I’m currently taking a much needed and dare I say deserved break in Porto with my lovely partner Julie, it’s a kind of joint Christmas and Birthday present to us both as Julie turns 27 (again) on Friday.
Being me this has to involve a few gastronomic delights. I am not going to give you a blow by blow account of every meal that we have eaten, I’m not quite that bad, but I will offer a couple of contrasts.
First up is an unnamed diner near the Bolhoa, a 1950’s paradise of Formica, plastic chairs and surprisingly acceptable food. I like to eat like and with ‘the locals’ and this was about as local as it gets, not because of a big plan but yesterday was Mardi Gras, so in Porto it was an unofficial holiday and many places were shut, we were lucky to find somewhere that wasn’t an obvious tourist trap open . Julie had a Brochette of Veal with a salad. The salad was a bit dodgy but the veal was pretty good. I had Tripes Porto a celebrated dish which gives rise to the nickname tripe eaters to people from Porto because it is so popular.
Tripes Porto is an unctuous mix of Tripe, Beans, Pig feet, sausage etc, and it was loverrrly, nursery food for grown ups!
The following day and a polar opposite, we went to visit O Comercial a restaurant housed in the Palacio da Bolsa which is a vast building that was formerly the Porto stock exchange.
We arrived for lunch to find that Julie and I where the only diners, which can be a worrying sign but I knew by reputation that the restaurant was very good.
We had a lovely lunch the waiter from Mozambique was friendly, informative but not hovering as could have easily happened as the only customers. The room was lovely, in fact as part of a palace it was opulent but thankfully not stuffy ,this was helped by having a very funky soundtrack playing in the background.
We had the lunch time fixed price menu – to start a salad of crisp onions, rocket leaves, raisins and prunes with a balsamic reduction, together with some bread, oil and balsamic vinegar. A simple tasty but thoughtful dish, with texture, contrast and style.
For mains we shared the two available plats, one plat a Baccalau dish bursting with salt cod, rice, piment andwith a raw egg to add a lovely creaminess. The other plat was pig cheek, with potatoes and black pudding, galega and black pudding sauce. Both were great, both of us reluctantly swapping plats halfway through, thecCaldo verde was very tasty, it had a light kale type quality.
Dessert was an Orange cake with a wild berry sauce, (yeah I know that I suffer for my blogging but you just soldier on as best as I can) the orange cake was soaked in a reduced orange sauce and burst with sticky flavour and was complimented well by the sharpness of the berry sauce.
Add to that a glass of decent wine and a bottle of water and you have a delicious and romantic lunch for two. And how much did this opulence, fine food and drink cost……… well 15 Euros a person!
O Comercial is a reason to visit Porto all on its own, and what was our response to such a lovely lunch?
We booked for diner on our last night, they have a chef’s tasting menu we’re sure it will be memorable.