This January is very much DIY month in the Friend-Bartlett household, hence by brief hiatus, so whilst I’m getting to grips with plumbers, tilers and gloss paint, I find myself thinking about our trip to Lisbon last August. I never quite got round to writing up our experiences and when Rick Stein headed there as part of his ‘Long Weekends’ series, it was just the inspiration I needed. I half expected to see Carnes de Convento too feature on the programme!
We stayed a Palmela Golf Resort on Portugal’s Estoril coast, which is just 30km from Lisbon. It stretches to Cascais and is known as the Portuguese Rivera as exiled royals fled here during the late 1800s. The Friend family certainly felt pretty royal in our 5-star, 5-bed villa – a little bit of luxury all of our own. This is a popular golfing spot on the Portuguese coast, and it’s a shame we don’t have a single golfing bone between us, but we found that it was very handy for getting to Lisbon via the train (just a 45-minute hop) whilst affording the extra space. Our first day was very much one for kicking back. We headed to the nearby supermarket to stock up on some wonderfully continental goodies, we bought the entire pastry shelf and strong Portuguese coffee.
Ancient and new worlds collide at Setúbal’s Terreriro de Jesus, one of the largest town’s near Palmela. Brightly coloured graffiti, its meaning lost on us tourists, bombards three sides and provides a very urban chic backdrop for the town’s nineties style skateboarders as they perform Tony Hawk style Ollies, Hand Grinds and Tail Flips. But dominating one side, lies the Mosterio de Jesus, one of the earliest examples of Manueline architecture – Portugal’s answer to the Gothic style that swept the rest of the European continent. Many elements of the Monastery of Jesus of Setúbal can be found in churches across the country, most built during the reign of Manuel I. The monastery was once home to the order of Poor Clare nuns, but now skaters, huddle under the shade of its tympanum, fag in hand.
This was the scene that we watched as we ate our first Portuguese feast at Carnes de Covento – or ‘Meats of the Convent’. A Portuguese, Brazilian steakhouse which offered a comprehensive menu of mouth-watering steaks and exotic cuts, from skewered to rib eye. Although highly rated on Tripadvisor, there weren’t that many tourists frequenting its doors instead the place filled with Portuguese families, couples and friends.
Carnes de Convento is a spiritual place for carnivores, vegetarians are begrudgingly suffered. Tom’s heavenly Brazilian barbeque selection was ceremoniously carved at the table and my ‘Lombo do Brasil’ or filet mignon was served with tapas style sides – batatas fritas or crisps, rice, black beans, farofa (like bread crumbs). And Luke’s venison ‘espetadas’ or skewers, took pride of place on the table and even my Dad enjoyed his exotic ‘surf ‘n’ turf’ and even dived into the passionfruit sauce. (Steak and passionfruit sauce, now a regular feature!)
In homage to my own sweet tooth, I must also mention the amazing ice cream profiterole fondue that followed this meat feast. The rather dishy server properly set us up for the week, first introducing us to Setubal’s local tipple – Muscatel, and I accidently ended up buying an extra bottle from the waiter, and then giving us a lesson in ordering proper Portuguese coffee, ‘Uma Bica’. None of this espresso rubbish, please. This place was so memorable that we ate here at the beginning and end of our Lisbon trip, bookending our Portuguese gastronomic journey.