Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, Lisbon
I had a day to myself in Lisbon a couple of weeks ago.
Although I’d been to Lisbon several times before, I’d never visited the main food market, the Mercado da Ribeira, so I took the metro to Cais do Sodré to have a look around.
It may be that I got there a little late, but I wasn’t enormously impressed with the market itself. Although it was large and bustling, I didn’t really see anything that I wouldn’t easily find at the large municipal market we’re lucky to have in our local town of Tavira.
However, half of the market hall has recently been turned into a huge dining area, with the walls lined with “pop up” style petiscos outlets, some of which are essentially branches of well-known Lisbon restaurants. For those that don’t know, petiscos basically means “snacks” – the Portuguese take on Spanish tapas.
The area was busy, but not busy to the point that it was stressful to find somewhere to eat on the large bench tables. What WAS a problem was deciding WHAT to eat, and trust me when I say I’d happily go here every day for a month and sample everything on offer.
I saw gourmet ice cream and gourmet burgers (the stalls for both of which were the only ones with significant queues); I saw shellfish specialists, places selling mouth-watering pizzas, and many concentrating on just one or two gourmet dishes.
I chose a place selling mini sandwiches, along the lines of Spanish montaditos. I chose it as I could have three different things, all made with local seafood.
My sandwiches all used fresh, soft local bread. The first was filled with tiny escabeche fish and pickled shallots; the second featured smoked salmon and homemade chutney. The third was the highlight, however, filled with sparkling fresh sardine fillet that may well be one of the finest things I’ve ever tasted.
Added together, the three made a perfect lunch, accompanied with an interestingly dressed green salad with tons of mint, and a homemade ice tea.
Perfect though my lunch was, I was hungry for more, so my stroll around the rest of the market was inevitably going to end in a visit to an additional eatery. I chose the modern Sea Me, something of a Lisbon institution, from what I’m told.
My initial desire for prawns with almonds was denied due to a lack of stock, so I settled on tuna “bomboms” – delicately deep-fried balls of fresh tuna with a light, sweet chilli batter sprinkled with poppy seeds. Portuguese / Thai fusion was a new thing to me, but it worked surprisingly well, especially washed down with a ice-cold Super Bock.
Sadly a lack of appetite precluded me from eating anything more on the day, but I’ll certainly be making a bee-line for the Time Out section of the Mercado da Ribeira when I’m next in Lisbon. I strongly recommend that you do the same!