Favorite Restaurants in Portugal

porto
beautiful views of porto, a unesco world heritage sight

If you love the climate and culture of Mediterranean countries like Spain and Italy with half the crowds and at a fraction of the price, you should start looking into Portugal. We were driving through the winding roads of the beautiful Douro Valley, the equivalent of Napa in Portugal, making our way from one winemaking quinta estate to the next, and we were struck by how accessible this country was. In any other European city, there would be a harrowing traffic jam from place to place, and we would have had to call the best vineyards and restaurants ahead of time to fight for a spot, only to fend off the crowds once we arrived. But not in Portugal. A meal at the top restaurant or a photo of a stunning castle can be yours, hassle-free. And it doesn’t make it less delicious or less beautiful because it’s less competitive. People just haven’t caught on to Portugal just yet.Read More

A Weekend in Shoreditch, London

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street art and nightlife in shoreditch

You can find a piece of Brooklyn anywhere in the world. Even in London, the city we typically associate with Harrod’s and high tea. You have to go a little east, of course, to find it, in the area known as Shoreditch. Like Bushwick and the LES, it’s in a grittier part of the city, as the graffiti art might indicate, two transfers away from the main tourist hubs, but fully equipped with its own artisanal coffee shops and cute boutiques. You can very well spend a weekend here without ever having to venture out west, as we nearly did during a recent getaway.Read More

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

dinner kitchen

British cuisine is about as exciting as a plate of meat and potatoes. That’s literally its traditional core–sausages or meat pie with a side of boiled veggies. This homely plate just doesn’t measure up against a sexy plate of Italian burrata or Japanese sushi. If there’s one man who’s up to the challenge of making an English roast something to talk about, it’s Heston Blumenthal, chef of famed restaurant The Fat Duck and now Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in London. The premise of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is to pay homage to England’s gastronomic past, an ambitious undertaking given its centuries of existence. Blumenthal references everything from 14th century cookbooks used by the royal chefs of King Richard II to the whimsical pages of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The royal court probably wouldn’t recognize Blumenthal’s take on their frumenty, a medieval dish of cracked wheat, that gets remade as a Mediterranean octopus dish, or sambocade, an ancient cream cheese tart, but they would all be in agreement that his interpretation was better than their own. They also wouldn’t recognize their surroundings, either. Gone is the cold castle and in its place is a beautiful dining room in a modern, grey and black color scheme with mostly wealthy Chinese tourists in the seats.Read More

The Clove Club in Shoreditch, London

clove club, housed in the shoreditch town hall
clove club, housed in the shoreditch town hall

One club you definitely want to be a member of is Clove Club, a restaurant in London’s trendy Shoreditch neighborhood. Clove Club initially started out as a pop-up and has since found a permanent home at the Shoreditch Town Hall. The unique space is different from your typical high end dining room. The separation of kitchen and dining room does not really exist, the barriers between front and back of the house are broken down so that you can truly have front row seats at this dinner show. One drawback of this setup is that the diner is teased with the amazing smells wafting out of the kitchen, creating a sense of anticipation and longing so that what does arrive is met with the most gratitude. The smells do drive you crazy, similar to checking in on a Thanksgiving meal in the making only to be tortured by the fact that it isn’t time to eat yet.Read More

Belcanto

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The best fine dining restaurant in Lisbon, and perhaps all of Portugal, is Belcanto. It has 2 Michelin stars and is No. 78 on the list of the World’s Top 100 restaurants. It deserves a higher spot than that, in my opinion, and I’m sure it would be if it were in a more high profile region like London or France. It was certainly my favorite meal on my London + Lisbon trip, which included meals at higher ranked places like The Clove Club and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. What’s crazy is that Estela, a restaurant in New York, is ranked higher at No. 44, despite Belcanto’s higher skill level, better ambiance and more attentive service, but I guess when President Obama visits your restaurant it opens a lot more doors for you.   Read More