Porto is one of Europe’s food mecca, and you have to experience its lip-smacking gastronomy by going for a food tour. Food tours in Porto introduce you to their local markets, petiscos (small plates) of seafood variety, meat sandwiches, sweets and pastries, and allow you to wash down morsels of food with lots of wine – naturally.
I had signed up for the Downtown Food Tour with Taste Porto a year ago, and I remembered the food tour being one of my best activities in Porto. Led by a knowledgeable and fun guide and along with six travellers from the United States and Canada, we had a fantastic time tasting pastry, sardines, meat sandwiches, cheese, desserts and of course, drinking wines from Portugal’s many wine regions!
Looking back at my notes, we had enjoyed ten food tastings (a perfect balance of savoury and sweet dishes) at six establishments over a period of three and a half hours. Throughout that time, we also discovered Porto’s historic back streets and learnt a little bit more about the city, its people and their way of life especially the local food culture.
Here are the six establishments that we had stopped for food tastings:
Loja dos Pastéis de Chaves
Loja dos Pastéis de Chaves is a cafe in Porto downtown known for its delicious, light flaky pastries, the recipes are said to originate from the city of Chaves in norther Portugal. The pastries are half-moon shaped stuffed with either minced veal or chocolate.
Our guide had to remind us not to stuff ourselves too much with the pastries as this was our first stop and we had another five more to go!
Location: R. da Firmeza; Open from 9.00am to 9.00pm
Bolhão Wine House
One cannot visit Porto without going to the mid-19th century iron-wrought Bolhão Market where vendors sell fresh produce including cheese, olives, smoked meats, fresh flowers and souvenirs. Many locals come to purchase their fresh produce here rather than at supermarkets.
Our next food-tasting was not the actual produce from the vendors but from a small shop situated inside the market – the Bolhão Wine House. The premises of the wine house used to be a flower shop belonging to the owner’s 94-year old grandmother. Now the shop sells products such as sardines, cheese and pastries from small independent producers, and extra virgin olive oil and wine from the Douro Valley.
We tried delicious sardines that Portugal is famous for, dipped in generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil, and grandma’s mouth-watering traditional queijadinha pastry which translates to little cheese. We topped off this wonderful food-tasting at Bolhão Wine House with a taste of Moscatel do Douro.
P.S. By this time, I had felt that the second food-tasting at Bolhão Wine House was my favourite!
Location: Mercado do Bolhão – Store 9; Open Mon to Fri 10am – 5pm, Sat 10am to 1pm.
Flor dos Congregados
The stone-walled and wood-beamed Flor dos Congregados is a 162-year old family-run restaurant. The restaurant is renowned for its Terylene sandwich – roasted pork and smoked ham marinated in olive oil, bay leaves, garlic, wine and spices and slow-cooked for almost 24 hours before being served. We had this exquisite sandwich with a glass of sparkling Tinto Bruto red.
Location: Travessa dos Congregados, 11; Open Mon – Wed 7pm – 10pm, Thurs – Sat 12pm – 3pm and 6.30pm – 10pm.
After three food-tasting stops, we took a break to have coffee at Café Guarany which apparently serves the best coffee in Porto. Our group welcomed this short break, for we were feeling a little sluggish from the amount of food and wine consumed earlier!
Location: Avenida dos Aliados, 89/95; Open Mon – Sun 9am – 12pm
Leitaria da Quinta do Paço
After our caffeine boost at Café Guarany, we moved on to Leitaria da Quinta do Paço where they served Porto’s famous éclairs. Interestingly, the café serves not only chocolate éclairs but lemon curd éclairs which I had never tried before. Light and fluffy cream was served with the eclairs too. After a couple of bites, I still preferred chocolate éclairs to lemon curd – the lemon was too sour for my taste.
Location: Praça Guilherme Gornes Fernandes, 47/51; Open Mon – Thurs 11am – 7pm, Fri 11am – 12am, Sat 11am – 7pm.
Taberna do Largo
Our last food-tasting stop was at a restaurant called Taberna do Largo where we were treated to cured meats, cheese and olives from small producers, and three different Douro wines.
Location: Largo de S. Domingos, 69; Open Tues – Thurs 5pm – 12am, Fri 5pm – 1am, Sat 12pm – 1am, Sun 12pm – 12am.
Similar to food tours that I had experienced in other parts of the world, I didn’t want this food tour to end. But as the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. We said our goodbyes, and off we walked towards the hilly streets to shed off the extra calories consumed from the delectable food and wines of Porto!