Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Solar dos Nunes
Rua dos Lúsiadas, 70
21 364 73 59
21 363 16 31
21 600 44 62
91 727 06 06
This lunch took place prior to the COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Whenever I travel to a foreign city, I try to unearth a new restaurant that serves good, fresh, fairly traditional food. Ethnic cooking is one of my passions and I love to indulge at every opportunity.
Solar dos Nunes might not be exactly unknown, since the walls inside the restaurant are covered with azulejos and newspaper and magazine clippings of the stories written about it and is, now, also rated by the Lisbon Michelin-guide as a Bib Gourmand: good quality, good value restaurant. I was asked by a local friend if I wanted to have lunch at the best Portuguese restaurant in the city, and we ended there. And I will agree, the food there is classic Portuguese and ourstanding.
From the outside, the location is a corner building in one of Lisbon’s middle class neighborhoods. Inside, there is a large front room with tables and a bar over which hang about a dozen black-footed Ibérico hams drying, plus on the side was a humidor with cigars from Cuba. Up a few steps is another room with tables and doors leading to other private dining areas. We arrived on a Monday, around 1:30pm, and the restaurant was well occupied.
Our table was set with black-footed-pig ham, chorizo, olives and cheeses, amongst which was an exquisite Mountain Butter Cheese that was put under a grill, so the center was soft and could be scooped out with a spoon, plus cold asparagus in vinaigrette, mushrooms in garlic sauce, and green peppers “Andaluza”.
The menu is divided into five sections, Appetizers, Fish, Meats, Poultry and Game, and Shellfish.
Our lunch started with a fish soup, which is the house special, a tomato-based soup made like a bouillabaisse in a large, hollowed volcanic-stone pot. It was absolutely exceptional. But then, the owner's daughter presented us with her version of soup without the tomato base, and it was as good as the “house special”. On a subsequent visit, I also had an exceptional meat (beef) soup.
The fish section of the menu includes fried, grilled, and boiled fish and numerous fish soups, stews, and skewered fish kebabs. A display case on the side of the room has all the fresh fish and seafood of the day, and it is up to you to select your fish and have it cooked to your specifications. Solar dos Nunes has, in my opinion, an excellent fish and seafood kitchen where the fish gets properly cooked, grilled or otherwise. Prawns are sold by weight (per kilogram) and can be boiled or grilled or in garlic sauce. There is also a risotto-like dish with prawns that is very delicious.
The meats are charcoal grilled, fried, or stewed. Beef and pork are the main elements, plus a few lamb and goat dishes.
In season, game is available and cooked to order. Partridge, hare, venison, wild boar, and even loin of Ostrich can be yours just for the asking, and the prices are fairly reasonable.
There were desserts galore, but my favorite in Portugal is a dessert made from cooked eggs soaked in flavored syrup. Our host gave us a selection of four different thin dessert slices each, but the lunch was so filling that I only had room for the egg selection.
I should also mention their wines. The list is extensive, with mostly Portuguese bottles from the Duro, Alentejo and other local viticultural areas. On the bar was a wooden box with a Periquita Jeroboam. But I asked for the house wine, which is always a good indicator of the level of quality that a restaurant’s owner is willing to offer to their clients. I tasted both red and white, plus I was offered a nice sparkling rosé. These were all very drinkable wines, perhaps not at the very top of the line, but certainly not something one would be ashamed of. The bar has an extensive collection of local and imported spirits, and I recognized numerous cognacs and brandies, single malt whiskeys and high quality ports. And, espresso was properly drawn, with lots of crema.
I don’t doubt that Solar dos Nunes is an exceptional restaurant with outstanding local dishes. Next time you visit Lisbon try it; you will not be disappointed.
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