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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Brunch at Exmouth Grind or how I found yet another way to love my neighbourhood…

Finding a lovely new spot for brunch that’s within walking distance of your front door is like finding a fiver in the back pocket of jeans you forgot you had in your wardrobe. It’s unexpected and it’s awesome. Exmouth Market Grind is that fiver for me though truth be told, it’s totally a tenner.

Sat where the lovely little Café Pistou used to be on the corner of the market, it’s got a 5* location and boasts a menu that mixes the traditional – full English or baked eggs anyone? – with the modern – wild boar eggs Benedict and breakfast burritos over here please – which means you’ll be able to please every sort of breakfast hunter in your party.

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Inside it’s open, airy and modern, marrying marble beautifully together with blush pink menus and coral coloured booths. Staff are super lovely finding a table for four with the minimum of fuss on a busy Spring Saturday morning and noting requested menu changes with nary a raised eyebrow but a warm acknowledgement and cheery smile.

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Yoghurt & granola bowls at a neighbouring table looked fresh & virtuous and there are several small plates on offer as well as breakfast dishes. If you order anything as a side – and really why wouldn’t you, it is the weekend after all – you owe it to yourself to make it the chorizo stuffed dates with pancetta & labneh which will now forever be known to me as the Dwayne ‘Rock’ Johnson of the menu in that they are enormous and excellent. Casting shadows over the dish, they dwarfed the sourdough toast that came alongside, were perfect for mopping up the sweet, smoky, golden-oil streaked yoghurt and provoked the table next to us to lean over and ask hungrily what they were. FYI, it’s so satisfying when other people get food envy from your order.

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A breakfast burrito was crispy and squidgy and stuffed with avocado, scrambled eggs & sausage while a splendid serving of eggs Benedict with wild boar & chilli saw incredible sunset coloured yolks spilling generously over creamy hollandaise drenched muffins. Three house ground coffee blends were up for selection and met with approval by the caffeinated people in our group while the option to make it brunch of the bottomless & bubbly sort for £12 make it a great shout for the next long boozy girls breakfast in your diary.

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Exmouth Market isn’t exactly short of places to eat well in which means anyone moving in there had better bring their A game and fair play to Grind, they’ve done that in spades. Book yourself in there now then tell me you’re not jealous that I get to call it my local…I won’t believe you.

Chorizo stuffed squid courtesy of Saturday Kitchen & a Salt Yard chef…

Saturday mornings, how do I love thee, let me count the ways…

No alarm? Love.

Lazy lie-in? Love a bit more.

Time to make a nice breakfast? Love a lot more.

Sitting pj clad on the sofa eating said breakfast in front of ‘Saturday Kitchen’? Love big time.

So in short then, Saturday mornings, I salute you. I was recently lucky enough to be gifted an afternoon at the studios of ‘Saturday Kitchen’ in Clapham. I had no idea what to expect but it was an absolutely brilliant experience!

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A cooking masterclass where we shown how to make tapas delicious enough to consider trading your first-born for was first up and then it was off for a tour of the studios themselves, a crack at the omelette challenge – much more intimidating than it looks on the tv! – and a wine tasting with the brilliantly affable Andy Clarke who paired each one with a suitable accompanying food suggestion. FYI, try and be on the group that does the omelette challenge after the wine tasting, not that it helped me any with my effort which was applaudably dreadful!

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