Slow Fast Food in Lisbon Andy Montgomery | Posted: 05 April 2016
Gastronomy in Portugal

I order my prosciutto on truffle-infused potato purée with asparagus and a slow-cooked egg and in return for my €7, I am handed a small, black disc that looks as if it might have come from a gadget shop. I'm told the disc will “go off” when my order is ready.

I return to my seat at one of the long, bright, pine benches bustling with diners, perch on my high chair and wait, one eye flitting between people watching and the little black disc, waiting for something to happen.

Then I think I hear something.

Did you hear that?” I ask Jack.“Hear what?” I'm convinced the thing made a noise so I head back to the counter of gourmet chef Henrique Sá Passoa and slide over my disc.

Your order is not yet ready,” says the nice young man in the crisp apron and black tee shirt. “It hasn't gone off.” I slink sheepishly back to my seat and wait. Five minutes later the disc turns into a mini laser show, multi-coloured lights flashing and an intermittent buzz sounding, like an alarm clock. It looks like my order is ready.

Gastronomy in Portugal

This is Time Out's Mercado Da Ribeira, one of Lisbon's newest and hippest fast food outlets. But don't let the term 'fast food' put you off. This is no burger and chips or microwaved baked potato establishment; there are no polystyrene trays or plastic forks; no giant bins in which you dump your paper beakers of leftover ice cubes and squeezed out tomato sauce sachets. This is Slow fast food, the latest trend to sweep the restaurant scene and, if Lisbon is anything to go by, it's already a huge success.

The idea behind the new food markets is to bring top notch dining using local ingredients to a wider audience by making it more accessible and affordable while at the same time providing aspiring chefs with an economically viable outlet in which to showcase their culinary talents alongside more established restaurant names.

The Mercado Da Ribeira is housed in the city's main food market, one half of which still sells fruit, vegetables and flowers as it has been doing since 1892. When Time Out acquired a couple of the hangar-sized halls, it decked them out in industrial chic style, set up pristine kitchen units around the edges and filled the centre with dining benches, tables and chairs.

Gastronomy in Portugal

The end result is a slick, contemporary dining experience that gives you access to a wide range of foods within a single space, so you might opt for a classic Portuguese Francesinha while your partner indulges in some freshly prepared sushi and sashimi, Thai green curry, fresh seafood, a gourmet burger or a prime steak. The choices are overwhelming and the price of a main course doesn't tend to go much over €10.

Having said that, the portions are not huge, depending on how gourmet you go, which means there's room for dessert and you'll find an equally enticing selection of those. Over the course of two visits I spent what felt like an eternity wandering the counters, perusing menus and displays before finally settling on sticky toffee pudding with banana and caramel ice cream the first night and sinfully scrumptious home made cakes the next. With wine available from every food outlet, and booths offering fruit smoothies, spirits, beers and coffees, there's nothing lacking in this dining experience.

Gastronomy in Portugal

Eating at Mercado Da Ribeira won't surpass a table in any of the traditional restaurants that fill Lisbon's characterful streets or sinking your teeth into a pasteis de Belém fresh from Casa Pasteis, but if you want to grab something quick, and fancy trying something new, it's good fun and a great people-watching venue. Plus, if you choose one of Henrique Sá Passoa's dishes, you get a flashy gadget to tell you when your meal's ready. And believe me, you'll know when it goes off.

Related Holidays & Further Information

Cities, Palaces & Wines

You can indulge in the culinary specialities of Lisbon on one of our SlowMotion journeys of discovery in Portugal. Choose from Cities, Palaces & Wines which begins in Porto and visits Coimbra, Lisbon and Sintra; or An Alentejo Adventure, which begins in the capital and then heads inland to the mountains before ending on the coast.

More about our SlowMotion journeys in Portugal >

Where to find the Mercado

Mercado da Ribeira is on Avenida 24 de Julho by the rail station at Cais do Sodré and is open every day from 10am to midnight and to 2am on Thursday, Friday & Saturday. The nearest Metro stop is Cais do Sodré.

More about the Mercado da Ribeira in Lisbon >

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