How to Eat Your Way Around Porto
From enormous, mouth-watering sandwiches to sweet, velvety wines, not to mention luscious desserts, a trip to Porto is heaven for foodies. Eat and drink your way around the city with the following guide to Porto’s tastiest attractions:
Tackle the Francesinha Sandwich
“Tackle” being the operative word here. The francesinha is a sandwich of epic proportions. Literally translated as “Little Frenchie”, the dish is said to have been invented by an immigrant who returned from France in the 1960s and wanted to create a Portuguese version of the Croque Monsieur. And then some. Within this giant cheese smothered toastie you’ll find smoked ham, sausage, and a slice of steak (beef or pork), all drenched in beer-laced gravy. It’s usually served on a bed of chips and sometimes topped with a fried egg.
The francesinha can be found in cafés and restaurants throughout Porto, but one of the best places to try this hefty ‘snack’ is the cheap and cheerful Bufete Fase, where it’s the only dish on the menu. For a francesinha in fancier surroundings, head to the city’s historic Majestic Café. The café is recognised as one of the world’s ten most beautiful cafés. Once the meeting place for artists and writers, it still retains an elegant, bygone era atmosphere with its mirrored walls, chandeliers and marble décor. Bring an appetite.
Discover the Story of Port Wine
The white-washed hills and laneways of Porto’s Vila Nova de Gaia area are home to numerous port wine cellars where, for a small price, you can combine a cellar tour with tastings of Porto’s best-known export.
The Croft company offers cellar tours all year round, including a tasting of three Port wines – Croft Pink, Reserve and Tawny 10 years. Unless you’re travelling with a large group, bookings aren’t necessary, you just need to show up and join the next available tour. Tours start every 40 minutes and cost €5 per adult including tastings.
Port Wine Cheat Sheet
Wine has been produced in Porto’s Douro Valley for over 2000 years. The origins of Port wine are much more recent though and can be traced back to the 1700s, when English merchants began adding brandy to preserve the wine for export. Put simply, Port wine is defined as a sweet red wine which contains added spirits (brandy) to maintain long-term ageing.
The process involved in producing Port wine means the wine doesn’t go through a complete fermentation – it’s stopped by adding around 30% brandy when the ideal sugar level is reached, before ageing the wine for a minimum of two years. There are six main types of Port, styles are based on how long they’ve been aged:
- Vintage Port: Generally aged for 2 years in a barrel before being bottled and left to age for anywhere between 10 and 50 years in a bottle.
- Late Bottled Vintage Port: Aged for 4 to 6 years in a barrel before being bottled.
- Tawny Port: Aged for a minimum of 3 years in barrels, but can be anywhere between 10 and 40 years. Recommended to be drunk soon after bottling.
- Colheita Port: A vintage port aged for many years in barrels before being bottled and drunk soon after bottling.
- White Port: A port wine made with white grapes – it’s a refreshing summer drink when served with tonic water and ice.
- Rose Port: A port wine made in a rosé style.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
While Lisbon has long been famous for its flaky, melt-in-the-mouth Pasteis de Nata custard tarts, Porto is blazing its own trail of heaven-sent desserts with cafés such as Miss Pavlova and ice-cream parlours like La Copa, leading the pack. Cake café, Miss Pavlova is the recent brainchild of local Ana Maio, who has seen her business go from a social media-based baking company to a fully-fledged shop located on Porto’s Rua do Almada. La Copa meanwhile, prides itself on its homemade ice-creams and friendly welcomes. The steady stream of customers trailing in and out of its sunny terrace are testament to its awesomeness.
There’s no excuse not to treat yourself – Porto’s steep, cobbled hills provide more than enough exercise for burning off all those excess calories…
Have you been to Porto lately? Got a favourite restaurant or local dish you’d recommend to others? Leave a comment below and share your tips!