Story and photography by Manos Angelakis
A Hidden Treasure!
Solar dos Nunes Restaurante
Rua dos Lúsiadas, 70
21 364 73 59
21 363 16 31
21 600 44 62
91 727 06 06
Whenever I travel to a foreign city, I try to unearth a new restaurant that serves good, fresh, traditional food. Ethnic cooking is one of my passions and I try to indulge at every opportunity.
Well, Solar dos Nunes might not be exactly unknown, since the walls inside the restaurant are covered with azuleos and newspaper and magazine clippings of the stories written about it, but I was asked by a local friend if I wanted to have lunch at the best Portuguese restaurant in the city and we ended there.
From the outside, it is a corner building in one of Lisbon’s middle class neighborhoods. With the exception of the hanging sign, it looks like all other houses around it. Inside, there is a large front room with tables, and a bar over which hang about a dozen black-footed Ibérico hams drying, plus a humidor with cigars mostly from Cuba. Up a few steps is another room with tables and doors leading to other private dinning areas. We arrived on a Monday, around 2pm, and the restaurant was jammed.
Our table was set with ham, chorizo, olives and different cheeses, amongst which was an exquisite Mountain Butter Cheese that was put under a grill, so the center was softened and could be scooped out with a spoon. The menu is divided into five sections, Appetizers, Fish, Meats, Poultry and Game, and Shellfish.
The appetizers include the aforementioned black-footed pig ham, chorizo (Spanish sausage), a Portuguese dry country sausage, asparagus (hot or cold in vinaigrette), mushrooms in garlic sauce, shrimp in garlic sauce, green peppers “Andaluza”, and, of course three or four different cheeses.
Our main courses included a fish soup, which is the house special, a tomato-based soup made like a bouillabaisse in a large, hollowed volcanic-stone pot. Absolutely exceptional.
But then, the owner’s daughter presented us with her version of a fish soup without the tomato base, and it was as good if not better than the “house special”. The fish section of the menu includes fried, grilled, and boiled fish and numerous fish soups, stews, and fish skewered kebabs. A display case on the side of the room has all the fresh fish available, and it is up to you to select your fish and have it cooked to your specifications. Prawns are sold by weight (per kilogram) and can be boiled or grilled or in garlic sauce.
The meats are charcoal grilled, fried, or stewed. Beef and pork are the main elements, plus some lamb and goat dishes.
In season, game is available and cooked to order. Partridge, hare, venison, wild boar, and even loin of Ostrich can be yours just for the asking, and the portion prices are fairly reasonable.
There are desserts galore, but my favorite is a dessert made from egg-thread soaked in a flavored syrup. Our host gave us a selection of four different thin dessert slices each, but the lunch was so filling that I only had room for the egg-thread portion.
I should also mention here the wines. The list is extensive, with mostly Portuguese bottles from the Duro and other local viticultural areas. On the bar was a wooden box with a Periquita Jeroboam. But I asked for the house wine, which is always a good indicator of the level of quality that a restaurant’s owner and/or manager is willing to offer to their clients. I tasted both red and white, plus I was offered a very nice sparkling rosé. These were all very drinkable wines, perhaps not at the very top of the line, but certainly not something one would be ashamed of. The bar has an extensive collection of local and imported spirits, and I recognized numerous cognacs and brandies, single malt whiskeys and high quality ports. And, espresso was properly drawn, with lots of crema.
I don’t doubt that Solar dos Nunes is an exceptional, local restaurant. Next time one of our readers visits Lisbon, ask to go there. You will not be disappointed.
© March 2010 LuxuryWeb Magazine. All rights reserved.