We are becoming experts at visiting Lisbon, this being our second trip this year. In the past, we have rented apartments, but during this trip, the Porto Bay Liberdade Lisbon hosted us for a few nights of boutique luxury.
This was an entirely different kind of Lisbon, Portugal, experience, one where we felt a little more like tourists on holiday, than travel bloggers researching adventures in food. During our three days in Lisbon we ate quite well. We had a few good meals while staying at the Porto Bay, including one at Bistro 4.
The Porto Bay hotel is set in an old, restored building, in a part of Lisbon that is facing a lot of rejuvenation. In fact, the Porto Bay is brand new, and there are several new hotels and apartments going up in the surrounding blocks. I was surprised to hear that the neighborhood was undergoing this kind of change, considering its location only steps from Avenida Liberdade, one of the main, high-end shopping streets in Lisbon.
But the small neighborhood is nestled between Avenida Liberdade and Praca do Principe Real, and the road that leads down to the famous Chiado neighborhood. We explored the area a bit on our first afternoon, when we walked over to Chef Kiko Martin’s A Cervecheria, on a recommendation from the hotel. The meal was fabulous.
After that first dining experience, it was smooth sailing as we relaxed during our Porto Bay Liberdade stay. We actually spent a lot more time in the hotel than we had anticipated, just catching up on work and sleep, enjoying our large patio, or hanging near the indoor pool. But, we were most excited about our reservation at Bistro 4.
Gin & Tonic at Aviator 6
Even before our dinner reservation, we were enjoying the typical Portuguese hospitality by stopping for a cocktail at the Aviator 6 bar in the lobby. We enjoyed an Aperol Spritz during our first night, but Eric was infatuated with this little bar, and its aviation theme. They carried the theme pretty well too. They didn’t just hang some black and white airplane photos on the wall. Instead, much of the furniture, including the bar stools, were aviation inspired, with metal platting and large rivets. Eric could have sat there all night. I was more focused on the drinks.
Filipe, the bartender, made us feel welcome. We asked for a gin and tonic, and there started the conversation. He helped us choose a gin, the perfect mixer, and explained the botanicals he used to compliment the drink.
For me, Filipe prepared a Hendrick’s with Fever Tree elderflower tonic water. He flavored the cocktail with Jamaican black pepper and strips of crisp, green cucumber. For Eric, Filipe prepared a Bulldog gin, with Premium Indian Fever Tree tonic water. For the Bulldog, he flavored the drink with juniper berries, lemon, and lime. Both cocktails were like a work of art.
I was slightly lubricated even before stepping foot into Bistro 4. It was a job well done Filipe.
Dining at Bistro 4
We eat out a lot, and sometimes I become pretty overwhelmed with a menu. Sure, there are times when I struggle to choose because there aren’t enough good looking dishes, or a menu is limited. But, at Bistro 4 there was so much that looked great on the menu, I just couldn’t decide. We pretty much let Pedro, the head waiter, do much of the deciding for us, including which wines to pair with our modern Portuguese cuisine.
Our first two courses were paired with a Viognier from Quinta do Monte d’Oiro, a winery located fairly close to Lisbon. Our meat course was paired with a red wine from the Dão region of Portugal. These were two Portugal wine regions I was previously unfamiliar with. As much as we keep hearing about Dão, you could say I continue to be unfamiliar with it as, for the life of me, I can’t even pronounce the name of the region correctly in Portuguese.
There was one dish I knew I wanted, and Pedro didn’t have to suggest it – Limpets in the Pan. I’d never heard of limpets before reading a review of a meal at Bistro 4. Limpets are small snails, set in pokey and pointy shells. They remind me of a mussel, but more robust. The limpets in the pan at Bistro 4 were doused in olive oil, and served with bolo do caco, a flatbread slathered with garlic butter. This preparation is a speciality of Madeira, and an homage to the home of the Porto Bay hotels. I loved this dish, not only because it was new, but the garlic and oil were perfect matches for the seafood.
To offset our exploration into the world of limpets, we ordered some game croquettes, something more familiar. They were served set on a bed of chickpea puree. The breaded and fried croquettes offset the limpets perfectly.
We allowed Pedro to pick our next course. I just suggested fish. He selected the “Codfish That Wanted to Be an ‘A Bras.’” I probably wouldn’t have chosen this dish on my own based on the title, because I had no idea what A Bras meant. The menu included a more detailed description: The famous Portuguese recipe as interpreted by us.
But, considering I had never heard of A Bras, how could I judge the interpretation? I did not care, the dish was amazing. A Bras refers to a recipe of codfish with potato and eggs, often topped with black olives. All together, the dish was so creamy. If Pedro didn’t swear that there was codfish in the dish, I wouldn’t have known it. It was just creamy delicious.
We heard about the steak at Bistro 4 even before arriving, so Eric knew he wanted to tuck into a big piece of meat. The steak arrived on a sizzling skillet, with potatoes, and caramelized onions and mushrooms, along with a bubbling Cafe Paris sauce.
For dessert, I had something from the menu called Paris – Lisbon – Funchal. The menu described it as a Choux pastry from Paris, with a custard filling from Lisbon, and a honey cake from Funchal, which is the capital of Madeira.
My dessert was pretty and decadent, well pretty decadent too. But, Eric’s was probably more up my alley. A passion fruit bundle, with banana panna cotta. It was fresh and sweet and lovely. We finished off the meal with a glass of port, as we prepared our tastebuds for our trip north.
After our Bistro 4 dinner, we had one more round of Filipe’s gin and tonics, which were probably a little unnecessary at that point. But, I didn’t care. Then, I climbed into the plush Porto Bay bed and dreamed of limpets in the pan.
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We were hosted by Porto Bay Liberdade in Lisbon, during our stay and dining (and drinking) experience, but as always, my yummy sounds are all my own. During the summer, rooms at the Porto Bay generally cost around $175 a night. Executive lunch menus at Bistro 4 are €22, starters average around €10, and entrees range from €16-22.
Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.