Travel Insider: Catherine’s Favorite Lisbon Restaurant


Rua das Portas de Santo Antão 23


Telephone: +351 21 342 14 66

Four generations of my husband’s family—including our four children—have been regulars at this restaurant behind the famous “Rossio” square In the heart of Lisbon. With dark wooden interiors, very little natural light, an all-male staff, and graying clientele, Gambrinus could be mistaken for a men’s club.

So what could a 45-year-old American woman find so alluring about a place like this? No longer in need of a room full of young bright things to validate my evenings out, I am drawn to Gambrinus for the same reasons I am drawn to most things: a huge nostaligia for the past, old fashioned attention to detail, and painstaking efforts to maintain quality.

Among Gambrinus’ many charms: white starched tablecloths, immaculately set tables, abundant waiters who actually understand service. And how could they not?  They have been serving tables at Gambrinus for their entire lifetimes.

The other evening when I was there, I finally asked them how is it that they never move on to other restaurants and other careers. They all responded in unison that they love their work and they love their “team,” that to leave has never crossed their minds.  I could not help but envy them and did not suppress the urge to imagine myself in their shoes–secure in their work, total professionals at their trade, proud to be of service.

Gambrinus serves the best seafood and shellfish in Lisbon. Crab, langoustines, lobster, barnacles, clams: shellfish lovers arrive in paradise upon entering the doors of this Portuguese institution.

My favorite Portuguese dish is Ameijoas a Bulhao Pato–clams in a coriander, garlic, and butter olive oil bisque.  Be sure to dip the toasted buttered bread Gambrinus is also famous for in the bisque to absorb every last drop of this “soup” that the clams are served in.

I recommend a cold bottle of Planalto to round out the whole clam experience. Planalto and Joao Pires are my two favorite Portuguese white wines.

Gambrinus also specializes in grilled fish of every kind imaginable–fresh and prepared with the simplicity that leaves no doubt as to who are the world masters when it comes to fish.

The Gambrinus menu also caters beautifully to red meat lovers and its chefs pride themselves on a huge selection of typical Portuguese game dishes.

Be sure not to leave without ordering the restaurant’s piece de resistance: Crepes Suzette. This is lovingly prepared with much fanfare by one of the head waiters at your table and will cure any sweet tooth for a decade.  During each of my four pregnancies, I craved this dessert– making the Gambrinus experience synonymous with a sort of physical addiction–one that even today I find very hard to kick.


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