Anthony Bourdain Visits Lisbon in “No Reservations”

anthony bourdain eating bifana

Update: Sadly, Anthony Bourdain took his life in June 2018. This blog post has been one of the most popular on Portugalist, showing the effect Bourdain had on Lisbon. Bourdain also visited Porto, and you can read a writeup of his trip to Porto on Portugalist as well. 

In 2012, Anthony Bourdain visited Lisbon as part of his “No Reservations” TV show. This was a really great episode to watch.

Bourdain isn’t the only TV chef to have visited Lisbon. British TV chef Rick Stein has also been here, and we’ve written about that as well.

While Rick Stein’s visit to Lisbon focused almost exclusively on the food in Lisbon, Anthony Bourdain took his viewers on a journey through Portuguese culture (read: pessimism) as well.

I first watched this episode back in 2013, and it’s interesting to see just how much Lisbon has changed during that time. When this was filmed, Portugal was deep in a recession. Cervejaria Ramiro was a drab, working man’s seafood restaurant that very few foreigners had heard of, and Lisbon didn’t feature on many people’s itineraries.

Fast forward to today and Portugal is out of, or almost out of a recession. Lisbon almost certainly is. Since around 2014, tourism has boomed in Lisbon as people from all over the world have flocked here.

The effects have been both good and bad. Many businesses in the city centre, for example, have benefited, but tourism has had a negative effect on the local housing market. This is partly or, maybe even mainly, down to a lack of regulation: many landlords have put their properties on Airbnb and its alternatives instead of renting locally as this is a lot more lucrative.

Cervejaria Ramiro also is no longer the hole in the wall place that it was. Go today and you’ll find a queue of people waiting outside, many of them tourists. When you get inside, you’ll be given a menu…on an iPad. It’s a completely different world to what it was back then.

Restaurants & places Anthony Bourdain visited

I’ve put together a list of all the restaurants, bars, and cafés that Anthony Bourdain visited while he was in Lisbon so you can visit them for yourself.

Cervejaria Ramiro (Seafood)

Cervejaria Ramiro is probably the most popular seafood restaurant (usually called cervejarias or marisquieras) in Lisbon, although the number of tourists it gets does have a big impact on this. As the prices have gone up, and it’s become more difficult to get a table, locals have sought out other marisquieras instead.

There are plenty of other marisquieras in Lisbon and, personally, I would copy what the locals do. I don’t think Ramiro is any better and, the last time I visited, half the group I was with spent the night clutching the toilet bowl. This could be a one off, but it does tend to be the case that restaurants let standards slip as they become more popular.

Regardless of which marisquiera you go to, look out for the specialty seafood dishes that Bourdain had like goose barnacles, crab, and tiger prawns. For dessert, it’s traditional to finish off the meal with a prego (a steak sandwich with mustard).

This tradition seems to be unique to Lisbon. I’ve gone out for seafood meals in other parts of the country, like The Algarve, and never been offered a prego.

If you decide to go to Cervejaria Ramiro, you’ll need to queue. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations and, when you see the length of the queue, you’ll see that it doesn’t need to.

Cervejaria Ramiro opens at midday so, if you’re going for lunch, try and get there as close to 12 as possible. The earlier you are, the better chance you have of getting a table. The same applies for dinner: the earlier than you can get there, the better.

A Tasca do Chico (Fado)

No trip to Lisbon is complete without listening to some fado. Fado is traditional Portuguese folk music. It’s often soulful and mournful, but at the same time it’s incredibly beautiful: as sad as some of the lyrics are, you won’t leave a fado show feeling completely depressed. It’s a much more complex emotion than that.

A Tasca do Chico is the fado house that Bourdain visited. It’s situated in the Bairro Alto, a fun and lively part of Lisbon that’s packed with lots of small bars and restaurants. Here, in the Bairro Alto, you can grab a beer or caipirinha and wander the narrow streets while soaking in the late-night buzz.

You’ll also find plenty of fado houses around Alfama and Mouraria, and we’ve written some tips about which ones to visit in our article about Fado.

Bourdain sat down with author Antonio Lobo Antunes at A Tasca do Chio. Some of his books have been translated into English, and you can easily find them on Amazon

Squid & Octopus Fishing on the Tejo

Unfortunately, only Anthony Bourdain knows the guys that he went squid and octopus fishing with. And, there aren’t many fishing trips that focus specifically on squid or octopus — it’s often something that you just end up catching.

If you want to go fishing while you’re in Lisbon, however, you can book fishing trips through sites like Expedia and Viator. Maybe you’ll end up with an octopus or a squid in your catch!

Sol E Pesca (Petiscos)

When this was being filmed, Cais do Sodré was a completely different part of town. It’s amazing the gentrification that has happened in that short amount of time, particularly since the Time Out Food Market has moved into the area. This is now one of the most happening parts of Lisbon, and it’s packed with busy bars and restaurants.

Thankfully, places like Sol E Pesca are still there, and available for you to visit. Sol E Pesca specialise in canned seafood products: here, you can order a few different petiscos (similar to tapas) made from tinned food along with a beer or a glass of wine.

To those not from the South of Europe, the idea of eating tinned food at a restaurant is just bizarre. But, tinned food from Spain and Portugal is very different to tinned food from the North of Europe.

Here, it’s not just tuna in brine and tinned potatoes, but things like squid, swordfish, anchovies, and roe. The fish is usually tinned in olive oil, with herbs and ingredients like preserved lemon or sun-dried tomatoes.

It takes a while to get over your initial reservations, but it’s worth giving it a try. It’s a completely different kind of tinned food experience than most people are used to.

You can also buy these tinned products throughout Portugal. They’re available in speciality shops called conserveiras, as well as in the local supermarkets. The tins in the supermarket are okay but, although they’re usually cheaper, they’re nowhere near as extravagant as what you can find in the conserveiras.

Recently, there has been a big surge of new conserveiras in Lisbon particularly around Baixa. Although they’re sparkling new (and some of them are so gaudy they pretty much sparkle), they’re designed to look like they’ve been there for generations. Make the pilgrimage to places like Conserveira de Lisboa on Rua dos Bacalhoeiros instead, a conserveira which has been there since 1930.

The band member Bourdain speaks to is from a band called Dead Combo. You can find their music on Youtube and Spotify. 

Riding a tram in Lisbon

Riding one of the old-fashioned trams is a fun way to get from A to B in Lisbon. Most tourists that visit Lisbon ride Tram 28, which goes through many of the historical and most scenic parts of the city. It’s very touristic and, because of this, you’ll need to be wary of pickpockets.

Tram in Lisbon

Keep your wits about you and you’ll be fine. You’ll see a lot of people sticking their iPhones and iPads out the window, stupidly flashing their prized possessions. As long as you’re not like them, you should be fine.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to get on Tram 28, you’ll see plenty of these trams making their way through the city. Hop on one and see where it takes you. You can always take it back the other way if it doesn’t lead you anywhere interesting.

A Ginjinha (ginjinha)

A Ginjinha is one the most popular places to try Ginjinha (or Ginja), a sweet liqueur made from ginja berries (sour cherries) and aguardente alcohol. It’s delicious, worth trying, and also worth buying a bottle of to bring to friends and family back home.

It’s often served in a chocolate cup, so you get the pleasure of eating your cup afterwards. This isn’t traditional to Lisbon: here’s it’s served in a glass, but you’ll find both on offer around the city.

Cantinho do Avillez

José Avillez’ Cantinho do Avillez is one of Lisbon’s most popular restaurants. With its urban bistro look, it offers an affordable but high-quality menu of contemporary Portuguese dishes.

This isn’t Avillez’ only restaurant in Lisbon. His main restaurant, Belcanto, has 2 Michelin Stars and has also been featured in publications like Restaurant Magazine, Condé Nast Traveller International, and WINE magazine.

Cantino do Avillez is less formal and more affordable. If you enjoy it and want to try some of Avillez’ other restaurants, he also operates Pizzaria Lisboa, Ja em casa (a takeaway in Cascais), Mini Bar, Bairro do Avillez, and Beco – Cabaret Gourmet.

100 Maneiras restaurant

Another Lisbon fine-dining institution, Ljubomir Stanisic’s 100 Maneiras offers a tasting menu with a big emphasis on the visual aspect of the experience. They’re also well-known for their cocktails and wine-pairing so, if you do visit, expect a sore head in the morning.

Mercado de Alvalade Norte (market shopping)

Mercado de Alvalade Norte is just one of the main fresh produce markets you’ll find around Lisbon where you can purchase fish, vegetables, and meat. This market is situated a little out of the way for most visitors and, if you want to visit, you’ll need to make a special pilgrimage to get there.

If you don’t fancy going all that way, there are plenty of other markets around Lisbon that you can visit, for example the market at Cais do Sodré, where the Time Out Food Market is located.

You’ll probably end up in this part of town anyway, to visit any of the restaurants in Cais do Sodré or the Time Out Market itself. It has a great selection of fruit and vegetables, meat and fish — it might not be as big as Mercado de Alvalade Norte, but it’s still a pretty big market.

  • Website: N/A
  • Address: Av. Rio de Janeiro 25, 1700-111 Lisboa, Portugal

O Trevo

The bifana, a bread roll filled with thin pork and topped with mustard, is one of Portugal’s best inventions. It’s cheap (it usually costs around €2) and flavoursome, and you can get it in just about any café in Portugal.

bifana

Whether you eat it sober or not, it’s always delicious — although that might have something to do with the lard that many cafés use in their recipe.

You’ll probably be near Praça Luís de Camões, where O Trevo is located, on some point during your trip to Lisbon. If not, you can get them in almost any café in Lisbon. Some places, BDO – Bifanas Bar in Cais Do Sodré, have taken the burger bar concept and begun offering all kinds of variations on the original.

Bifanas originate in the Alentejo region of Portugal in the little town of Vendas Novas, at least that’s how the story goes. This style of bifana is the one shown in Parts Unknown, and you can tell because it requires mustard on top.

Personally, I prefer bifanas a moda do porto (bifanas in the Porto style). These are cooked and served in a sauce, and are much juicier and more flavoursome than the Vendas Novas style.

You don’t see this style as much outside of Porto but, if you see the bifanas being cooked in a big saucepan or cauldron filled with sauce, that probably means it’s bifanas a moda do porto.

Watch the No Reservations episode online

If you haven’t already watched the full episode, you can find it on Netflix. We also managed to find a full episode on YouTube. The quality on both Youtube and Netflix is pretty good – not HD, but good enough.

Have you followed in Anthony Bourdain’s footsteps and visited these restaurants and cafes in Lisbon. Let us know your experiences and reviews of them by leaving a comment below. 

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