A gastronomic guide to Porto

When I think of the food in Porto, I think of sardines, pastries, the francesinha sandwich, and lots and lots of port. Portugal’s second city is a culinary delight, with a host of superb restaurants and cafés.

Pretty much everything I had to eat or drink was excellent and Porto has since become one of my favourite gastronomic hubs in Europe. So without further ado, here’s a round-up some of the best cafés, bars and restaurants I visited in Porto:

Majestic Café

French toast and tea at Cafe Majestic in Porto

The grand, traditional Majestic Café has been a Porto institution since the early 1920s and is worth a visit if you like old-school Viennese-style coffee houses. Less stuffy than some such establishments, the café is renowned for its French toast, so I had to try it, along with a pot of Darjeeling tea (above).

The very fluffy slice of toast was smothered in a sweet sauce, topped with raisins, walnuts and pine nuts, and garnished with a side-sprinkling of cinnamon. The French toast was delicious and the café relatively inexpensive compared to other grand European cafés, such as Angelina in Paris or Caffè Florian in Venice.


A pre-dinner glass of port and some olives at Linha22 in Porto

Linha22 is a cool café-bar and guest house on Rue Clérigos in central Porto and it’s a great place for a pre-dinner aperitif. The bar is tiny and the staff incredibly friendly, and we enjoyed a relaxing glass of port and some olives one evening until it closed at 7pm.


Lunch of canned sardines, cod pate and cod chips at Bacalhau restaurant in Porto

Bacalhau is a small restaurant in the Ribeira district overlooking the Douro River, with outdoor seating where you can watch the world go by. We visited Bacalhau for lunch and shared a number of dishes, including cod chips, spicy canned sardines and cod paté.

I didn’t quite know what to expect when we ordered the cod chips, I was half-expecting something like fish goujons and was surprised when a pot of thin, twisted strips of cod skin arrived. They were incredibly crispy, but rather tasteless, and I can’t say I particularly enjoyed them.

Cod chips aside, I couldn’t fault the rest of our meal, which was fantastic. The cod paté was thick, creamy and full of fish, and I slathered it on the small, thin pieces of crispy bread that came with it, topped with lusciously pink pickled onions.

But my favourite dish was the canned sardines, which were served with a seafood sauce and unbelievably soft bread. The woman who owned Bacalhau was also really friendly and the service excellent.

My Ribeira

Lunch of canned sardines in lemon and basil oil with a salad of lettuce, tomatoes and apple at My Ribeira in Porto

On our last day in Porto, we had lunch at My Ribeira, a small, trendy café on the ground floor of a guest house in the Ribeira neighbourhood. It was a lovely, relaxed and modern little café and the guy who served us was really friendly.

I had a wonderful salad consisting of canned, boneless sardines in lemon and basil oil, served with lettuce, cherry tomatoes and small cubes of apple. The salad was light and refreshing, and just what I needed after three days of gourmet eating. 

The Wine Box

Clams in garlic and coriander, a mini-francesinha sandwich and goat's cheese and redcurrant puffs at The Wine Box bar and restaurant in Porto

The Wine Box came highly recommended by a friend of a friend, so we headed to this small, trendy wine bar-cum-bistro for dinner on our first night in Porto. With some 450 wines available, many served by the glass, it’s the perfect supping place for an oenophile.

We decided to share a selection of tapas – salt cod croquettes, clams in garlic and coriander, goat’s cheese and redcurrant jam puffs, and a mini-francesinha – washed down with local alvarinho wine (above). The clams were good and the puffs, which combined a tart goat’s cheese with a sweet redcurrant jam, were delicious.

The francesinha is a local delicacy that consists of a steak, sausage and ham sandwich covered in a tomato and beer sauce, and topped with melted cheese. It was really tasty and I suspect we had a gourmet version of the famed calorific snack – it was the perfect size for two and didn’t taste at all processed or fatty. 

The cheese board at The Wine Box

Amazingly, we were still a little peckish after our tapas and couldn’t resist finishing our meal with the cheese board (above). The cheese board came with four different cheeses (I annoyingly forgot to note the names of them), thin crackers and an orange jam. It was great and really hit the spot.


The Baixa branch of éLeBê was recommended to us by our hotel receptionist after our original dinner plans fell through, and it did not disappoint. The trendy (slightly posh) restaurant serves modern Portuguese cuisine.

I ordered scallops in lime tempura to start, which consisted of a lime-battered scallop, served with mushrooms in a creamy sauce, pickled red cabbage and a small dressed salad.

The mushrooms and cabbage were terrific, especially when eaten together, but I was disappointed by the solitary scallop, which was encased in such a thick batter I couldn’t taste it. Given the dish was billed as a scallop starter, I expected the mollusc to be the star of the show, but unfortunately it was the least exciting item on the plate.

Wild boar cutlets with boiled cabbage and roasted new potatoes in a special sauce at eLeBe Baixo in Porto

Luckily, things picked up considerably with my main course as I had wild boar cutlets with boiled cabbage and roasted new potatoes in a special sauce (above). The wild boar was flavourful and the sauce superb. I’m not usually a fan of cutlets, as I often find you don’t get much meat on them, but this dish was a winner.

The chef's surprise four desserts at eLeBe Baixo in Porto - creme brulee, chocolate mousse in a wafer cup, cheesecake with spiced pumpkin jam and a local custard dessert

For dessert, the chef asked if he could surprise us and we readily agreed. We were given four mini desserts – a crème brûlée, a chocolate mousse in a wafer cup topped with a mint leaf, a traditional Portuguese custard dessert and a cheesecake topped with a spiced pumpkin jam (above).

I wasn’t overly keen on the long slither of crème brûlée, but the other three desserts were fantastic and it was a lovely way to end a pleasant evening.


Our best dining experience in Porto by far was at Tapabento, which is saying something given how exceptional the food was elsewhere.

We ended up at Tapabento after seeing it rated number one on Tripadvisor. I don’t usually take the restaurant rankings on Tripadvisor seriously as I often find the highest-ranking restaurants are mediocre at best, but I was proved wrong with Tapabento.

The food was exquisite, the service exceptional, and the vibe relaxed and friendly. The tiny restaurant was packed when we arrived, but the very friendly owner agreed to squeeze us in and I’m so glad she did, it was incredible – fine-dining at its best, at reasonable prices.

The warm goat's cheese salad at Tapabento in Porto

We started our meal with a goat’s cheese salad (above), which consisted of warm slices of goat’s cheese, lettuce, walnuts, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries, drizzled with a honey and balsamic vinegar dressing. It was enormous and ridiculously tasty.

Seared tuna at Tapa Bento in Porto

We followed it up with a seared tuna steak, which was coated in sesame seeds and  served with a pot of soy sauce, wasabi foam, pickled vegetables, three types of fish roe, and an apple and cucumber ice cream (above). It was exceptionally good and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Seafood mix, consisting of king prawns, mussels, razor clams and clams, at Tapabento in Porto

We then shared another delightful dish – a bowl of mixed seafood (above), which was made up of a selection of king prawns, mussels, clams and razor clams in a seafood broth, served with bread. 

The exquisite Ecuador dessert at Tapabento restaurant in Porto

To finish, I had the Ecuador (above), a dish consisting of a coconut and lychee milk pudding topped with a slice of star fruit, served with chocolate-covered banana, passion fruit, passion fruit ice cream, lime curd, dried banana, cubes of dragon fruit, and various purées, powders and crackling delights. It was amazing and a showstopping finale. 

The food and service at Tapabento were phenomenal and I was surprised when the bill came to only €30 each for the food (the wine was only €3 a glass). It’s a gem of a place and I’d highly recommend it to anyone visiting Porto.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: