After a busy day strolling around Lisbon and doing the marvellous street art tour, I felt a bit peckish and decided to try the grilled octopus at Solar 31 da Calcada restaurant, and boy what a great decision that was. (It should be mentioned that the area is not particularly up-market. Best not to wave bundles of cash when walking the short distance to the restaurant from A Ginjinha, a historic sweet cherry schnaps street bar near Praca Dom Pedro IV, metro station Rossio).
The awesome staff immediately made me feel welcome, despite the fact that I had to talk myself into getting a table, as I didn’t have a reservation, and despite the fact that I must have had a bit of a shabby backpacker look, wearing heavy hiking boots and rain-proof gear (I had left my suitcase in a locker at the station that morning, as I was about to take the train to Porto for a boyz-only week with a good old German friend of mine, who had also managed to get permission from his wife for the occasion).
The interior decor of the restaurant is pleasant and clearly distinguishes itself from your average corner restaurant in Lisbon, but I would not call it ‘posh’ or particularly elegant (which is a plus in my book). However, the service is impeccable, very attentive and professional, and they know how to serve a meal.
The octopus must have been at least 400g, accompanied by – also very large – prawns and lovely potatoes. It was served on a plate that sat on a bowl which contained dry ice, causing the whole plate to be covered in a constantly moving fog, very sweet (the picture was taken after the bowl had been moved away).
I am an octopus man, I buy those things at the fish market, then gut them at home, then prepare, cook, and serve them, when we’ve got friends over. I love octopus and I’m quite proud of my skills, but this thing was just out of another world, perfect texture, perfect taste, perfect look, completely insane. And all this for just under €20, that’s a lot less than what you’d pay at Waitrose for the raw ingredient! (If you’re not an octopus lady or man, then go for another one of their beautiful dishes, all of which looked lovely from where I was sitting; whole octopus does have a primal touch and feel to it and it is not to everyone’s liking, I know my wife would hate eating the thing in whole, she’d be terrified. You’ve got the head, which at some stage would have contained the guts, you’ve got the mouth, which at some stage would have contained a parrot-like beak, and you’ve got the tentacles which are covered in thick skin with large suction cups.. enough said.)
I struggled to finish my meal, because of the sheer size, but the delicious – and also very reasonably priced – caraffe of red house wine did its part in finally allowing me to do the deed and finish my meal.
I find it hard to believe that they only rank #21 out of 3,580 Restaurants in Lisbon on Tripadvisor, can’t see how anyone could top this, but will be back to check out #1 to #20 in due course. Love Lisbon!