Taberna Dom Castro Porto’s answer to the secret restaurant…
I was walking down the north end of Rua do Bonjardim near Praca do Marques in Porto one afternoon and noticed a man on a step ladder. I now know him to be Pedro. He looked like he was cleaning the windows of a 19th century townhome. I walked up and asked if he spoke English in my broken Portuguese. He chuckled responding in perfect English and explained that this was actually his restaurant and that he would be open again for dinner at 2000hrs that evening.
Taberna Dom Castro at Rua do Bonjardim 1078 is now a permanent fixture in our lives. Pedro serves delightful local Portuguese meals for lunch or dinner at very reasonable prices. At €14 per person all-inclusive for lunch or dinner, you should always make a reservation! Upon arrival, you ring the doorbell for access because Pedro and his small staff are busy cooking and serving the mix of business people, locals, and tourist clientele.
Small and cozy with green checkered table clothes on “picnic” style wood tables and an open kitchen in the back, you will feel at home immediately! Maybe 10 tables in the place. There is no menu of course as all the food is based upon what is fresh for today. Pedro asks if you would like meat or fish and proceeds to describe all the course options which can be tailored to your specific desires.
On our most recent visit we shared a large platter of freshly grilled piping hot sardines. These are to be eaten whole, head and all, popped into your mouth like candy with a squirt of fresh lemon across the plate. My friend’s two year old daughter was gobbling these down like she was in heaven. Along with the sardines was another platter of breaded pescada branca, a light and mild white fish…warm and a perfect complement to the sardines. On the side was a large steaming bowl of rice with grelo which was more like a soup in consistency. Grelo, a local Portuguese green, is something like a cross between spinach and kale. Tasty with the rice and the broth. The bread basket was filled with various warm Portuguese breads including white, wheat and dark.
We ordered a carafe of house white and one of house red and both were perfect with the meal, light and dry. Café (espresso) and bottled water trailed behind. Just when we thought the experience could not be any better….Pedro came by and described the dessert options! Everything is made in the back and we ordered one leite crème, otherwise known as the Portuguese version of crème brulee and a chocolate mousse. Both of these are difficult to describe to the level of the actual experience. The leite crème looks like a creme brulee, but is softer in consistency and a bit more sweet with less vanilla taste. Perfectly torched before it was brought to the table. The cornerstone of the meal for me was the chocolate mousse. It was creamy in texture vs. sponge like and made of dark chocolate with a surprise nibble of random chocolate chunks inside.
Being raised in a place where most food is manufactured and full of chemicals, it’s still amazing to me to actually taste the ingredients in the food you are eating. Pedro’s, Taberna Dom Castro is a perfect example of classic traditional local Portuguese food at its best.