Review: Porto Portions – Toby

Red wine? Baked goods? Confusing language? Toby, why are you in France again??

You’d be forgiven for thinking that (I think) but no, my latest food pilgrimage was to Porto, in Portugal.

Just south of Spain, you’d be forgiven (I hope) for lumping them in with their Iberian cousins, but they very much have their own culture. For example, they actually share a timezone with the good old UK. No jetlag for Tobes then.

He took this trip alone, despite his attempts to drum up interest around the digital workplace in a food sampling holiday. Their loss.

Here’s a few of the delights he sampled in and around Porto.

Day 1

Arriving the night before, I hadn’t had a chance to sample much of the foodie delights of the city, but woke hungry. Near to my hotel, I noticed that the bakery (Padaria Ribeiro in the trendy Vitoria district) had a cafe attached to it, and so took a seat.

As I peered at the variety of different menus, confused, a kindly Portuguese couple came to my rescue. They told me I’d stumbled upon the best breakfast in Porto, and advised me to get the lanche misto.


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This was a sweet pastry with ham and cheese inside. The freshly squeezed orange juice complemented it well. I opened up to the foodie-knights in shining armour explaining I was travelling alone and needed recommendations, but they were sadly on the move and could not help me further. A lovely couple.

IMG_20151105_171249Later, I ventured to the world famous port producing district in Vila Nove de Gaia. Sadly, I got there too late for a tour of the cellars, after struggling through the rain. But still, any port in a storm eh?!  I tasted some of Taylor’s port. My favourite (on the left) was a 20 year old tawny. “That would probably be quite elderly for an owl!” I quipped, but the lady serving me only smiled blankly. Some things are just lost in translation.

All that port meant one thing, Tobes had drunk himself into a stupor of hungriness!
I was told that I must try a steak “sammy” or “sandwich” while I was there, so I sought out Reitoria, a real steakhouse.

The steak was very well done (by that I mean, cooked well, but not well cooked. It was rare.) in a nice salty foccaccia bread. The waiter picked out a local wine to go well with it – just 3 euros for a tasty glass!

I have two slight reservations about Reitoria:

1. The credit machine refused my card even though I probably have upwards of £200 left in my bank account
2. The portions weren’t huge…

IIMG_20151105_203925 didn’t fancy any of their desserts so strolled up the road to a gelataria called “Ice Lovers.” I’m not an ice lover, I think it’s dangerous –  especially on the roads – but I was tempted in by the sheer variety and colour of the flavours available.

I went for the raspberry cheesecake and caramel, with hot chocolate sauce added to the top, the equivelant of salt and grit on the road that is my mouth.

Day two
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Tapas! Yes, they do it in Portugal too! Unbelievable.

Clerigos caught my eye as I walked past the famous Lello bookstore, and so later I stopped in to have a read of my own, OF THE MENU.

I chose to “check out” (order) three “books” (dishes) for “further reading” (eating.)

The pick of the bunch, for me, were the meat croquettes, with their little beds of mashed potato. I can’t slate the presentation either.

My waiter was called Claudia (pronounced “cloudier”), who had a lovely smile and winked broadly at you as she spoke. She was very patient and helped me choose a beer and dessert to go with them:

These were: the Oktoberfest beer from Super Bock and the lemon and chocolate “assinhas.” These were basically sweet versions of samosas. A light ending to a complete meal.

The bill came on a tablet!

The bill came on a tablet!

I left a glowing review for Claudia on the feedback form. I look forward to the chance of eating here* again.

*This review was changed on 10/11/2015. I corrected “her” to “here.”

Day 3

Before I left for home. I had a few more hours to pack in some more bite-seeing™ Foodie Boys.

I knew there was something I had to try before I left for blighty, and that was the Francescinha!

Not an obscure Brazilian centre forward, but a delicious sandwich consisting of bread, wet-cured ham, fresh sausage, steak and covered with melted cheese and a hot thick tomato and beer sauce served with french fries. Um, yum anyone?

I was given a hot tip: the best Francescinha in Porto is produced by Bufete Fase.

However, it was really hot that day, and I didn’t want to leave my sunny spot by the river, so decided to get one at one of the many eateries on the riverfront.

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I enjoyed the bizarre mixture of meat and carbs; kind of like a wet, bready lasagne, however I feel sure if I’d have followed the actual recommendation it would have been even nicer.

One positive is that I snapped up a pair of brown sunglasses from a seller for the price of just 15 Euros when he originally wanted 25! A great bargain, and nice that he offered a table service as I ate.

With that, I was off to the plane to enjoy a crisp and Pepsi combo for £5.

Bravo, Porto!

A Mouthful of French – A Foodie Tour of Carcassonne

Carca-Where?

“Carcassonne?”
“Isn’t that a boardgame?”
“Is that the former strategic medieval stronghold in the South of France?

The answer to all of those questions, is yes. Recently, Toby took a 3 day jaunt to the city and has the following recommendations.

Where do I go for…?

…The Local Dish

“Tres bien!” this doesn’t mean “very beany,” but it should when referring to Carcassonne’s local dish the Cassoulet.

Cassoulet is a stew packed full of haricot beans, saucisson (sausage) and duck. I found this on the evening of my arrival at the Brasserie Les Platanes in a square near the local cathedral.

Sadly, still fatigued from travel, I forgot to take a photo, but I have found the nearest approximate image on Google.

Cassoulet
This brasserie was by no means special, but it served up simple, hearty fare for a low price.

As you can see from this TripAdvisor review, CityBill from Farnborough came here twice on a two day holiday he liked it so much!

…Snails, Cheese and Wine

If I were to say to you “French Tapas,” you would be forgiven for slapping me around the face. If I were to say to you “French Tapas in the belly of a medieval castle,” you’d probably slap yourself around your own face in disbelief.

Well, I did exactly the same thing when I discovered “L’Escargot,” except I had no one to slap in the face.

After my initial disbelief gave way, I rapidly ordered a number of dishes, including figs with camembert and bacon, beef on skewers and potatoes with BBQ sauce (what?!)

However, the pick of the bunch, for this Francophile were the snails, the cheese board and the red wine, “Ni Ange, Ni Demon” – Neither Angel Nor Devil.

If there’s one restaurant you should visit in Carcassonne, it should be L’Escargot.

…A Meaty Treat.

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Close to la Gare (the station) and the canal, stands Le Bistro D’Agustin a typical French-style eaterie. It offers a number of formules (or meal deals, much like Boots would in the UK) – but I chose to go a la carte.
I opted for the souris d’agneau – lamb shank. It may not look particularly appetising, but the delicious sauce and tender meat makes this a winner. Served with frites (chips) too.

…A Croissant

IMG_20150929_111944In the new town, Place Carnot is a leafy square full of lively cafés and hosts regular markets.

On a sunny morning, it’s the perfect place for a pastry and a cup of coffee. I grabbed an almond croissant from Briocherie Arpin.

As it happens it was quite a grey morning when I had this. I also don’t like coffee so I had Coca Cola instead.


… Something Sweet.

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Wait a minute! This wasn’t in Carcassonne! This wasn’t even in France!

This “chocolate mousse” from Cafe Pistou in Exmouth Market – was actually more like a “tart.”

With a hard chocolate “crust” at the top, and warm gooey caramel / chocolate centre, it was accompanied by two different creams. This truly is the creme de la creme of desserts in London!