Pap’Açorda opened almost 40 years ago in the Portuguese capital, changed location, but continues to be perfect because the cuisine retains the same identity: Manuela Brandão.
Only a few months ago, while in Portugal, Robert De Niro felt moved. And it was because of something dear to Portuguese hearts: food. The American actor has been a regular visitor to Lisbon since the 1980s and Pap’Açorda is one spot he often returns to. The restaurant’s head cook, Manuela Brandão, recalls that De Niro always dined there and one of his favourite dishes was stewed fava beans. This year, Manuela discovered that the actor was back and made the dish for him. De Niro was surprised and moved that Manuela remembered.
She began working here before she was old enough to vote, making the move from a small village in Montalegre, in Trás-os-Montes, making food solely for the restaurant staff. A snowstorm changed things. At the time, the then chef and brother of the owner, Eduardo Fernandes, was unable to get back to Lisbon because the roads were blocked. The restaurant was going to close but Manuela said she would take command, which she has done ever since.
Pap’Açords is one of Lisbon’s most iconic eateries, which, alongside the bar Frágil, inspired nightlife in the capital’s Bairro Alto neighbourhood in the 1980s, with Fernando Fernandes and Manuel Reis at the helm. Three years ago, it relocated to the top floor of the Mercado da Ribeira market, where it boasts two large dining rooms with river views, separated by a transparent wine cellar. The food is traditional Portuguese cuisine, always with a modern approach, where diners can enjoy parsnip tempura with spicy mayonnaise, fish salad à algarvia… and the famous chocolate mousse.
Today, perhaps Manuela would have studied, maybe “to learn other techniques”, however, her school has been countless cookbooks and her ability to innovate. And it’s been around three decades at Pap’Açorda, with many memories of serving the country’s politicians, including the former President of Portugal, Mário Soares, a regular customer, as well as other famous faces, such as Sean Connery, Catherine Deneuve and John Malkovich. The move didn’t change the thing that everyone wants from a restaurant: good food.
Avenida 24 de Julho, 49 \\\ papacorda.com
by Augusto Freitas de Sousa /// photo Gonçalo F. Santos
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