By Cláudia Baptista
Gambrinus is One of the oldest restaurants in Lisbon with a style that other places have - sadly - abandoned.
Where else will the waiter come to light a cigarrillo for a client, at the mere wave of the hand? (Yes, I know smoking is either illegal or frowned up in most places!)
Where else will one witness the unprecedented courtesy of allowing one to taste the staff’s menu, generally varied and tasty, even though the clients’ menu is unbeatable?
With more than 80 years of non-stop activity in the heart of downtown Lisbon, Gambrinus is a paradigm of excellence.
It's a meeting place for intellectuals and businessmen, show business people and football folk.
It excels itself in the menu and in the considerate and customised service, with which it meets the whims and wishes of more demanding clients.
In its somewhat solemn private club style imparted by the boiserie covered walls, you are surrounded by the serenity needed for tasting the most exquisite foods.
Inaugurated in 1936 by a German, under the patronage of the legendary image of Gambrinus, the restaurant keeps the German eisbein (pickled ham hock, usually cured and slightly boiled) in the menu ever since.
Everything else meets the finest tradition of the national Portuguese menu – rich fish soup, partridge or lobster pie, duck rice or roast lamb, among other exquisite foods, although the true stars are the fish and seafood that come in daily from local ports.
There are other features which are unique. Take the balloon coffee served at the end of the meal - no espresso this! - and the unusual communication between members of the staff – the discreet sound of the double kiss for long taken as a way of not disturbing the clients by unnecessary noise underlines the cult of temperance and discretion that the restaurant prides itself in.
The exquisite inner environment bears the lasting impression of a very respected Portuguese architect, (late Maurício de Vasconcellos), who designed the renovation in the decade of 1960, including the comfortable leather upholstered chairs and the impressive granite fireplace which is as large as a whole wall.
The stained glass and the Portalegre Tapestry, woven according to a design to the design of the prestigious modernist artist Sá Nogueira, are worthy of attention.
Beyond the main hall and a secondary room for groups, Gambrinus includes bar service, where one can taste specialties such as loin on bread, as well as the prestigious menu. A thorough and rich wine list completes the offer.
There are no prices and no daily menu on its website. It's expensive - expect to pay around €45 or more for a main course so for two people, there probably won't be any change from €200 or maybe more.
But this is an experience akin to theatre - not just somewhere to eat.
Rua das Portas de Santo Antão, 23
1150-264 Lisbon, Portugal
Tel: +351 213 421 466
bookings [email protected]
Open from 12:00pm to 01:30am