Gaveto, Esplanada A Antiga (Bourdain filmed there), A Marisqueira de Matosinhos, Os Luisadas, Touperinho.

Or for a great seafood with rice dish, O Valentim, across from the fish market on Rua Heróis de França 263. Followed by a beach walk…
Our Foz hostess sent us there, and we were quite pleased.
https://ovalentim.com

I loved Casa de Chá da Boa Nova, but you’re right, two lengthy tasting menus on the same day would be too much.

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These are great, thank you! I’ll look into them now.

Hi @Maribel - Are you also familiar with wineries in the Douro? We’d like to get to 3 or 4 that are close proximity to Pinhao. I have a short list from the research I’ve done but wasn’t sure if any stood out to you or perhaps I’m missing some. I think we’ll have dinner one night at Cozinha da Clara, based on your rec from CH, but would also be interested to hear if any of these or others near Pinhao have a good lunch option besides Quinta De la Rosa. This is not until June, if that matters.

Options:
Quinta De la Rosa
Quinta do Crasto
Quinta do Noval
Quinta do Bomfim
Quinta do Jalloto
Quinta da Foz
Quinta da RoĂŞda (croft)
Casa Ferreirinha @ Quinta do Seixo - Sandeman

I’m happy I tried the Francesinha. I enjoyed Porto.

I ordered my Francesinha at the café inside the Infante Sagres hotel. It isn’t offered on the current menu.

I also had a nice visit on a day trip along the Douro River to a vineyard and some villages. My recs are out-of-date. I haven’t been since 2009.

There’s a duck rice dish called Arroz de Pato that you also might find. It’s on the menu here https://m.facebook.com/tabernamercadores/

I don’t love tripe so I didn’t seek it out in Porto.

Yes, I’m familiar with most of the wineries on your list, except for Jalloto and Foz, the only ones I haven’t visited.
As to lunch options,
the Quinta do Bomfim engaged Michelin-starred chef Pedro Lemos of Porto to open a “pop up” restaurant above the town in its Casa dos Ecos house with sweeping views. It’s still going strong after two years so not just a “pop up”. I haven’t been.

Quinta Noval gives private tours only and one can have lunch I believe, if pre-arranged, but I don’t know if they require a minimum number of participants. We visited but had lunch at Cozinha da Clara because when booking our visit we didn’t know about a lunch option. but again, it’s private visits only.

Croft has outside picnic tables, but I don’t know what sort of picnic experience they offer at them.

Seixo also offers a picnic option. Seixo does take large groups from the Douro River cruise boats.

Quinta do Crasto offers a wonderful, multi-course, traditional winery lunch in the dining room of the mansion for a set price, including wine. This one isn’t to be missed if you book well in advance and ask them to meet you at the tiny Ferrão rail station below the estate. They will pick you up there if you take the train from Pinhão. Both the winery and the lunch are extremely memorable, but this does take a good portion of the day, and after lunch you certainly won’t want to drive! It’s a very “challenging” road!
Details here-

We did enjoy our lunch at Cozinha da Clara, especially my arros de mariscos, served in a Staub pot, and even their entry level wines are excellent.

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Just to add that one of my favorite dishes is arroz de pato.
Please do not miss tiny Taberna dos Mercadores when in Porto. It’s charming, cozy, well-priced and delicious (but very, very popular, so reservations are essential.

Another excellent version of arroz de pato in Lisbon can be found at O Frade, serving cuisine from the Alentejo region, but updated. It’s at Calçada da Ajuda, across from the National Coach Museum, in Belém.
I finally snagged a reservation there and am so glad I did.
Seating at a semi-circular counter where diners can watch the final prep of the dishes coming out of its tiny kitchen. I was most impressed with this winner. It’s listed as the number 26 preferred Portugal restaurant on the Mesa Marcada blog’s annual “best restaurants in Portugal” list.

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@Maribel Great info, thanks so much. Quick question on Porto: I hadn’t come across Taberna dos Mercadores yet but it looks great. We have 2 dinners planned in Porto: Almeja and Euskalduna Studio. Would You swap Almeja for Taberna dos Mercadores? Or perhaps rec others entirely? The thought was to do one elevated tasting menu dinner and one slightly more casual/local.

I’ve been to Almeja but just for lunch, which I enjoyed.
Taberna dos Mercadores is just so memorable because of the semi-circular interior lined with wine bottles, the open kitchen, the flaming of the salt encrusted porgy at table side, the cozy atmosphere, the very well-executed traditional fare. The atmosphere for me was more charming, thus more memorable to me. It’s owned by the same family as the nearby Adega São Nicolau. We wanted one very traditional Portuguese taberna to contrast with the other contempoary places.
This is a good description from Culinary Backstreets, where I found it.

https://culinarybackstreets.com/cities-category/porto-food-tours/2019/taberna-dos-mercadores-2/

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