Typical food, typical people, typical Lisbon!
Avenida Almirante Reis in Lisbon is a street most tourist never get to see, those who do generally booked some budget hotel from where they taxi their way to the more popular areas of Lisbon.
The Almirante Reis avenue is a street full of history, contradiction and honest culinary surprises that are affordable and ‘real’ and that haven’t been spoilt yet by the tourist masses that have been visiting Lisbon in the past years, the locals know this and it’s time you do also!
The Avenida Almirante Reis, Admiral Reis, begins right in the heart of Lisbon at the Rua de Palma in Martim Moniz and runs right up to Praça Francisco Sá Carneiro, it is one of the longest avenues in Lisbon being almost 2 km in length. It’s a street full of contradiction and surprises.
The street is named after the Admiral Reis as an honour to him after his death. The admiral committed suicide or according to some, was possibly assassinated in it after the failing of the democratic revolution he led in 1910.
It was once one of the grander streets of Lisbon, hosting a large central footpath accompanied on either side by a double row of trees, the original trees and walking path have gone, but the grandeur can still be seen using a small amount of imagination and ignoring a lot of the buildings build in later days.
The large central footpath has long since been replaced by the demands of our modern traffic load, but a single row of young trees is working hard to grow and re-impress.
The small side footpaths have also been replaced and have made way for large, typical Lisbon mosaic footpaths with shady trees that provide shelter from the summer heat.
The buildings are a mix between garish, uncomfortable and unattractive blocks build during the dictatorship between 1926-74 and gorgeous historical buildings largely of the Art Nouveau and Art Déco period.
You will also find many historical buildings from other periods worth a visit like the Igreja dos Anjos which is only a century old but almost it’s entire interior is from the original 17th century church and well worth a visit ( http://www.lisbonlux.com/lisbon/igreja-dos-anjos.html) .
The “Paço da Bemposta” Chapel, a short walk from the Intendente metro station in the Largo do Paço da Rainha, a national monument build in 18th century, destroyed by the 1755 earthquake and rebuild from scratch. http://www.ezimut.com/en/placestogo/paco-da-bemposta-chapel
Right up to the Imperio Café and cinema once the most prestigious cinema in Lisbon build in the fifties and completely retaining it’s 1950’s character.
Many of the original hand painted tiled (azulijos) buildings are restored or in the process of being restored and tile fans will find here many original façades of which Fabrica de Ceramica da Viuva Lamego (IIP), the in 1849 founded hand painted tile factory, is probably the most impressive.
Parts of it this avenue shows degradation and modern day poverty but other parts remain to show the taste, richness and the culture of days gone by. Currently much of the avenue is being restored and in the future this entire article will have to be rewritten for now much has bettered since the first publication in 2011 but it’s character and position in Lisbon life stays intact.
It’s not frequented much by tourists who use it only to go to their hotel rooms and to take the metro to the better known tourist areas but it is one of my favourite Lisbon streets with its history, Lisbon local charm, multi cultural ambience and great restaurants.
If you like to experience multi cultural Lisbon city life, view beautiful historic buildings and eat honest food at good prices than this is the place to be.
The street stretches across 4 typical Lisbon districts Anjos, Penha de franca, Soa Jorge the Arroios and Alameda.
Some areas behind parts of the Almirante Reis avenue are best ignored if you don’t have strong nerves.
Here and there they’re a host to shady dealings and red-light practices, some people have reported gang wars and fighting at night. I have never yet experienced this day or night and so I cannot verify the extend of these events.
Areas that are advised to be avoided are the streets behind the Avenue in and around the Intendente metro station, sadly these areas have some of the most beautiful architecture in Lisbon and these warnings have not stopped me from entering, if you choose to do so also leave your valuables at home.
The Avenue and the surrounding districts are full of budget snack-bars, pastelarias (pastry shops that often serve daily hot lunches and some even diners) and restaurants that serve low cost, traditional meals and where you can enjoy the heated discussions of the locals about football, government taxes and other subjects that, accompanied by a good glass of house wine, make the Lisbon blood boil. Food can be as cheap as 3-4 euro for a meal in this neighbourhood.
Occasionally you will be asked for a cigarette or an euro but generally people move on fast and don’t hold it against you, if you don’t provide and the people on the Almirante Reis are generally typically friendly and very helpful.
The many budget places in this street are always there and ever changing and are not subject in this topic.
Checking the menu’s and taking a quick look inside will give you a good impression of what you can expect.
If your purse is small don’t eat the things you didn’t order but are placed on the table they will always charge you for these and sometimes they can be more expensive than the things you ordered from the menu.
The restaurants we want to discus here are the ones that excel in both quality and ambiance.
The first restaurant we would like to inform you about is the first one you’ll find at the beginning of the Almirante Reis, Cervejaria Ramiro.
‘Cervajaria’ means literally ‘Beer house’. The son of the original owner, who was named Ramiro, introduced seafood to the place which fast became successful and it has grown to a very popular and excellent sea food restaurant.
It consist of three floors, each floor with it’s own ambiance and charm. This restaurant is famous in Lisbon and though not known as well known by tourist, it is loved and busily frequented by locals, who travel from all over to eat here.
The restaurant is on the Avenida Almirante Reis nr. 1 in a nice old building, (due to much media coverage since the writing of this article in 2011 The restaurant has become much more busy and reservation is advised)
A little further up the street on the same side past the Intendente metro station is restaurant Himalaya.
The restaurant is small and hidden but budget and taste come together nicely. They offer traditional food with a twist and a range of pizzas. What initially attracted me to this restaurant is the terrace lower than street level, which offers a nice retreat from this busy bustling district, inside the restaurant you’ll find the same retreat-iv quality, a nice décor and pleasant service.
A little further up the street we make a small detour at the Anjos station by taking a left turn into the Rua Febo Moniz and a 3rd turn right into the Rua dos Arroios, a street where you will seldom meet a tourist but that has quite a few local and international restaurants at very reasonable prices.
The restaurant in this street that we want to inform you about on this is the Restaurant Os Amigos.
The restaurant serves Sea food and meat dishes that stand out by freshness and quality. It’s a typical local restaurant where the television is always on and a couple of locals hang out at the bar but everything is prepared with great care and attention and served in a pleasant, family friendly atmosphere.
Back in the Avenida de Almirante Reis at roughly nr 99 on the right hand side of the Avenue you will find one of the most authentic Cantonese Chinese restaurants in Lisbon, Grande Palacio Hong Kong, this restaurant is for those that prefer ‘real’ Cantonese dishes that have not been adjusted to fit the taste of the Portuguese people.
Prices are quite high compared to other Chinese restaurant in Lisbon but the food justifies the price and compared to other European city restaurants is still very affordable.
It is a large canteen like restaurant filled with Chinese Lisboetas and native Portuguese regulars!
In Arroios also, close to the illuminated fountains and on the Almirante Reis Avenue, you will find what we consider the best Indian (Nepal) restaurants in Lisbon, Anna purna.
The restaurant serves heavenly food, has a friendly service and a calm ambiance.
Amore Mio restaurant Lately a bit run down lately but still very good food price quality and deliciously fresh pizza’s and pasta’s.
Taking a small detour again on the Avenue again to the right, you will find a very nice Italian restaurant called Amore mio, pleasant with an uptown feeling, gorgeously decorated and ‘real’ Italian food. Take a right turn off the Almirante Reis just before the Parque da Fonte Luminosa into the Rua Ferreira da Silva and a first left into Rua Carlos Mardel where you will find the restaurant at number 38.
Our final ‘must see and eat in’ restaurant on the Almirante Reis is the famous ‘Grande café’ Café Imperio.
You will be impressed and amazed by this beautiful, large, glamorous Grande Café with it’s extensive restaurant.
This café was build in the Fifties and once part of the Imperio cinema, the cinema has gone but the café remains to go strong, it stays in its original state with a large, wide staircase covered with a red carpet and embraced by a fifties décor in a true Hollywood theme that really takes you back in time to the most luxurious of days.
With it’s classical international dishes it ranks among the better restaurants in Lisbon.
It’s impressive, prestigious, historical but as in typical Almirante Reis tradition remains affordable.
The Avenida de Almirante Reis is not a tourist trap, you wont find menu’s in 5 languages and waiters with heavy accents promising you an amazing after life if you eat in their establishment but you will find the real Lisbon, the real Lisbon food and eating traditions and a modern day multi cultural ambience in an old, historically rich tradition.
Visit the Almirante Reis to get a real feel of Lisbon!!