Taberna do Calhau’s foundations are well defined: Alentejo cuisine.
After taking stock of his 20 years as an architect, there was a little voice pulling him in another direction: gastronomy – “enjoying food, wines, being at the table and people”. Despite being born in Lisbon, Leopoldo Garcia Calhau adopted the heritage of his parents. He considers himself, and is considered, an Alentejan, which is reflected in what he cooks. Not wanting just another restaurant like so many others, he focussed on personal memories and devised dishes with a regional flavour.
Taberna do Calhau opened in 2019 in Lisbon’s Mouraria neighbourhood, and is his third restaurant after Sociedade in Parede, and Café Garrett at the Dona Maria II National Theatre, in the Portuguese capital. Now, Taberna serves his Alentejo fare. Cabidela with brains and parsnip, prawn and lupin soup, chickpea and cow trotter, eggs and head cheese, cod with coriander and a combination of eggs, hake ceviche and coriander.
He made culinary trips to Milan, São Paulo, New York, London and Paris, but it was Belgium that kept him longest. He discovered a cuisine he was unaware of; one with brains, boiled pork belly and a world of vegetables. But if his food is not cutting edge, the same cannot be said of the wines he has chosen, many of which are natural or biodynamic. One of his famous dishes is chickpea stew, which inspired Spanish chef Juanjo López to invite him to cook at his Cocina de Frente, in Madrid, as part of the #elcosidodetodos project, which brings together various chefs. Leopoldo won’t have an easy ride though: this month he follows the Michelin-starred Andoni Luis Aduriz of the Basque restaurant Mugaritz.
Largo das Olarias, 23, Lisboa \\\ fb.com/leopoldogarciacalhau
by Augusto Freitas de Sousa /// photo Frederico Van Zeller
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