The small restaurant Alma, tucked down a narrow street in the charming Chiado district, is the work of Lisbon-area native Henrique Sá Pessoa, whose TV appearances have rendered him something of a Portuguese celebrity. Alma opened on its present site in November 2015 and announced its first Michelin star only a year later – it now has two. Featuring enticing polished wooden tables, painted-tile motifs and an open kitchen, all illuminated by warm copper hanging lights, the low-ceilinged 44-seat restaurant offers a wide range of menus showcasing the chef’s eclectic cuisine. As well as the à la carte options, there is a five-course Costa a Costa (Coast to Coast) menu (€120). For those who have time, I would recommend going again and again until each option has been sampled. Rua Anchieta 15 (+35121-347 0650; almalisboa.pt).
On top of one of Lisbon’s seven hills, looking onto the domed Pantheon, there is an 18th-century house that opened as a gorgeous boutique hotel a few years ago. Santa Clara 1728, a slice of authentic Lisbon, has a new restaurant, Ceia, or “supper” – just 14 seats around one 6m-long oak dining table, an elegant setting designed by architect Manuel Aires Mateus and illuminated by a delicate chandelier. And the cuisine is deserving of this spotlight. I had heard good things about Ceia’s Porto-born chef, Pedro Pena Bastos, but nothing prepared me for his dazzling repertoire and the passion that flows into his dishes: every one was a delight, from the Hokkaido pumpkin and trumpet mushrooms to the melt-in-the-mouth pork with carrots and bitter orange. If you are planning to visit Lisbon, it will be the highlight of your trip. Campo de Santa Clara 128, silentliving.pt; for reservations email firstname.lastname@example.org; open for dinner only Wednesday-Saturday.
Fifty Seconds, the new sky-high restaurant from chef Martín Berasategui, houses just 10 tables tucked under the huge, sweeping windows that characterise the sail-like Vasco da Gama tower building. It’s a stunning setting – but the food was such that I soon became oblivious to my surroundings. San Sebastián-born Berasategui 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 making a name for itself on the European culinary map. 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. Wines, under Marc Pinto, come swiftly, with impressive pairings for each course adding the final finesse to an elevated, in all senses, dining experience. Cais das Naus, Lote 2.21.01, Parque das Nações (+35121-152 5380; fiftysecondsexperience.com).
Vincent Farges’ menu at Epur, in the Chiado district, is highly minimalist and divided into “moments” (Four Moment menu, €90) – there are three starters (“water, greens, fields”), three mains (“sea, terroir, tradition”) and three desserts (“chocolate, orchard, vintage”). Relying on what is available at market, these change from day to day. Farges spent a year travelling around Portugal, selecting from producers who shared his passion. On the day we visited, I had rhubarb and green curry from the “fields”, lamb, fennel and pearl barley from the “terroir” and an essay in “chocolate”’ in the form of a chocolate, chartreuse and juniper-cream glacée. The standout dish was from the sea – a rockfish fricassé, which Farges paid tribute to with a stirfry of chanterelles, broad beans, marrow and clams in a well-balanced sauce. Every ingredient was justified and the flavours were immaculate. Largo da Academia Nacional das Belas Artes 14 R/C (+35121-346 0519, epur.pt).
You’ll need to reserve a table at Belcanto at least two months in advance. Its chef, José Avillez, was the first Portuguese to earn two Michelin stars and the man and his cuisine are delightful. Drawing inspiration from 20th-century Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa and weaving the character of all four corners of Portugal into dishes such as Dip in the Sea (seabass with seaweed and bivalves) or The Garden of the Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs (a glittering concoction of sous-vide egg, fried leeks, mushrooms and a cheese sauce topped with delicate gold leaf), Belcanto is not to be missed. Largo de São Carlos 10 (+351213-420 607; belcanto.pt).