One of my favourite things about Porto was how good the food and drink scene is – every day we found cute little bakeries, amazing restaurants and cool bars to hang out at, and if I went back there would definitely be a few places I’d be booking in advance. Luckily Porto is a small enough city that you can take the sightseeing at a leisurely place, leaving plenty of time to laze by the river or relax at a streetside restaurant, snacks on the table and glass of wine in hand. Here are a few of Porto’s signature foodie experiences you won’t want to miss.
Pastel de Nata
The pastel de nata is a traditional Portuguese egg custard tart usually sprinkled in nutmeg that can be eaten for breakfast with a coffee or as a snack at any time of day. I tried nata tarts in Macau a few years ago and wasn’t too bothered about them, but I tried them again in Porto and I don’t know if it’s genuinely different or my tastebuds have changed, but I fell in love. We tried our first in a pastry shop full of locals close to our hostel that we found recommended on TripAdvisor, and the second in the touristy but beautiful Majestic Cafe; I didn’t notice much difference except that the Majestic Cafe’s tarts are – in true tourist trap fashion – smaller. Leeds needs to get a nata shop, sharp-ish.
On our last night in Porto my friend and I tracked down a roast chicken place called Pedro dos Frangos that was recommended by my parents, who in turn had it recommended to them by a friend who lived in Porto years ago. It’s been opened since 1951 and is still managed by the same family today, so it’s something of an icon. It’s a simple, welcoming restaurant with paper tablecloths, a casual dining bar downstairs, and bargain prices. The spicy roast chicken with chips is just €5, so it’s a dream for budget travellers – we added a bottle of wine and two desserts to our order and it was still really cheap. Nando’s ain’t got nothing on this…
The Francesinha is Porto’s signature dish, and you have to try it even if you spend the rest of your trip walking it off. There’s really no way to describe just how heavy this sandwich is – slices of ham, sausage and steak are stacked between two doorstops of bread, covered with melted cheese and beer sauce, and topped with a fried egg. And just in case your arteries don’t already feel sufficiently clogged, there’s a portion of chips on the side. My advice is to get one for lunch so you have the rest of the day to walk it off. Chances are you’ll be so full you won’t even want dinner.
Can you go to Porto and not spend a day touring the port houses? Seems like it would be rude to me. The port houses aren’t actually in Porto – they’re on the other side of the river in Gaia which we found out is very different (think Manhattan and Brooklyn or Liverpool and the Wirral), but it has a nice riverfront and is even more quaintly shabby than Porto. We went to Taylor’s for our port tour and tasting which turned out to be a strong choice – the port is delicious and the tasting room had a gorgeous circus top-style roof in rainbow stripes. We also stopped by the bar at Sandeman port house which has a wide range of ports on the menu plus a selection of port cocktails; I had the Sandeman sangria which was port, margarita mix, orange juice and grenadine.
Have you ever been to Porto? What were your favourite meals or restaurants?