As we navigate the steep cobblestoned hill up to Príncipe Real, Lisbon’s picturesque shopping neighborhood, I begin to wonder: Do we press on and have that third lunch? Or do we save it for another day?
The question is moot, as we’re already here. Our guide Diogo has led us to our third restaurant of the day, Pesca, where Portuguese-born chef Diogo Noronha welcomes us at the bar. With 50 seats, the majority of them outside, the narrow space has a neighborly feel to it, comfortable without being confined. Noronha ushers us through the dining room, vinyl playing on a nearby turntable, and into the restaurant’s lush garden where we find our seats.
Relaxing in the sun over a glass of Brut Blanc de Blancs sparkling wine from Portugal’s Luis Pato, the Thomas Keller-trained chef explains to us his philosophy of cooking. “The combination of flavors that inspire me are Atlantic Mediterranean,” he says, “but I often introduce an element or technique that I’ve learned from my past travels, other gastronomic cultures or even my knowledge of macrobiotic, vegetarian or vegan diets.” We see the full range of his talents as we are greeted with a visually stunning squid tartar with pickled egg yolk and Granny Smith apple, an unctuous deep-fried breaded oyster, and classically paired grilled scallops with Iberian pancetta.
Then it’s on to our equally delicious entrees: salt cod and brown crab, perfectly grilled turbot with wild mushrooms, and a braised mullet that could not have been more rich and juicy.
It wasn’t luck that led us to Pesca for our third outstanding culinary experience of the day. Our dining companion Diogo Correia (or ‘Didi’ to his friends) is the creator and owner of Lisbon Foodie Walks, offering carefully curated tours of Lisbon’s chef-owned restaurants. Correia first came to this calling in 2006, after he left Lisbon for London where he sampled countless local dishes amplified by international influences. Returning home in 2013, just as Lisbon’s economy was rebounding, Correia became motivated to champion his country’s own evolving food scene and Lisbon Foodie Walks was born.
Correia’s itineraries are based on his client’s desires, gleaned from a detailed questionnaire. Whether it be a day of discovering local eateries serving traditional classics or crafting a bespoke gastro tour, the in-demand guide has the inside track on the rising stars as well as new and noteworthy establishments. “When I started the business, I was chasing the chefs and their publicity teams,” recalls Correia. “But now they call me, and I am out most nights at a restaurant opening, an event, a tasting, or sampling a new menu at a well-known favorite spot.”