For my most recent trip to Lisbon, I was lucky to spend a night at the Four Seasons Hotel - Ritz Lisboa to meet the team and cook a few dishes with their executive chef, Pascal Meynard. Regarded as Lisbon’s foremost luxury hotel, situated in the very heart of the city, overlooking the Eduardo VII Park with amazing views of Lisbon from their rooftop running track (by far the best urban running track in the world IMO). It is only a 10-minute taxi or 30-minute stroll down to the old town and seafront. With a mix of Louis XVI style and art deco with wall decorations, tapestries and many art hangings throughout the hotel makes you feel like you're in an art gallery. But I’m not here for their spectacular architecture and art. I’m here for the food, and Chef Pascal is the 'artist' that I’m here to see.
Hailing from France, Pascal is the man in charge and upon arrival welcomes me warmly and tells me about the dishes we’ll be cooking. But first up, there's a spot of LUNCH! So lunch at the Four Seasons is something of an institution with locals and business types devouring a buffet from inside the Varanda Restaurant that can even be taken out onto the terrace. Now, I've done my fair share of travelling and the term ‘buffet’ never really fills me with any culinary expectation. But this was quite something offering a mix of well thought out and executed international and local cuisine.
My personal highlights were the sushi, cold fish cuts and a bream fillet with a Provencale crust. My wife, to no surprise, will devour anything with sugar and enjoyed their mini pastel de natas and eclairs. The hotel's showpiece and a must try is their mille-feuilles (meaning a thousand leaves), all made in-house by Pastry Chef Fabian Nguyen. Paired with a glass of port while sitting in the Lisbon sunshine, it's easy to see why their lunch buffet is so popular.
After a wake up coffee and a few more pastries (it is a buffet after all…), I headed to the rooftop to meet Chef Pascal where we cooked a dish that shouts out loud about Portuguese cuisine and produce; Seafood Cataplana!
As chef told me, “when the local produce is this good, there’s no excuse not to use it”. With onion and lots of garlic as the base with Portuguese olive oil, then roasted peppers, white wine, seafood bisque, clams, lobster, Algarve prawns, monkfish, snapper and sea bass then cooked lid closed in a cataplana for 5 minutes then garnished with coriander. The colours reminding me of the Portuguese flag, this is exactly what Portuguese cooking is all about. Simple and quick while using the freshest ingredients resulting in layers of flavour and textures. I order you to try!
Chef Pascal's Seafood Cataplana
- 1 lobster, cooked & cut into thumb size pieces
- 2 large Algarve shrimps or large tiger prawns
- 50-100g monkfish
- 50-100g sea bass
- 50-100g Snapper
- 100g clams
- half a green bell peppers, roasted, peeled & thinly sliced
- half a red bell peppers, roasted, peeled & thinly sliced
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 5-6 gloves of garlic, crushed
- handful of coriander, roughly chopped
- 1 ripe tomatos, diced
- 50ml virgin olive oil
- 100ml white wine
- 100ml of seafood bisque
On the bottom of the cataplana dish place the ingredients by the following order; clams, then the onions, garlic, bell peppers, tomatos, monkfish, sea bass, snapper, prawns, lobster, white wine and virgin olive oil and season with salt. Close the cataplana and on a stove cook on medium heat until steam comes out from the sides of the cataplana (7-8 minutes).
Open in front of your guests and garish with coriander.
Next was down to the kitchen to make a Portuguese classic sandwich called ‘Prego’. Now, I’m a BIG fan of sandwiches and I’ve long been a big fan of Bifana which are grilled pork sandwiches and the Prego is just a simple substitution using beef instead of pork. Chef Pascal took me through his take with a few twists on the classic sandwich using Bolo do Caco (muffin/scone made from sweet potato from Madeira), garlic butter, tenderloin beef steak (minute-fried), cheese, ham, thin omelette and salad then warmed through under the grill. It’s as good as it sounds. The meat cooked quickly then rested, layers of flavour and texture from the ham, cheese and omelette, freshness from the salad, the garlic butter which IMO is such an important ingredient for Pregos and Bifanas and then encased a warm sweet potato muffin like bun. WOW! I mean just look at the pic, you would wouldn’t you.
Later that evening, our excellent concierge got us a late booking at popular ‘Mini Bar’ by Jose Avillez. Once a chef at El Bulli and now returning home to make things happen in Portugals's ever growing relaxed dining scene. Very yummy yet playful, the perfect end to the day.
The next day after a late breakfast, the hotel arranged for us to get out and see the town on one of the many tuk-tuks (ours being electric with zero emissions was a plus making it a quiet ride too). Our driver, Antonio, was the perfect guide. Being from Lisbon, he was very knowledgeable not just about the city's history but just as important to me about the bars, cafes and easy eating spots where the locals like to go. He kindly, although probably from my continuous nagging, took us for a beer and Bifana in one of his favourite spots. A nice finishing touch but to be totally expected from the warm natured people of Portugal.
Then it was back to the hotel to grab our belongings and make the quick jump back to London ;'(
Many thanks to Chef Pascal, Vasco, Diana and everyone at the Four Seasons Lisboa. I will see you very soon.