Biting into #Portugal: Lisbon

Biting into Portugal Collage

I’ve been to Portugal a few times over the last decade or so.


It started out as a weekend affair with Lisbon whilst still in university, when my college mommy Kee Lin Low and I decided it was a perfect city for Spring Break.

We did the sight-seeing thing like only 22-years-old can. Didn’t miss a castle or a seafood restaurant in the whole city that was worth seeing. The trek up Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, Lisbon, the highest point in Lisbon, and the view from there remains one of my favourite ways to spend a day.

Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, Lisbon. 2006

Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, Lisbon. 2006


Kee as pictured below, and I were a bundle of energy then. We ran around the snaky streets of Lisbon’s old city, where all the houses have intricate and, sometimes, pop-artesque designs made from Portuguese tiles.



One of the qualities that drew me to Portugal then, and continues to do so now, is the country’s rawness. You’re in Europe, but you’re not. There’s a chaos of practically decaying and young unbridled energy that courses through Lisbon. It didn’t take half a weekend in the city before I knew it was gonna be love for a long time.




Portuguese street art is a plenty. I’ve discovered new favourites with each subsequent visit.


Graffiti next to Miradouro da Senhora do Monte, Lisbon. 2006



Graffiti under a bridge near Rua de Santa Catarina, 2010



Installation at a shop near Rua de Santa Catarina, 2010


Places to Stay

In 2010, I came back to Lisbon for a psytrance music festival Boom, but that’s a whole other story. I stayed in the city for a week at the Oasis Backpackers. I’d still recommend this place if you’re on a budget. They put up six of us even though the reservation was for one, and still, they managed comfortable housing for the whole group.

Travel Buddies/ Happy Posers: Shiv Pandit and Prashant Raj. circa 2010

Travel Buddies/ Happy Posers: Shiv Pandit and Prashant Raj. circa 2010


Posers to the core: Karan Shrikent, PS, Tanya Kewalramani. Shivster missing from the Troupe.

Posers to the core: Karan Shrikent, PS, Tanya Kewalramani. Shivster missing from the Troupe.

Oasis is super-central; Rua de Santa Catarina is a lively street, filled with shops and restaurants overlook the Tagus river. My favourite was the Cafe Noobai, where the twilight view of the river is truly spectacular… and so is the food! Made us happy for sure.

Breakfast by the riverfront.

Breakfast by the riverfront. Circa 2010

Biting in to Portugal 2016

Presently, I decided as a grown woman, I decided no psytrance festivals and backpacker situation this time. Instead, cute Portuguese towns and a bit of quaint, quiet luxury were my goals.

I stayed at two hotels.

Dom Pedro, which was a bit hurriedly booked for a day, was bustling. The very sweet concierge sent me to an occupied hotel room the first time around. That was a funny start quickly followed by a guy running to catch me at the elevator because he thought I was Turkish. The place was clearly heavily booked, still the staff was prompt in their service. My room was clean, spacious and room service was 24-hours. I’m a big kid when it comes to room service.

My own little surf and turf combo

My own little surf and turf combo: prawn and prosciutto.

I was a bit surprised to have to pay extra for the spa even though I was a guest at the hotel, but seven euros wasn’t that much. The pool was a bit… over the top, shall we say. It was also too small for anything more than wading given the number of guests at the hotel. NGL, I wasn’t a big fan of the disco lighting.

No, you're not #tripping…yet. #freaky #lights #friyay #pooltime🏊 #bitingintoportugal2016

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Over all, Dom Pedro was a 3.5 in my books. The service was nice, but just short of fantastic.

I preferred the second hotel Porto Bay Marquês. Like Oasis, it’s super central: a 10 minute walk from the Marquês de Pombal. Despite its location, which is pretty much Lisbon’s tourist central, this boutique hotel sits like a quiet haven in itself. I loved the rooftop pool, despite the fact that my friend and I had to take turns with a bunch of kids to play in it.

Screen Shot 2016-08-21 at 5.24.02 pm

Who am I kidding, we were the kids.

34, still haven't figured out duck face.

34, still haven’t figured out duck face. We near twinning on the bikinis just happened!

We loved the rooftop pool situation and spent every morning lounging around there, working on our tans with a chilled glass of champers in our hands. I particularly loved a crémant that Bene got as a birthday surprise for me. A Louis Bouillot Cremant De Bourgogne, from the French Jura region, this  sparkling wine is crisp and not as bubbly as champagne, a quality I prefer because it’s then easier to drink.


I loved our room as well.

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We had a good time sneaking into the pool in the night time too. You know its a lifelong friendship when you meet after a break of four years and immediately revert back to how you two were ten years ago.

2016 and 2006. #nothingchanged #raspberry #drunkface #👯 #swimtime #bitingintoportugal2016

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Places to see

There are a couple of places I always go out of my way to check out while in Lisbon.

The first is Belem, which is a quaint little town about 20 minutes away from Lisbon by tube.

Jardim de Belem, 2007

Jardim de Belem, 2007

Honestly though, my main aim to get to the pastel de natas at Pastéis de Belém. Pastels are my sole form of sustenance in Portugal and have been since 2007. They are egg-custard filling in a crisp pastry. The Portuguese eat one or two of these for breakfast or a snack. I eat ten of these a day, wherever I can find them. There’s a bunch places I’ve had the pastel de natas, but Belem’s are my first and remain the best.

Image via

I also never miss out on Estoril beach. Ages ago I read in the Guardian that some Bond movie was shot there. Not too surprising; it’s a pretty stretch of beach with clear blue water with what looks like a sweet holiday castle at the end of the strip.


Estoril Collage



But I clearly have a thing for stripes still. This Espirit number I picked up a couple of years ago has become a go-to.

This Espirit number I picked up a couple of years ago has become a go-to. Circa 2016.

Usually I skip Cascais beach for Estoril or Sintra, but this time around I thought: why not? And I dressed my touristy best.


Wearing H&M shorts, Whim By Poorvi top, Quay sunglasses and carrying a bag. Phone case is from Daily Objects. The hat is a last minute airport buy (something I expect all my hats will be because I can’t see myself carrying around a proper hat case.)

Cascais is thirty minutes from Lisbon by metro and forty by cab. Obviously the metro is cheaper, but if there’s a group with you, the local cabs are a more comfortable and reasonable way to get there as well.

The beach is super crowded, but it is an interesting place to people watch.


I found my dream house there.




This time around the Porto Bay staff tipped us off to Ibo Restaurante, a seafood restaurant, which was clearly quite popular. I’d recommend it just as a dining experience because of the surreally large catch in their tanks. Total kid, yes, but look at it!

He knows we are about to eat his kids. #🍤 #yikes! #bitingintoportugal2016

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Bene and I both wanted the Lobster ravioli in Beurre blanc sauce.


The dish was good, though the portions were sparse.

The tank was like dinner and a show for us.


The dress is from Zara and that’s my favourite Boy bag from Chanel.




Ibo was very traditional, but a hipster joint I tried out had an interesting take on the typical meals of Lisboners. The Prego de peixaria chain of restaurants are part of Lisbon’s Burger invasion. Seriously, I’ve noticed over the years that it’s become a thing.



I tried the Bacalhau burger, because it was one way I hadn’t yet tried this very common unsalted cod fish. Honestly, I ended up eating my friend’s pork burger. Bacalhau is not made for burgers.



On the way back fro the restaurant, I found this pretty little square with line of art deco houses in a gradation of pink. And I was wearing my Summer House Lobo dress that matched. How could this picture not happen?




Lisbon is teeming with bars and clubs that play house and techno, and all kinds of crap. (Sorry, techno lovers, but No.) One thing brought Bene and I together in university: we love 90s hip-hop. And we found the perfect place in Lisbon called The Park, a rooftop bar that’s as stuck on Camron as are the two of us. As can be expected, we went there every night to dance to Missy and Snoop all day and the next morning till 2 am. As you can see the panoramic view of Lisbon and the sunset hours are a perfect time to get there


Park Lisbon Collage

We did a brief bar run around Pink Street, a near by (you guessed it) street filled with bohemian bars and clubs.

Via Google. Damn you Absolute! 😉

The street’s pretty, the bars were ok. But, 90s hip hop and panoramic view pulled us back to The Park every night. Sometimes for breakfast after a Pink Street night, because Park’s liquor was always top-shelf because not one next morning were we hung over. Of course, our hair of the dog was champagne or chardonnay; the only Portuguese beer I like is Sangres. The other competitor is Super Bock, which is super popular with Northern Portuguese beer drinks. In my heart, I’m a Lisbon gal though. Also, I’m not an alcoholic; just on holiday, promise. 🙂

Avantika Mehta
Written by

Editor, Pyjama People

Avantika Mehta used to be a lawyer, resident Blue Frog party freak and proud wearer of harem pants curated from Kasol. Then she became a writer and it all went downhill. Famous Scottish journalists have been known to call her ‘a volatile woman.’

Twitter @bitingfriends / Instagram: @bitingfriends

1 Comment

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