Lisbon has long been home to a rich culinary culture in which the abundance of fresh seafood offered up by Portugal’s long coastline is particularly prominent. In recent years the rustic flavours of traditional Portuguese cooking have been combined with cutting edge gastronomy to make Lisbon’s restaurant scene one of the most exciting in Europe, such as Belcanto. Combining the traditional and the avant garde, Belcanto's chef José Avillez took over a decades old restaurant in Lisbon’s Chiado neighbourhood and transformed it into a gastronomic laboratory for Portuguese cuisine, and has been awarded two Michelin stars. His cutting edge take on classical flavours is key to the ever changing menu, and reveals the breadth and depth of Portuguese cooking beyond the typical tourist staples. Avillez claims that he looks ‘at haute cuisine as a form of expression’ and this is immediately apparent in his dishes, each of which offers a narrative in itself as well as being visually stunning and delicious. Highlights of a visit to Belcanto include the Skate Jackson Pollock, a delicious seafood dish presented in the style of the late Abstract Expressionist, and an Inverted Martini, in which the traditional cocktail is turned inside out and upside down. We chose Chef Avillez's classic tasting menu with wine pairings, for what would be the finest dining experience of our time in Lisbon.
Belcanto's selection of tasting menus and a la carte dishes
Belcanto's Portuguese sparkling wine
The sparkling wine was a delicious aperitif to begin our tasting menu
Bottles of wine were placed on ice in preparation for our dinner
The first amuse-bouche
The second amuse-bouche were gelatin encased bursts of olive flavours served with a 'dirty martini'
The olive flavoured 'Dirty Martini'
The third amuse-bouche bursted with tastes of the sea with dried shrimp and delicates sauces served suspended over a small copper pot
The fourth amuse-bouche was served on a rock
The fifth amuse-bouche looked like a Ferrara Roché chocolate but was actually savoury
The first of our wine pairings
A glass of the Portuguese white wine
After our five amuse-boche we were then served this little appetizer of poached prawn
Our first course of the tasting menu, "Wave Breaking" with shellfish, coastal prawns, with 'seawater' foam and seaweed 'sand'
Close-up of José Avillez's famous 2012 dish
Smoked Mackerel Belly marinated with vegetable purée and 'confetti',
a dish created by Chef Avillez in 2012
The third course of the tasting menu, 'Hen that Laid the Golden Egg'
The 'golden egg' was a perfectly poached egg finished with edible gold leaf
Inspired by Lisbon's cobblestone streets, this dish entitled 'Lisbon's Sidewalk Stones' was Red Mullet served with a liver sauce (2013)
The red wine to be served with our meat course
A lovely Portuguese red wine
Roasted lamb leg twice cooked with Portuguese flavoured chickpea purée and pumpkin
The first dessert, lemon mouse in dissolving gelatine cups
The main dessert called 'Tangerine' which was a tangerine flavoured mousse inside an orange coloured gelatine sphere
The tangerine dessert opened
The final wine of our tasting menu, a sweet Portuguese dessert wine
A glass of the Portuguese sweet wine
The final surprise, a small wooden box arrives
The box opens to reveal the first layer...house made jellies
The next layer...little cakes
The last layer...house made chocolates