A travel writer’s guide to dining through Lisbon

Europe is an interesting place to visit as a fat person – but that shouldn’t stop you, and it certainly didn’t stop me. My sister, Soreh, and I recently went on a sister’s trip which spanned ten days, three countries and many fabulous experiences and restaurants.

While traveling, I counted exactly 19 visibly taller people on my trip, only one of whom was taller than me. But again, that didn’t stop me. I’ve worn a few different bikinis, taken walking tours, and even received a massage at a five-star spa.

All in all, it’s a trip we’ll be talking about for decades, full of all the things that make a trip great. So join me on our visit to Lisbon.

Lisbon

I’ve been to seven European countries, and Portugal stands out as the country with the best food overall. Whether we ate traditionally prepared salt fish and pastel de nata (cream pies), fusion cuisine combining Japanese and Portuguese flavors, or entirely different foods made from local ingredients, the food was quality superior. The city’s airport was small, built before the influx of tourists poured into the country, creating a bit of chaos upon arrival, but few issues upon departure. If you are planning a trip to Portugal and want to visit Lisbon, I would spend a few days in the city and then head to other areas, such as Sinatra or Porto, both a short train ride away.

Where to stay in Lisbon:

Hotel 1908 — Hotel 1908 was really the boutique hotel of my dreams. Keeping the amazing architecture of the original building, the interior has been completely renovated and modernized, with some nice touches from the original building. The rooms are spacious, without the classic European style bathroom, which was a definite bonus. Our Ubers averaged only five to seven dollars, so the location was spectacular! And while the hotel is lovely, it’s the staff that takes it to the next level. They always welcome you with joy and warmth, happy to answer all your questions and give you suggestions on everything related to Lisbon. The hotel’s restaurant, Infame, also offers a lobby bar with small bites and drinks. The salmon ceviche was by far the best I’ve had in the world, and the duck croquettes were the perfect snack before heading out to enjoy the afternoon.

Crush factor: Although quite large, the shower has nowhere to lift your leg to take a shower. Also, although not related to size, the floor door stopper is almost invisible, especially at night. Be careful or you’ll end up in a lot of pain.

Where to eat in Lisbon:

At Boubou’s – From the outside, Boubou doesn’t look like much, but don’t be fooled. In addition to a small dining room, the restaurant has a large hidden garden. You will be surrounded by massive banana trees in a relaxed and laid back environment. The menu features local Portuguese ingredients, changing from week to week, depending on what’s freshest. My sister and I went with the tasting menu, which had international flavors and enhanced vegetarian options. You absolutely have to order the creamy sweet potato in a coconut tiger milk with a kaffir lime ceviche. It was simply sublime, although the rabbit croquette was the best bite of the night.

Sweet potato ceviche at Boubou (Soreh Milchtein)

Crush factor: While the food and environment were top notch, the seating left me miserable. It was mostly chairs so I chose the bench which was even worse than being crushed in the chair.

Cavalarica Lisbon – Dim and romantic, Cavalariça Lisboa has a charming and romantic vibe that is not at all stuffy. Once the home of a shop that sold electric motors, today a massive white unicorn hangs high on the wall, injecting some fun into the restaurant. Start your meal with olive oil (or aged butter) and fluffy focaccia before diving into the shared plates — or leave your meal to the pros by ordering the tasting menu. You’ll definitely want to try the tender and rich Alentejo pork and pineapple skewer with cilantro, which is bursting with flavor. Chocolate Banana Dessert brings back nostalgic memories of banana bread with an upscale twist.

Office – Lunch at Oficio was by far my favorite meal of the whole trip, not just in Lisbon. Entering the restaurant is an experience in itself. Bright and airy, you’ll want to take a deep breath to drink it all in before you sit down. When you’re seated, you’re presented with a menu that looks like someone is still developing it, complete with scribbled writing and arrows.

And what a menu, from the mushrooms topped with a chicken caramel (which was super unique and delicious!) to the veal and marrow tartare, it will have you salivating before you even order.

Fish tacos at the Oficio (Soreh Milchreis)

Oficio serves contemporary Portuguese cuisine using local ingredients, underscored by Mexican flavors. Now I’m a sucker for a fabulous fish dish, especially if the fish is raw. The fresh croaker wrapped in a lettuce leaf deserves a prize. It is simply perfection. Don’t skip the oysters, stuffed spider crab or roasted leeks.

Crush factor: The chairs have armrests, but some banquettes are available. However, I was able to sit comfortably in the chair for lunch.

Sala de Corte – Have you ever been to a steakhouse and felt it was too old-school or stuffy? Well, you’ll love Sala de Corte, Lisbon’s lightly smashed and super-casual steakhouse. The first thing you’ll see upon entering the restaurant is a dry aging refrigerator stocked with all the steak you can imagine. The lighting is dim and the buzz of conversation and laughter is predominant. The menu is relatively simple. We ordered beef tartare, and although it was amazing, I wouldn’t order it because the chef’s first bite is also beef tartare. Splurge on the steak, the star of the show, as it should be. The porterhouse was cooked to the perfect medium-rare, with one of the best crusts I have ever enjoyed. Simply perfect. The dessert – a deconstructed hazelnut dessert with a melody of different textures, finished with salted caramel ice cream – was also nothing to sneeze at.

Crush factor: Ask for a table with a bench seat when booking, as the chairs all have armrests.

What to do in Lisbon:

Devour the Tastes and Traditions Food Tour — I was really excited to do another food tour in Lisbon. The Devour Tastes and Traditions tour has been designed to allow you both to taste the traditional cuisine of Portugal and to learn about the history, cultures and traditions, of course. Bring a bottle of water with you! Among the many tastings, we walked into a little shop that sold salt cod on one side and cured pork on the other (among other things). Here we enjoyed tasting Jamon Iberico, a tender, buttery, prosciutto-like salt pork. It is made from the meat of Iberian black pigs, fed on a diet of acorns. I’ve wanted to try this for a long time, and it certainly has. Another small shop, Ginja Sem Rival, has been selling sour cherry liqueur since 1890. You’ll be served a shot glass full of liquor, with whole sour cherries floating in the bottom. It’s a sipping liquor – and a mouth-watering one. Grab a bottle to take home, they only cost a few euros and are worth every penny.

Crush factor: This tour involves a lot of walking: much more than most food tours I’ve done, with steep hills that have a significant number of stairs and steep hills on the way down as well. There were also not many seats at the various stops.

Anantara Spa at Hotel TIvoli Avenida Liberdade Every vacation needs a little personal care, and for me, that means the spa is in order. During our stay in Lisbon, my sister and I enjoyed a massage and mini facial treatment at Anantara Spa, inside the Tivoli Avenida Liberdade hotel. The service and staff from reception to massage therapists were so amazing and kind. From the moment you step into the spa you feel peaceful and relaxed. The massage was a 10/10. After we changed, the service began by washing and exfoliating our feet, before stepping onto the massage table for the treatment. The ambient temperature can be adjusted on request and the massage tables are preheated. I’m hot, so I asked them to turn it off. I probably would have skipped the mini facial, as it was more of a cleanser and moisturizer application than anything else. After the massage we were escorted to the relaxation room and enjoyed a glass of champagne before heading back out into the world.

Crush factor: As expected, the dress did not fit me at all. My size 12 sister found the robe quite small too, so I would bring my own. Also the provided plastic slippers and underwear didn’t fit as well. As the service began with a foot wash, I simply wore my dress, which I took off while lying on the table. I left my underwear on during the massage.

A photo of the author and his sister at one of the viewpoints (Chaya Milchtein)

Lisbon Driving Tour – I’ve done private tours before, but this private car tour from Viator took private tours to a new level. We were picked up from our hotel by a well-dressed driver in an air-conditioned luxury sedan, before planning the tour. Although the itinerary was set when booking, the beauty of a private tour is that you can change it. We stopped at Pastéis de Belém, two different viewpoints to admire the glory of Lisbon from above, and learned a lot about the city. Our driver and guide met us at most stops which was fabulous!

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