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Hotel Miradouro, Rua da Alegria, 598
Lunch – Mon-Sun 12 – 14h
Dinner – Mon – Sun 19:30 – 22:30h
Tel: 225 370 717
Old, frozen in time, old fashioned and outdated, are common expressions for many of those who describe Portucale. But such contempt overlooks the whole story.
Old? Yes, it is old. Portucale has been working uninterruptedly since the 1970’s which translates into a certain age. Old fashioned? Completely old fashioned. You will not find plywood walls and furniture from large international stores. Portucale, as well as the whole building, is a rich treasure of furniture, tapestry, tiles and lamps that represent a living and preserved example of the Portuguese modernist and pos-modernist period. Frozen in time? Well, yes, it is. Portucale was awarded with a Michelin star from 1974 to 1980 and keeps a menu of Portuguese influence, yet inspired by the French classics.
Maybe there’s not that much of a problem in being old, frozen in time, old fashioned and outdated.
Arriving at the magnificent tower of the Cooperativa dos Pedreiros, the entry is made by the reception of the Hotel Miradouro, which occupies the first 13 floors preceding Portucale. You may feel slightly suspicious at first, but with the fascination of someone who discovers a time portal. You rise until the topmost floor in a beautiful and surprisingly fast elevator, and at the exit you’re courteously greeted, and can’t help but notice the open booking journal with careful handwriting.
There are no such things as bad seats, here. All the room is lit by windows that surround it by three-quarters, and place us upon one of the most stunning panoramic views of Porto, comprising sea, river and mountain. There is no hope but to be thrown into a game of cartography: look, there are the Clérigos! What is that pink building? Oh look, there’s my house. All this, and we hadn’t even touched the food.
Even by then, some things about Portucale were very clear. The restaurant has a formal service that is completely reliable, and that finely articulates with a kitchen engaged in exploring their dishes from the very beginning. This same care was present in the table service, and we couldn’t help but notice (and discuss) the Christofle pieces that were scattered all over the restaurante. No, this isn’t a blatant advertisement, it’s just that you really can’t find these things anymore; just please keep from stealing the dinnerware.
The offer of appetizers was generous and presented dishes with some detail. We chose the beef carpaccio with cured cheese and the shrimp crepe. The carpaccio did not seem to us as coming from a bloody steak, but had some feeling of maturation, which brought it closer to cured meats like cecina. The chips of well cured cheese were dry and salty, and could only, both rationally and emotionally, be embraced by the thin slivers of meat and drizzled in olive oil. This became the perfect seasoning, taking the meat where it could not arrive on its own, and resulting in a simple but perfectly executed dish.
The shrimp crepes, resembled, in color and shape two giants croquettes, but we were not deterred by their appearance. The crunchy crust concealed a very delicate pastry, bearing in its core a buttery cream with a generous amount of large shrimp. This very simple dish gave us one of the best uses of shrimp so far. These crepes praised the shrimp like cod fritters (bolinhos de bacalhau) can’t do for cod.
From hereon, we chose the pork cheeks braised in red wine and the grilled beef loin, both sided by rice and sauteéd vegtables. When eating pork cheeks at home, I expect them to almost melt and fuse into the sauce only by staring at them. However, the pork cheeks failed to behave and at every forkful I felt every muscle fiber of that swine’s anxiety, compressing his jaws and swearing under his breath. The rice took me to the beach, in its sandy color and pyramid shape, somewhat close to sand castles, and unfortunately also quite as dry. The vegetables were ruled by order, with a courgette julienne and a carrot and turnip tournée, perfectly executed in texture and flavor.
At the other side of the table, the perfectly grilled beef loin shimmered in its coat of glazed sweet onion, that also served as sauce. The piece of meat was thick and well grilled, in a perfect medium-rare point that translated into an intense flavor. The sides were the same as the other dish, with the addition of a creamy purée of rapini.
We all know that when ‘chocolate fondant’ shows up on the menu our thoughts race to that frozen petit gatêau that whirls for 30 seconds in the microwave. But the word ‘homemade’ rang in our ears and we requested the chocolate fondant with red fruit coulis and lime sorbet, and the toucinho do céu, which had been watching us from the dessert cart since we arrived.
The fondant had a perfect mushroom shape, with a crispy outer layer that oozed a creamy, liquid chocolateness. It was all the chocolate that we needed. The toucinho do céu was as expected, very sweet, soft, almond-laden, with a velvety unctuousness from the eggs and a particular aromatic scent of bitter almonds. The lingering remnant of the flavor was so pleasant that we wished our mouths would naturally taste this way.
They say that time travel is a thing of the future. If we forget about the pork cheeks and some stains in the carpet, we had our trip for only 19€ per person.