Our answer is, yes, go for it! Fine dining at one of Lisbon’s Michelin-starred restaurants is a great way to experience a different side of the city’s food scene.
Grazing or feasting on street food will always be a great way to get to know a city. But in Lisbon, the high-end restaurants that have won the food world’s highest honor are also a window onto the Portuguese soul. The country wasn’t included in the Michelin guide until recently. As a result, the eight young chefs who currently hold stars are all passionate about showcasing Portuguese ingredients and gastronomy. Granted, prices can be out of line with Portuguese salaries. So this kind of dining is generally reserved for special occasions, not part of the fabric of daily life. Here are eight excellent Michelin star restaurants in Lisbon for when the occasion calls for a truly unforgettable meal.
When the 2019 Michelin stars were announced, the biggest news was that chef Henrique Sá Pessoa had gained his second. At Alma, his hushed ode to fine dining in the posh Chiado neighborhood, he displays a deft mastery. Portuguese fish, suckling pig, octopus and foie gras all sing with flavor. Even a beautifully roasted carrot turns out to make the carnivores at the table jealous.
Portugal’s biggest star chef is José Avillez, a regular on the international gourmet circuit, television personality, cookbook author and proprietor of more than a dozen restaurants. While that sounds like a recipe for phoned-in cooking, his Belcanto proves exactly the opposite. It entered the list with two stars and has deservedly held onto them ever sense. Sometimes you can tell he worked with Ferran Adrià at El Bulli—exploding olive, anyone?—but many of the dishes on the tasting menus are entirely his own.
Before the full onslaught of “moments” (courses), expect to be asked to select a key from an intricate box. That’s how deep the commitment to theatricality runs at this 22-seat establishment near the gorgeous Basilica da Estrela. The open, impressively silent kitchen, helmed by chef Alexandre Silva, turns out a series of surprising bites, followed by a few more substantial morsels, all of which brim with freshness and creativity. The microseasonal tasting menus are as visually stunning are they are delicious.
It is easy to fall in love with Feitoria, at the Altis hotel in Belém, when the servers roll out the duck press. It’s not for Portuguese pato but for red carabineiro prawns from the Algarve, one of the high points of Iberian seafood. This is clearly a place that is all-in. Traditional, 100% Portuguese ingredients inform a high-wire cuisine that’s set to compete on bigger stages.
Chef Joachim Koerper long ago fell in love with the culture and cuisine of southern Europe. His menu at Eleven celebrates Mediterranean cooking and seasonal ingredients. Expect lots of luxurious tastes: duck foie gras with orange, rum and soy; codfish with saffron broth; and lobster with pumpkin polenta, caviar, blinis and lemongrass. The city views are some of the best in town, making this an all-around excellent option when it comes to Michelin star restaurants in Lisbon.
“Japanese with a Portuguese soul” is the tag line for this intimate kaiseki-style Japanese restaurant at the Penha Longa Resort near Sintra. It opened as such in 2017, and less than two years later was awarded its first Michelin star.
Midori had its origins 25 years earlier, when chef Pedro Almeida opened it as the first Japanese restaurant in Portugal. Originally, it was classically Japanese, but lately Almeida has found a new pride in his home country. This iteration of Midori isn’t fusion but a thoughtful blend that manages to be a bit of both. Think caldo verde miso shiro (with cabbage, potatoes and chorizo oil in a base of white miso) and sakamushi clams (steamed in sake) in typical bulhão pato style (with garlic and lemon).
7. Fortaleza do Guincho
This seaside dining room in a 17th-century fort is a bastion of old-school fine dining. Tables are clad in starched white cloths, and food is served by waiters wearing suits. But in a restaurant that has held its Michelin star for years, chef Miguel Rocha Vieira brings a creative, confident hand to Portuguese ingredients. The frequently changing degustation menus emphasize fish and seafood. A beautiful dessert called “The Dunes of Guincho” pays homage to the dramatic landscape outside. Pineapple, pinions, and resin are plated to look like a shell and sea grass atop a small pile of sand.
8. LAB by Sergi Arola
Catalan chef Arola came through the ranks in the kitchens of Ferran Adrià and Pierre Gagnaire. Now the self-styled “rebel with a cause” has achieved international fame with his restaurants in Abu Dhabi, Mumbai, Verbier, Santiago de Chile, Barcelona and Madrid. Despite having a broad empire, he doesn’t appear to be spread too thin. His experimental cuisine at the Penha Longa Resort near Sintra emphasizes local ingredients and Portuguese flavors. With only 22 seats, the dining room is intimate and memorable.
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Ann Abel came to Lisbon on assignment for Forbes in 2016 and fell in love with the quality of life, fantastic light, endless sunshine, friendly people and, of course, the delectable food and wine. When not eating her way through the capital (and coasts) she travels and writes for Conde Nast Traveller, Departures, Afar, Robb Report and other publications.