Chanoy Honeymoon: Lisboa, Portugal, October 2015

Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.

“It’s not Lisbon,” the guide on the free walking tour said. “If there’s one thing I want you to take away with you when you leave Portugal, it’s the correct way to pronounce our city’s name. It’s Lisboa. Repeat after me, Leej-boa.”

The Portuguese are proud of their country, of their culture, their history, their heritage. However our guide Rafa brought up a good point that I had been struck with throughout our travels – that unfortunately, their country was always looking to the glories of the past, to the detriment of their future. This seems to be a recurring theme within many of the places we’ve visited on our European honeymoon thus far.

In the case of Portugal, they look to the glories of their sea-faring past, when intrepid Portuguese sailors covered the globe. Indeed, there are monuments to famous adventurers such as Vasco da Gama all over the city.

This comes with a price, with an inability to plan effectively for the future. As Rafa said, he is the only one amongst his childhood friends who has a job – albeit one where he has no salary and relies on tips. Chronic unemployment is rife for young Portuguese people, and they are leaving the country in droves to try and seek employment elsewhere in the EU. This comes with its own price – for instance his brother who is working overseas would like to come back to Portugal to raise a family but can’t find a job to do so.

The effects of this brain drain on Portuguese society on its future prosperity is certainly grim. It’s a sad situation which I fear will have repercussions on Portugal sooner rather than later – perhaps even on their status in the EU. It’s an important thing to keep in mind if ever you are in Lisboa.

As mentioned earlier, heritage is what drives Lisboa and the Portuguese, and it is certainly what drives its tourist trade. We visited a number of different landmarks throughout the city that hearken to its glory days – monuments, buildings, castles. Food is historical as well – we visited the iconic Pasteis de Belem, famous for their Portuguese tart recipe since the 1800s. (Obviously we visited a few other restaurants as well – Restaurante O Recanto, Churrasquieria Santo Antonio and Super Mario amongst them).

As we went through the city, I couldn’t help but feel as though Portugal could do more to help their young Lisboetas. There’s a strong emotional and artistic side to many Portuguese which could definitely be taken advantage of in livening up the city – sponsored public arts, concerts, festivals that create a celebration of the present and the future, rather than a constant yearning for the glories of the past.

Still, you can’t fault the Portuguese for feeling a sense of soldat –a primal longing, nostalgic love of what has been had in the past, that cannot be had again. I feel that same feeling when I think of Lisboa, as I think the next time we return, the city and the country will be irreversibly different. Portugal is on a path that it must correct for the security of its own future.

Review: Super Mario, Lisboa Portugal

Rafa, our guide on our free walking tour of Lisboa stopped the tour at one point in the morning and said to us, “If you want a good local restaurant, just go down that street and turn left at the pink building. It’s called Super Mario, and I go there with my friends all the time. Sometimes we’ll go for lunch and stay for beers, and before long, it’s dinner time so we stay for dinner too!”


If there’s one thing I know, it’s that you can’t beat restaurant recommendations from a true local. So, K and I retraced the route of the tour the following day in order to find Super Mario for lunch. When we get there, the restaurant is absolutely chock-full with local construction workers. There’s no table reservation etiquette here – rather than waiting for a private table for your party, you just have to hope that two people sitting next to each other will leave at the same time and you can go in and grab their seats at the long communal dining tables.

We ended up waiting for around ten minutes and when we managed to get in and get a seat, I looked around the room and realised that 1) I was the only female in the whole room of male construction workers; 2) We were the only non-locals. The one waiter didn’t speak any English, but did give us a single page menu with photos of their most popular dishes so that we could order from photos if not an actual menu.


I started with the house-made Soup of the Day, a very simple carrot, kale and potato soup not unlike the one we had a day earlier at Churrasqueiria Santo Antonio. It makes me wonder if this is a regular Portuguese dish – anyone able to shed some light on this?


I ordered the Grilled Swordfish, which comes with some parboiled buttered and salted broccoli and potatoes on the side. This was truly rustic food, with a really magnificent piece of swordfish. No attempt had been made towards de-boning the fish and the whole piece of fish, skin and all, had been thrown onto the grill. The result was a beautifully tender piece of fish with a creamy texture, but a perfect charcoal crust.


K’s Mixed Grill was made up of various cuts of pork arranged on top of a bed of rice and beans. I thought the rice and bean mix was a bit too watery, and some of the cuts of pork were a little bit too tough, but the pork ribs were particularly nice.


Though I was stuffed full with my swordfish, I was determined to prolong our genuine local dining experience, and eyed off some of the home-made desserts in the case. K opted for a slice of the large wobbly Flan – extremely eggy and creamy with a sweet caramel sauce that wasn’t too dark.


I pointed at another of the desserts – I didn’t know what it was, but was willing to give it a try! It turned out to be an Arroz con Leche – a rice pudding with a cinnamon topping. Very simple, but very more-ish – it was like eating a creamy version of a cinnamon doughnut!

When it came time to pay, I wasn’t quite sure what to do. When we were ordering, we didn’t know how much everything would cost – a drink, main and dessert each should all add up right? I hesitantly put two $20 Euro notes on the counter hoping that it would be enough to cover the costs, and the owner frowned at me and then just took a single note and gave me $4 Euro back. This whole meal only cost us $16 Euro! A complete bargain for the amazing feast we had.

Super Mario dishes up great authentic simple food to a crowd of locals. Their fast turnover is made all the more impressive by the fact that there’s just the one waiter, his wife behind the bar, and two women staffing the kitchen, turning out all these meals by themselves. Be prepared to join a group of locals on a communal table in order to have one of the cheapest and most authentic meals you’ll find in Lisboa.

Super Mario is located at 9 Rua do Duque, Lisboa.

Review: Churrasqueiria Santo Antonio, Lisboa Portugal

After joining a free walking tour in Lisboa that went for a bit longer than expected, K and I were facing 2pm without having had lunch yet. As someone whose hungry periods generally come between 9am – 3pm, my hangriness was making me increasingly irritable, and frustrated that my terrible-under-pressure husband couldn’t decide where to go for lunch. Finally, out of desperation, we ran into Churrasqueiria Santo Antonio in the Alfama district of Lisboa for lunch.

It’s a small restaurant with a grill in the open kitchen that will leave you smelling like barbecue by the time you finish your meal – not unlike the Brazilian-style churrasco restaurants that are similar in style to the Portuguese churrasqueiria restaurants. The touristy nature of the district means that there’s a number of tourists in the restaurant, and locals are few and far between. This is definitely not a local haunt, but the prices still seem quite reasonable.


Cheese, croquettes and bread are delivered to our table as a matter of course. Before digging in, I quickly asked the waiter what the cost of these appetizers were. At around $1 Euro a piece, they’re not fantastic value but they do the job of calming my ravenous appetite for the moment. Just keep in mind that if you don’t want the appetisers, you can choose not to touch them – just check your bill carefully at the end of the meal to make sure you haven’t been charged for something you didn’t eat!


I ordered a soup starter to share as well. Knowing from experience at a prior meal in Lisboa that veggies tend to be few and far between for main meals, the inclusion of a single serve of vegetables in the house Soup of the Day was appealing. This was a sweet carrot and kale soup, thickened with potato. Not bad for the low price, and quite decent with some of the bread dunked into it.


I also ordered a side salad to share – very simple with the standard lettuce, tomato, carrot and onion. It was dressed delicately and subtly in a simple vinaigrette. I thought it was a little bit too onion-heavy, so I did end up removing most of it before eating the rest of the salad. There’s nothing worse than having raw onion breath for the rest of the day!


K ordered a Grilled Steak with the house sauce, a creamy pepper sauce. The sauce worked particularly well with the chips served on the side, making them particularly tasty. The steak itself was cooked to well done, as it was quite a thin steak. The amount of charring and grilling on the outside made it particularly smoky and delicious despite how well-done the steak was.


I ordered the Grilled Salmon, which came surprisingly as a cutlet, rather than the fillet steak cut I’m accustomed to receiving in other seafood restaurants. I did like the cut though, as it had the benefit of including both oily and leaner cuts of salmon meat. Needless to say, the charring on the skin was absolutely superb, creating a crispy crackly salmon skin. I wish it was cooked a little less though, I do tend to prefer my salmon on the raw side – this doesn’t seem to be something they do on the Iberian peninsula though!

Churrasqueiria Santo Antonio isn’t normally the type of restaurant that K and I try to find on our travels. It’s overly touristy, evidenced by the fact that they’ll try to squeeze every last cent out of you (see – appetisers with hidden costs). We won’t be eating here again, nor would we have eaten there in the first place if it wasn’t for the dire food situation we were in. Still, while the food is basic, the actual grilling is done well. It’s not the worst place you could eat while in Lisboa, but it’s certainly not the best.

Churrasqueiria Santo Antonio is located at 133 Rua dos Bacalhoeiros, Lisboa.