I was feeling pretty hungry when we arrived in Porto so we went looking for a place nearby to grab a light snack. Many restaurants didn’t open until 7pm (it was close to 5:30) so after wandering around a bit we settled on Casa Marlindo for a flaming sausage and bubbles for me and a glass of white for Eric. Our waitress was friendly enough but really tried selling us on dessert and more drinks. (No thanks.)
Once my belly was full, we sorted out dinner reservations for that night and the following night, then bought wine (Universo Carmim – Garrafeira/Bar) and snacks (Supermercados Froiz) to enjoy in the apartment.
Dinner reservations are a must at TapaBento and we managed to secure a seat at the bar for 9pm. Rose was our friendly server (she kept popping up behind us at just the right moment) and although Eric’s first choices were sold out, the wild rice and veggies dish he choose was amazing. I had one perfect oyster and the best ceviche I have ever tasted (with meagre, a fish similar to sea bass). We completed the meal with a cheese plate and tried a few wines each.
La Maison Rouge 48 – Margarita didn’t have any tables available for Friday night, but lucky for us Saturday was available. Everything about this tiny restaurant is charming. There are only six tables and two staff – it’s a very relaxed and intimate experience. I got the eight cheese plate and a francesinha sandwich (waaaay too much food but I did my best!) and Eric ordered the chef’s two course option: sausage and mixed vegetables dish followed by a dessert. And because he was curious about the mixed rice alternate main she added a little of that to his entree as well. All of that was paired with a very reasonably priced bottle of sparkling wine. There were so many options for dessert (at least 9) that as she was explaining them, all other tables stopped eating and listened in! She allowed us to try more than one option so we picked the berry compote whipped cream cake and the chocolate coconut cake. Divine. Waddled home after 2.5 hrs!
This was our full day for exploring Porto and because we were still full from dinner the evening before we skipped breakfast. After exploring parts of the north side we wandered to the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river for lunch. Taberninha do Manel had outdoor seating with heaters, so we settled in for a relaxing meal of a cheese plate (again!) and pork / suckling pig empanadas, which tasted very similar. As usual the San Jorge cheese was our favorite. The service was pleasant and we enjoyed hearing music covers from a nearby street musician (gave him a few coins after lunch) and watching the sidewalk sellers along river.
After lunch, we explored the hilly streets a bit and ended up at Croft Port House for an informal port tasting. The tour was 12€ but we had already done three tours the day before so instead we got a glass each and sat out on the patio. Our first round was a rose port (nice bite with some tannin and acidity, still sweet, with a lite bitterness on finish, reminiscent of a cocktail) and a 10yr tawny (lots of caramel and brown sugar). The sunshine was lovely, so we decided to up our game a bit with a 2013 late bottled vintage (cooked veg scent, some red fruit; two levels of sweetness – plum and raisin) and the Quinta 2008 (like a slightly sweet red wine, lots of tannin, very dark purple and opaque, complex).
For sunset, we walked to the Parque das Virtudes overlook. I noticed several people drinking beers out of branded plastic cups so we decided to join in by grabbing a to-go glass of sangria at Café El Reys. After you are done, just return the cup and token to get your 1€ deposit back.
DROOP was a good dinner option for us as it was close to our apartment and accepted online reservations. We split a bottle of rose and I ordered the padron peppers (no spicy ones, alas) and a variation of the sausage / greens dish Eric enjoyed on Saturday night. Eric ordered a rice dish for the third night in a row!
We intended to try the Zenith Caffe, but were not in the mood for the crazy long line. Next we tried Padaria Ribierio, where we learned the hard way that we needed to order from a waiter to eat outside. (I tried placing our order inside and although the woman repeated it back to me and told me to wait outside apparently something was missed in translation because after twenty minutes the food never arrived AND none of the waiters came over to check on us).
Confused and a bit hangry at this point, we gave up and went next door to Leitaria da Quinta do Paço and got a regular and crunchy chocolate eclair. I got a Galão (espresso with a lot of milk) and Eric got delicious fresh OJ. Glad we bailed on the other place as these were the best eclairs we have ever tasted.