(Review) Go local in Lisbon with Lazy Flavors food tours
When I told a friend I was meeting Lazy Flavors food tours for a food experience in Lisbon experience, her first comment was, “lazy? That’s so you!”
She was right. This kind of laziness IS so me.
I usually have a love/hate relationship with tours. Just the name “tours” has me thinking of all sorts of bad things: the rush, the reduced content, the painful lack of empathy from the guide.
Still, I never say no to trying new things at least once. It’s a bit like swimming on a beach you’re not familiar with: you won’t know if the water is warm or cold until you dip your toe in.
I’m not a skilled cook, but I’m a qualified eater, so when I read the snippet of the About Fish experience, I was intrigued. Me? Preparing a fish? I was skeptical but willing to give it a go.
Here’s the story of how that went.
The meeting point
“Praça do Príncipe Real, 10 a.m., in front of Quiosque de Refresco.”
Sounds like the message you’d get from a friend to meet up for coffee, doesn’t it? That’s the spirit.
Verónica and Mariana not only met us, but they welcomed us. They talked about what was going to happen. They took the time to explain the meeting point and its surroundings.
It’s more than a geographical convenience, Príncipe Real has become one of the foodies go-to in Lisbon, combining great outdoors with beautiful architecture, and, of course, fabulous restaurants.
As we walked down Rua de São Marçal towards Praça das Flores, we talked about the city, what it means to be passionate about Lisbon and how we never stop telling people about the city’s hidden gems and secret corners.
It was a crisp Fall morning, light-breezed and slow-paced. The group was small and became intimate quite fast. We took in the sounds, the smells, and the views.
First stop: Peixaria Centenária
We reached the leafy and secluded Praça das Flores, the square near our first tour stop. We looked inside the Peixaria and noticed the pops of color. The turquoise tiles of the wall to our right, the glistening bright fish in the middle, the vegetables and olive oil bottles to our left, the crisp white ceiling with a classic plaster decoration in the middle.
Among all the ice and freshness, all we feel is warmth and a sense of familiarity. A sense of comfort. You would now say, “that’s because you’re on a tour.” It wasn’t. The staff greeted every customer who walked in (regular, first-timer, or occasional passer-by) with the same dedication.
Filipe, Joana, and Rui come from a long line of experienced fishmongers and own the shop. Tânia was the vibrant and fresh fishmonger who, together with Filipe, assisted the group on our fish masterclass.
As they taught us what fresh fish and high-quality looks and feels like – red gills, bright eyes, firm flesh – we felt their knowledge and trustworthiness.
While we were learning to prepare our gilt head bream (a fish with a substantial presence in the Portuguese cuisine), customers arrived and left. But I never felt a lack of attention from our (very patient) instructors, nor I felt the customers were being neglected.
I’d love to tell you I turned my fish into beautiful seamless fillets. Let’s say that the final look doesn’t make any justice to the respect I feel for Portuguese products and how they matter to our cuisine. Nevertheless, I believe the continual support of Filipe and Tânia helped to save some of it.
A detour: Quiosque de Refresco
At a corner of the Praça das Flores, we spotted a smaller Quiosque de Refresco with its top painted lavender across the shop. At the same time, at the nearby DeCastro restaurant, Chef Gonçalo Ribeiro created an excellent dish with the fish we just prepared.
While waiting, we gathered around the small 1800s restored kiosk. The Portuguese do this a lot: we gather. We don’t need a motive. We crave each other’s company, and we’ll find any excuse to start a conversation.
These bright colored kiosks (the one in Principe Real is a vibrant raspberry red) brought back the old times refreshments produced by Sabores de Santa Clara. Nothing else but cold water added to a layer of thick syrup in the bottom of a glass, with or without ice.
We tasted the gooseberry, the Gorreana green tea, and the thyme-lemon.
Final stop: Restaurant deCastro
Not only going to deCastro was the perfect ending for this experience, but we were also eager to find out what dish Chef Gonçalo Ribeiro created with our fish.
As we lost track of time, and while the suspense to experience the main course increased, we carried out the most familiar and distinctive Portuguese traditions: chit-chat at the table with food and wine.
The starters’ ingredients were very close to home (codfish, green beans, sausage, beef). Still, there was a lightness to them and a refreshing sense of innovation that surprised us at every bite.
There were respect and passion for the Portuguese ingredients, not overpowered by exotic seasonings or deconstructed into dishes we wouldn’t recognize as Portuguese cuisine.
The taste was just as crisp and as authentic as the house wines blended by Chef Miguel Castro e Silva. The atmosphere was everything but stiff and presumptuous.
As the conversation and the tasting lingered, Chef Gonçalo Ribeiro approached our table to finally reveal his creation. One side of me was slightly embarrassed with my poor fishmonger skills. The other side of me was genuinely impressed with his adventurous sense of creativity.
Yes. Adventurous. I believe the least of the problems here was to know what fish he would cook. Still, the Chef was kind enough to hold back on any critiques and embrace the experience with a genuine sense of humor.