Haute cuisine in Lisbon has never been quite so haute, I thought, as I took the lift to the top of the landmark Vasco da Gama Tower. The ascent of the 120m-high skyscraper, which stands beside the wide River Tagus, capturing the magnificent sunsets across the water, takes 50 seconds – hence the name of the new sky-high restaurant, situated above the Myriad hotel, from chef Martín Berasategui. Fifty Seconds houses just 10 tables, tucked under the huge, sweeping windows that characterise the sail-like building. It’s a simply stunning setting, offset with colours of copper and smoky blue, but the food was such that I soon became oblivious to my surroundings.
San Sebastian-born Berasategui started working in his family restaurant at the age of 13; he has garnered three Michelin stars for his eponymous restaurant in the Basque town of Lasarte-Oria and seven more for his other ventures in mainland Spain and Tenerife. His arrival in Lisbon is a sign of how the Portuguese capital is gradually making a name for itself on the European culinary map, not only with home-grown talent like José Avillez and Henrique Sá Pessoa but also by attracting international chefs such as Peruvian Diego Muñoz, and now Berasategui.
His cuisine is sublime, from the signature cod brandade with manzanilla and yuzu mayonnaise that kicked off proceedings, to the dessert of raspberries, hibiscus flower, basil ice cream and black sesame wafer that finished them. In between, my favourite from the 10-course tasting menu (€170) was the caramelised mille-feuille of foie gras, green apple and eel – at once crunchy, rich, sharp and slightly sweet. A close second was the egg yolks in a carbonara of herbs, beetroot and pork mask carpaccio, which managed to provide the sensation of comfort food tinged with the thrill of truffle. Wines, under Marc Pinto, come swiftly, with impressive pairings for each course adding the final finesse to an elevated, in all senses, dining experience.