Little Portugal is the nickname given to an area in South London that’s known for its large Portuguese community. Some people say Little Portugal is in Stockwell, others say Vauxhall. Those things mightn’t matter if you’re not from London, but to Londoners the distinction is important: it’s better to be from Vauxhall than it is from Stockwell.
Nearby Wandsworth Road also has its fair share of Portuguese establishments, as well as several Brazilan-owned businesses, while other Portuguese pockets can be found along Golborne Road in Notting Hill.
Regardless of where it is, there’s no doubt that there’s a little Portugal in South London. Walk along South Lambeth Road and, if you ignore the very British-looking buildings, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’re in Lisbon and not London. Almost every café or business along here is either Portuguese or at least caters heavily to the Portuguese by stocking essentials like Delta coffee and Super Bock beer. Browse the windows of the shops and you’ll find signs for fado nights and English lessons, many of them written just in Portuguese.
A brief history of Little Portugal
The Little Portugal area around South Lambeth sprung up in the 60s and 70s when many Portuguese people started moving to London in search of new opportunities. Many worked in simple minimum-wage jobs, and soon a number of restaurants and cafés opened to cater for the new settlers.
Today there are roughly 30,000 Portuguese people living in the area but the future of Little Portugal is uncertain. Property developers are rumoured to be eyeing up the area, and more and more high-end apartment blocks are springing up nearby every year. Whether there will still be a little Portugal in decades to come is anyone’s guess but, even if it continues, it’ll more than likely gentrify like the rest of London.
Restaurants & cafés in Little Portugal
Although the pastel de nata has reached fad-status, it’s clear from the lack of non-Portuguese people that most Londoners haven’t begun to explore other Portuguese dishes just yet. Most of the people here speak Portuguese to each other, whether in the cafés or passing each other on the street.
Maybe that’s not a bad thing, though. Prices in the Portuguese restaurants here are very reasonable: they’re not as cheap as back home in Portugal, but they’re definitely affordable by London standards.
Lisboa Patisserie is one of the most popular cafés on the South Lambeth Road and it’s easy to see why. The cafe has an unmistakably Portuguese feel to it, and as soon as you step inside you feel like you’re back in Portugal.
As well as the café section, Lisboa Patisserie also has a shop selling bacalhau, Portuguese olive oil, coffee, tuna, pottery, and just about everything else you could possibly miss from Portugal.
- Address: 47-149 S Lambeth Rd, London SW8 1XN, UK
Three Lions Café
Despite the very English-sounding name and despite the British pub exterior, Three Lions Café is actually a Portuguese restaurant. Regular dishes include Portuguese classics like bacalhau à brás, arroz de marisco, francesinhas, and bitoque as well as desserts like Bolo de Bolacha and Pudim Caseiro.
- Address: 125 S Lambeth Rd, London SW8 1XA, UK
Portugal Restaurant is as old as Little Portugal itself and is one of the longest-running Portuguese restaurants in the UK. Using ingredients from local markets, Portugal Restaurant serves classics like espetada, cataplana de tamboril e gambas, and bacalhau com natas.
- Address: 6 S Lambeth Rd, Vauxhall, London SW8 1QX, UK
Other “Little Portugals” around the world
London isn’t the only city with a “Little Portugal”. There are also Little Portugals in Toronto, Montreal, Newark, and San Jose in California. That’s not counting the countless much smaller Portuguese communities that can be found in just about every major city around the world.