If you want to be wowed: DOP
Right in the heart of Porto is a truly exceptional culinary experience by acclaimed chef, Rui Paula. In a very contemporary minimalist setting, you can enjoy what is truly a journey for the senses. This is without doubt a foodie destination.
This is not the place to go if you are looking for traditional Portuguese food as these are dishes that have been dreamt up in both a laboratory and a kitchen, with a menu that is part is modern cuisine, part science. But every dish is spectacular.
The tasting menu comes recommended and it changes quite frequently. But you are assured five star presentation all the way.
There is a wagyu beef ‘Tenderloin Field’ that looks like you are walking through a mushroom field. Or an after dinner treat, that has chocolate coating that explodes in your mouth.
The staff are incredibly welcoming and warm and even chef Rui Paula comes around most evenings to greet everyone.
The wine list is comprehensive and they match all the tasting menu dishes with wines that really complement one another. This is by no means an inexpensive endeavour, but it is an incredible experience that even for the money is great value.
If you find yourself up in the Douro Valley, Paula’s original restaurant, called DOC, is located on a pier that stretches into the river. It too is fantastic and worth a try if you are looking for something special. You won’t be disappointed.
Seafood: Restaurante Escondidinho
If you are looking for amazing seafood while in Porto then here’s the place to go. Restaurante Escondidinho is a Porto institution and has been serving fresh seafood for over 80 years. This is where Porto’s great and the good go to dine, from politicians to football stars, to everyday seafoods lovers, as this really is the best seafood in the city.
It is also still run by the same family that founded it all those years ago.
The restaurant itself has not changed much either in that time. It has a charming interior with white table clothes, but it is not over the top. The service is warm, friendly and attentive. All the focus is on the food and the fresh seafood dishes that make people come back again and again.
The Cataplana of Seafood rice is a specialty, as is the octopus, and both will easily feed two people.
Great food and great locations: Pedro Lemos
Pedro Lemos is named after the talented chef that has made this another top restaurant to visit. The interior is all rustic chic interior and it has a great rooftop terrace.
Lemos offers the option of three, five or seven course menus and you can select from a variety of other options. The menu focuses on traditional Portuguese dishes with a modern twist – which is much like the restaurant itself; rustic, but modern.
There are land and sea options, reflecting both country dishes and those found next to the water.
The seven course meal is the best option as you get to try so many different things, but it will set you back €90.
The service is fantastic and for the amount of money you are paying you get a Michelin star experience in a superb setting.
What to try while in Porto: Francesinha
When in Porto you must try Francesinha, which is close to being the city’s signature dish and is like the Portuguese version of the croque monsieur.
It is a serious meat sandwich packed with cured ham, linguiça, fresh sausage and steak, saddled with two fat slices of white bread bread, then covered with melted cheese and drenched in a flavourful tomato and beer sauce.
The sauce is the key factor here as it melts the cheese when it is poured over the sandwich. But it also the sauce that separates the ordinary Francesinha from the extraordinary and the recipes are secretly guarded by each chef.
Here are few places that are arguably the best to try this local favourite.
Bufete Fase is a low key joint that many argue serves the best Francesinha in town. There are only four tables so it can be hard to get a sea, but it is worth the wait until you do.
The chef prepares his sauce with a bit more kick than other local joints, but it makes for an absolutely outstanding and memorable meal. Sandwiches are only made when ordered, which is different from other places around Porto and ensures every dish is fresh, straight out of the kitchen. They also use smoked pork here rather than the normal ham, which is fantastic.
It’s clear to see why it’s such a local favourite.
This is a great spot to visit in any case, but it also serves a mean Francesinha. It has been a landmark venue in Porto since the 1920s and you feel like you have gone back in time when you step inside.
Their version of the Francesinha, which they have been making for decades, uses grilled ham and a great cut of steak in the sandwich. The sauce is also a bit different with hints of Port and a bit of shrimp as well. It all adds to a silkier overall taste which is not as spicy as Bufete Fase’s secret recipe.
If you prefer a bit more of sophisticated atmosphere this may be a good alternative.