Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon 

Did a little sight-seeing around the old town in the morning and planned to reach Mercado da Ribeira for brunch.

The Mercado da Ribeira is a historic market that got transformed into what we see today – a market cum gourmet food court, by the Time Out Lisbon team in 2014. The transformation injected new life and attracted foodies to the revitalised marketplace.

We were expecting quite a crowd given it’s reputation as a gourmet destination by travellers to Lisbon. To our surprise, the canteen styled food court was rather empty when we arrived at 10.30am! After snooping around we understood why… The stalls only commence operation from noon, when we were misinformed via website information that the food court is opened from 10am. That’s another 1.5 hours wait.

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Not wanting to waste our morning idling around, we grabbed some custard tarts – this time round from an award winning cafe “Aloma” that has a shop space outside the marketplace. Pastelaria Aloma gained fame after they won the competition for the best “pastel de nata” for 2 consecutive years (2012 & 2013). I found their egg tart to be much smaller and has a more flaky crust (evidenced by the fine layers at the edge of the tart), has a higher crust to custard ratio when compared to ones served at the Belem famed shop (my earlier post here).

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After the quick snack we went off to explore the neighbourhood, in search of Miraduoros (lookout spots) to enjoy the breathtaking city views. We found several interesting sights and spots around the area and will be sharing the photos at later part of this post.

We returned to the marketplace close to noon and thankfully it’s still rather empty. However we observed that most of the staff at the respective stalls were busy prepping for business and the kitchen started to bustle with activities.

Made our first order from a stall called “Tartar-ia“. Tartar-ia specialises in its namesake. They serve a variety of tartares such as meat/fish/vegetarian and are available in 3 sizes 100g/150g/200g. We tried 100g of their Tuna tartare for €12.50. When I collected the dish, I was superbly impressed by its presentation! Judging from the plating standard, it could totally pass off as a dish from a fine dining restaurant! I couldn’t believe my eyes that such a high standard dish can be found in a foodcourt!

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The dish not only looked fabulous, it tasted marvelous too. Tuna was extremely fresh along with the tasty green jus (which I suspect is avocado?) with olive oil. My first dish at this foodcourt certainly set a high standard and raised my expectations of the other stalls.

My 2nd selection was to try Honorato‘s burger. They are reputed to be one of Lisbon’s most popular artisanal hamburger joint with several branches around town. The stall in the mercado is just an outpost. We tried their signature Honorato burger €9 (burger with mayonnaise, lettuce, tomato, bacon, fried egg, and cheddar cheese).  It was pretty decent for an artisanal burger, with the moist and succulent beef perfectly cooked to our order of medium-rare. However with the fantastic tartare taste still lingering in my mouth, this good burger seemed rather ordinary.

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One of the factors behind the successful transformation of the mercado into an upscale food court was that the management had invited several famous chefs to open stalls in the marketplace offering quality food at affordable pricing.

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The 3rd stall we visited was by one of Portugal’s top female chefs – Marlene Vieira, creating modern Portuguese cuisines. We chose to try the small tasting menu (€15) comprising of 5 items of chef’s choice. I tried to identify the items by matching them against the menu, hopefully I got them right.

From left, stuffed mushrooms, portuguese bread sausage and quail eggs, crispy chicken wings with hot sauce, codfish tempura, fish egg roe salad and a chickpea dish which I don’t know the name. My favourite amongst them were the codfish tempura which was perfectly done and the crispy chicken wings. Chickpea has always been one of my favourite legumes with its nutlike taste and buttery texture, hence the dish was my cup of tea. The only odd one was the fish egg roe salad which didn’t go down well for my taste bud, the flavour was kinda overwhelming.

It was around 1+pm when we finished our meal and we saw the hall totally packed with people! Although the place was very crowded, while we were having our meal we saw security personnel patrolling around and actively advising patrons to keep a close watch on our belongings including asking folks to keep their bags on their laps instead of leaving them on the table. There were also sufficient number of staff clearing the tables and trays promptly. Overall this had to be one of the best gourmet foodcourt I’ve ever visited, they deserve to be mentioned as one of the “model” gourmet foodcourt for all to replicate!

I wish after Singapore’s own Michelin guide is out, we could also invite the chefs on the list to open stalls in one of our local foodcourts to offer a limited menu of Michelin-quality items at affordable price for more people to taste their food.

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Before we leave, we stopped by Santini to try their gelato – touted to be the best in Portugal. They are also said to have supplied ice creams to the Royal family! The gelato was rich and creamy. Though it was tough to decide, but I think it has a slight edge over the Amorino one that I’ve tried the night before. The Amorino ones are prettier as they are shaped in rose design, but they are less creamy when compared to the Santini ones.

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Other photos taken:

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Morning walk to see Praça do Comércio (Commerce Square) one of the largest square in Europe. Photos didn’t turn out great as it was a cloudy day…

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Exploring around Mercado da Ribeira and we climbed long flights of stairs uphill to get to Miradouro de Santa Catarina and be greeted by the expansive harbour view.

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Chanced upon the iconic Tram 28 – a popular tram route with tourists. Many tourists take this route which is a loop service that passes through several districts in the old town area.

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My goal was to look for Elevador da Bica (a furnicular) – one of the most photographed street in Lisbon as it offers great photo opportunity.

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