Praia da Luz, Avenida do Brasil, Porto

Davis finds a restaurant with a killer view and even better food at Praia da Luz…

Laid back vibe and people enjoy the view

The sun was shining, and it was 22 degrees. The perfect spring day! With an appetite, I took the #203 bus from Praca do Marques about 20 minutes to the Mercado da Foz bus stop and walked down Rua Diu 5 minutes until I hit the ocean. The views are spectacular cutting through this little section of Porto with the trees just starting to bloom and the street stacked with 19th century townhomes and shops. No two facades are alike. When you dead end into the beach, you’re immediately introduced to the “boardwalk” or Passadiço with hikers, runners and bicycles in abundance enjoying the boulder lined sand, the pier and lighthouse which leads you back to the Douro river and downtown. I learned later that this is actually part of the Porto leg of the Caminho de Santiago trek as it passes along this section of Portugal.

Following the boardwalk down toward the sea about 50 meters north of Rua Diu, I randomly came upon Praia da Luz restaurant and beach bar. It’s not visible from above, but just below street level the world changes. The vibe reminded me of St. Tropez for just a minute, but it’s more welcoming, down to earth, real and relaxed. At this point I was starving and walked inside the long narrow restaurant to white linen table clothes and the mirrored rear wall that brings the ocean inside…all directly on the beach. Fresh baked breads, homemade butter, tuna spread, tomato dip and Portuguese olives were accompanied by an amuse bouche. I didn’t ask, but it was fabulous and something from the sea. The menu is diverse though leans toward fish, so I ordered the seabass baked in sea salt and rosemary along with the fresh spinach and boiled potatoes…everything swimming in garlic and butter. Half a bottle of Portuguese Douro Valley white wine later and my planets were aligned. The service was flawless and the total bill, on the pricey side for Porto, including wine was about €25.

From inside the main restaurant with its wall of windows I could see the outdoor, more casual bar/restaurant which is part of the Praia da Luz facility and private beach. The main building also has a roof top section and outdoor bar to take in the spectacular ocean view. Outside, there are tables and white umbrellas as far as the eye can see along a large terraced wood deck with chaise lounge chairs beyond spilling into the sand. The outdoor menu is less expensive and more expansive with Portuguese tapas, ceviche, carpaccio, burgers, salads, pastas, various other local dishes, desserts and the like. 


I followed the live music outside, ordered my first Porto Tonico and settled into a sofa under the gigantic “sail” that shades the rear section of the outdoor bar. For context, the Portuguese Porto Tonico is white port wine, tonic water, a slice of lemon and a sprig of mint. One glass alone is not possible. The man on a guitar was local and the music was chill. As the afternoon wore on and the drinks kicked in a “DJ” appeared. A barefoot, 60 something gentleman in white tee shirt and faded jeans looking like he literally lived on the beach with his dark tan and a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. The music changed to something more from the Hotel Costes in Paris suitable for dancing and the eclectic people watching.

Under normal circumstances I’d be embarrassed to say that I was now in my sixth hour at Praia da Luz. Did I nap at some point? I do recall multiple conversations throughout the day. The sun was lowering, the crowd now growing with an ever-changing mix of locals, tourists and those just passing through on the Camino. A dessert was in order. I asked for something that wasn’t heavy and fit with the beach. They brought their “cream of the universe”: lime mousse, lemon curd and merengue…you do the math! For some unexplained yet completely obvious reason they also brought me a shot of “cachaça” which is a Brazilian liqueur made from fermented sugarcane juice. Good, yet evil. To me it sort of tastes like a cross between Turkish raki and maybe tequila…it’s aggressive on the way down!

I grabbed an Uber and headed back downtown for home. The bus, the Metro or even walking were all completely inappropriate at this point. Praia da Luz is yet another example of what Porto has to offer with a unique setting on the beach, excellent food and service. Highly recommended. 

Tortas de Polvo e Companhia

Tortas de Polvo e Companhia, go now before the world finds out and you won’t get a seat. Read Davis McKinney’s full review….

My Girlfriend and I were early for a brunch with friends and killing time one Saturday when we stumbled upon a tiny place with an octopus on the sign outside. We thought we would stop in for a quick snack and glass of wine before the brunch…we were starving. Who knew? Tortas de polvo & Companhia is at the top of the last little side street (Rua Conde São Salvador 52) near the port in Matosinhos. Parallel to the Rio Leca and generally between Brito Capelo and Mercado Metro stations it is easy access via Metro from downtown Porto.

Inside, the small bar and kitchen dominate the space with only 3 tables and a small counter along the side wall next to the kitchen. It’s adorable! The woman managing the customers while taking orders and “translating” for the kitchen spoke some hybrid of French, Portuguese and English. She was as charming as she was attentive to everyone’s needs. 

We started with a glass of perfectly dry Portuguese house white wine from the Douro valley while checking out the menu. The miniature blackboard in the window had a torta de polvo (octopus pie or tart) for €3.50. This is what originally pulled us in and was to be our snack! We miscommunicated the order somewhere between the Portuguese and the French exchange and ended up with two Tortas. What could go wrong? Wrapped in the crust was what appeared to be ground octopus with tomato and mushrooms. The dough was light, warm and both sweet and spicy at the same time. It was a sort of brick red in color. Alongside the torta was a fresh mixed salad of greens, onions and carrots. It was a meal vs. a snack, but we slammed them both down knowing at this point our pending brunch with friends would be reduced to liquids and conversation. With our second glass of wine we also successfully split the “tres polvos” plate which was, as you may have guessed, three different tapas size octopus tastings. One was similar to a ratatouille, another grilled and the third mixed with potatoes and onion and served cold in a perfect cylinder shape. All excellent. Since we were this far in…we went for the dessert. A coffee tasting crème drizzled over the top of thinly sliced white cake of unknown ingredients. We didn’t ask, but it was warm and fresh and similarly sensational. The total bill was just shy of €20 for both of us. 

As we were getting close to the meeting time for brunch we walked around the corner to meet our friends and had another glass of wine while explaining why we were not going to eat! Tortas de polvo & Companhia…it is not to be missed! 

Taberna Dom Castro

Taberna Dom Castro Porto’s answer to the secret restaurant…

If you see this sign you are have found Portuguese culinary nirvana

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.

After calling for reservations, even last min, ring the bell for entry

 

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. 

Loving Davis’s recommendations off the common tourist trail of Porto

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.