Lisbon; where to eat in one of the world’s sunniest & most delicious cities…

‘You’ll love it!’

‘It’s great for food!’

‘Best city break ever!’

To say I heard these declarations of love for one of Europe’s sunniest cities once or twice during the weeks leading up to J’s and my much needed holiday in Lisbon would be something of an understatement. The glorious sunshine, the gorgeous food, the dreamy tiles, the kitschy gifts, the pastels de nata – all these things were raved about to me in sentences heavy with near fanaticism for Portugal’s capital and every single one of them raised my expectations to nigh on stratospheric levels…

…luckily Lisbon knows a things or two about making a gal happy so consider every expectation exceeded.

There are a lot of places to stay in and around the city centre; J & I are somewhat rather very a teeny bit antisocial when it comes to holidays. We’re not fans of cloud scraping hotels with all-you-can-eat buffets at 8am, fights for the sun-loungers at 1pm or traditional British pubs that vomit drunken tourists onto the pavements outside at 2am. Small, gorgeous, friendly places are more up our street which is exactly what we found in Palacio Ramalhete, a 10 room boutique hotel (barely 15 minutes walk from the legendary Time Out Market) which boasts a rooftop pool & the nicest staff in Lisbon.

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Clean, cool & pretty rooms come dressed with the loveliest little touches – complimentary homemade chocolate covered fruit & nuts on the dresser or a creamy roses in the bathroom anyone? – while the communal rooms are a beautiful blend of modern and antique and that aforementioned rooftop pool was ours alone for most of the week.

There’s no restaurant on site at Palacio but the breakfasts are a little bit special and there’s a small but decent snacks menu that’ll see you through the day. Cheeseboard and local beers by the pool, you say? Well chaps, I didn’t fly all the way here for green juice and broccoli.

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First day exploration of the local neighbourhood revealed a hidden gem of a restaurant – Le Chat, named after one of the owners’ semesters in Paris. A modern construction of glass, chrome and white parasol shaded terraces, this was a gorgeous place to stumble across, sink into and enjoy the first of many local beers and dishes at. FYI, as someone totally uninitiated in Portuguese beers, it may well be that it’s actually the Stella of its market but we loved the super light & refreshing Superbock.

Codfish shredded with chickpeas & pink pickled onions was light and gently herbed…

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…while chubby pink prawns lazed gently in a pool of paprika spiced oil from slices of food of the gods, chorizo. Top tip 1 – Le Chat’s homemade focaccia comes fat & fluffy in hipster approved kilner jars and is pretty perfect for mopping up every last golden slick.

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A wheel of goats cheese looked like it was about to win first prize in a ‘vegetables masquerading as creme brulee’ competition but tasted tangy and soft against crisp greens and earthy walnuts…

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…and eating everything al fresco on the terrace which slowly filled up with locals-in-the-know and lucky-to-find-it-tourists was the perfect way to watch a setting sun paint the sky around us with flushes of candyfloss colours.

Top tip 2 – save room for dessert. Like a heaving bosom in the court of Louis XIV, Le Chat’s decadent yet elegantly simple chocolate mousse is piled high in ridiculously soft & velvety mounds while sprinkles of popping candy stop it from being too serious and grown up a dessert.

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Brilliant alfresco dining at Pop Brixton…

If you live in South London, you need to pay Pop Brixton a visit.

If you live in any other part of London…you need to pay Pop Brixton a visit.

Fun, lively & vibrant, this spot is a brilliant example of local businesses & entrepreneurs working together to deliver a cracking experience for the people of the community and beyond.

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There are over 50 different companies working out of shipping containers in a previously unused space a few minutes’ walk from Brixton tube, including a community garden, start up architects & restoration enterprises, second hand vinyl & African street-wear shops plus, most importantly to me and anyone else who is generally led at all times by their stomachs, twenty varied food & drink destinations.

Supporting local creatives by offering a safe space in which to flourish? Win. Creating the most delicious pit-stop that’s incredibly easy to get to and enjoy from 9am-11pm every day? Win.

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Pizza, burgers, donuts, jerk chicken, curry, Mexican, Ghanaian, Japanese…you can – and will want to – literally walk around the world here and my advice would be to get here early evening, find a spot at which to plant your proverbial feasting flag & set up camp for the night then get exploring. Take a group of friends and try a little bit of everything or go with one similarly greedy pal and devour dish after dish after dish.

Light & fragrant gyozas from Koi Ramen are elegant and simple finger food at its finest while Baba G’s Bhangra Burgers introduced me (god bless them) to ‘pachos’, an overflowing portion of poppadum nachos that come loaded with salsa, raita, mango, chilli pickle and if you want it – and trust me you do – paneer cheese.

Lighter & crispier than tortilla chips and slick with a kaleidoscope of colours from the varying toppings, these are absolutely awesome and a great, innovative way of putting a modern twist from one side of the planet onto a classic dish from another…

…while steamed bao buns from Viet Box are sweet little pillows of fluffy dough stuffed with gloriously flavoured chicken satay, goats cheese or lemongrass pork.

It gets busy here so don’t rock up at 9pm and expect to find an expanse of space in which to start feasting; vendors are loud and proud of their wares, happy to chat and keen to introduce people to new things. As an FYI, a couple of the stands didn’t do takeaway food when we visited so if you want to try lots of little things, pick a seat in the central areas that you can return to with your wares as opposed to sitting in one place and eating only that.

You might wonder if this is just Shoreditch’s Boxpark copied and transplanted south but it’s got a hugely different vibe and I’d highly recommend you take the time to explore both; you might live on the other side of the river but you can totally dine like a queen on both.

 

Lose your heart & fill your stomach in Copenhagen…

Copenhagen is without doubt one of the most on trend places to visit right now. Constantly ranked as the happiest country on earth, it possesses such a pervasive sense of effortless style that you might be forgiven for imagining that the people are every bit as intimidatingly cool too…except they’re not. Nope. They’re just really, really nice which makes it even more of a splendid place in which to dwell for a few days.

With a sometimes justified but also often over exaggerated reputation as an eye-wateringly expensive place to enjoy, I’m happy to report that it’s nowhere near as bad as you may have been led to believe. This might be because I already live in London, a city rarely blessed with the nickname of ‘bargain’, but if you do a little investigating and spend some time planning what you’re going to do and where you’re going to do it, you’ll find there’s just as much that you can afford as you can’t.

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