The story behind this very international posting begins with our friend Keith in Toronto. Knowing that my wife Jan and I were travelling from Daglan to Lisbon in late February, he sent me a link to a blog about Portugal.
It’s a very attractive blog called “Salt of Portugal,” with the sub-title “all that is glorious about Portugal.” And what should I discover when I checked it out? I read about a place called Ultimo Porto (the Last Harbour) — whose very existence “as one of Lisbon’s best fish restaurants has been a closely guarded secret for more than half a century.”
Music to our ears! Lisbon is known for seafood, so one of its best fish restaurants must be very good indeed.
So on a Thursday in late February, Jan and I headed out of our hotel for lunch. On the way, I asked the concierge if he knew the restaurant; he did not. Seemed strange.
When we climbed into our taxi, it turned out that the driver also had never heard of the restaurant, and in fact wasn’t sure if he could find it — as its address is Estaçao Maritima Da Rocha Conde d’Obidos, evidently on a dock at the end of one of Lisbon’s harbours. He promised that if he couldn’t find it, he would turn off his meter and take us back to the hotel without additional charge.
However, with some luck and the help of Google Maps, he did eventually get us to Ultimo Porto — tucked away at the end of a long concrete wharf, surrounded by what we assumed were warehouses.
Questions immediately popped into our minds: It seemed a bit rough and ready, so did we really want to stay? Would a taxi be able to find us, to return us to our hotel? Helpfully, our driver went into the restaurant and asked the staff if they could call a cab for us when we were finished with lunch. No problem, they said, and so we stayed.
And here is Jan at our table, located outdoors, and as you can see “informal” pretty much sums up the restaurant’s style:
The main event at this restaurant is grilled fish — a good assortment of very fresh fish, grilled outdoors. (Our server brought us a tray of fish, so we could see what was available, and make our choices.) Here is one of the staff, standing guard over the grill:
And here’s a close-up view of the grill itself, so you can see the fish being cooked:
What was most strange about the restaurant is that we didn’t really have a view of Lisbon’s river, or indeed anything very attractive or nautical.
Instead, we were treated to a lot of industrial action, with various cranes moving the huge cargo containers stacked in neighbouring yards. To complete the effect, the metal fences were topped with barbed wire (to keep people out of the container yards, I imagine, rather than to keep people in the restaurant). You can probably make out the rolled barbed wire at the top of the fencing:
And here’s another photo, showing off the stacked cargo containers, as well as several tables of diners:
And by the way, the place was packed by the time that Jan and I finished the last of our lunches, and asked our waiter to call a taxi. (It came quite quickly, in fact.)
So, what was all the fuss about? Well, the grilled fish — served simply with potatoes and greens — was indeed very good. (The total bill for Jan and me, including a bottle of fresh white wine, was just under 54 euros. Very reasonable.) Here’s my plate of grilled grouper:
The all important question: Would we return? We probably would, if we lived in Lisbon, fairly near the harbour, and had a car to get us to the restaurant. But we’ll probably always remember Ultimo Porto more for the surroundings than the fish.