Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lisbon, Portugal (Sept. 2014)

A couple of months ago I spent two very short days in Lisbon, Portugal.  While that certainly was not enough time to explore fully the city's vegetarian options, I did have a few good experiences that I'd like to share.  

Having done my research ahead of time, I understood that traditional Portuguese cuisine consisted heavily of meat and seafood.  Vegetarian travelers will not go hungry, however.  Most restaurants, I found, offer some sort of egg omelet, and a number of traditional Portuguese soups are naturally vegetarian.  I had the traditional pumpkin soup twice, including a small appetizer-size version (pictured below) at Open Brasserie Mediterranica, the restaurant at my eco-friendly hotel, Inspira Santa Marta.  This restaurant was very sensitive to diners' dietary restrictions and offered several other vegetarian and vegan items, which were clearly identified on the menu.

Traditional Portuguese pumpkin soup
Open Brasserie Mediterranica's menu clearly identifies vegetarian and vegan items

Portuguese wine bars also are a great way to experience traditional cuisine.  Although these places don't usually serve hot meals, they offer enough meat-free wine pairing snacks to fill you up.  My feast at Winebar do Castelo is pictured below.  It included various cheeses, olives, jams, olive oils, bread, and even gluten-free crackers for my travel partner with the wheat allergy.  The atmosphere, service, location (next to the castle), and, of course, the wine were all fabulous!

Wine, olive oils, jams, cheese, olives, bread, and gluten-free crackers at Winebar do Castelo

And no visit to Lisbon is complete without trying the city's signature pasteis de nata, which are vanilla-flavored egg custard pastry tarts.  The original and most famous version of these is served at Pasteis de Belem in charming Belem (be prepared to wait in line), but I also found equally delicious ones closer to downtown at Manteigaria in Chiado. 

Lisbon's famous are pasteis de nata (vanilla-flavored egg custard pastry tarts) are vegetarian but not vegan, and are not to be missed if you can eat them.  TIP: sprinkle some cinnamon on them to make them extra delicious!

Finally, like most big cities, Lisbon has a number of vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants.  Although these restaurants may not provide the same traditional Portuguese experience as some other places, they are a good option for travelers who plan to spend more than a few days in Lisbon and tire of eggs, soup, cheese, bread, and pastries.  I really enjoyed my tropical salad, chock full of protein-rich beans and fresh fruit, at the international-themed, veg-friendly (and somewhat divey) The Green Room.  The chef also was very accommodating of my travel partner's food allergies.

This tropical salad at The Green Room was very satisfying, as it was full of chickpeas, black beans, and fresh fruit and greens.