One of the first things I did upon the arrival of 2020 was to book a long weekend away at the start of March with one of my best friends: our intention was – and is, pandemic pending (!) – to do a lot more travel this year than we did last year, and we would kick this off with an early taste of spring in Lisbon. Never having been to this capital city, I turned to my Portuguese colleague for recommendations from a local on what to see, do, eat and drink, and each recommendation was as fantastic as he described; Oficio Restaurant was no exception.
Upon arrival, we thought we had found a bar rather than a restaurant, because that’s the first thing you see; the restaurant is tucked away at the back. We were seated and offered a drink of Portuguese champagne while we waited for our table. I didn’t even know Portugal made champagne, but regardless what the French may think of me, it was rather good!
Not long after, we were taken to our table in the dimly lit dining room which, with its quiet ambiance and bare yet nature-inspired decor, echoed the contemporary and trendy vibe I had picked up on at the bar. It was Friday night, and it felt like it; we were ready to have a lovely evening.
The menu presented us with several delightful options, but we wanted to stay light and order the steak, with no appetiser. That was the plan, and in fact, and we stuck to it when we ordered. Which we thought would be fine when the bread basket came, with selections of delicious bread (soft, thick white and soft, thin rye), as well as two variations of mousses (one of chicken liver pate’, and the other was chorizo flavoured – the latter being my favourite), and the most intense flavoured olive oil with a full garlic immersed for flavour. It was all fantastic, and I wish I had taken a photo but we had walked 27,000 steps that day and I was too famished to remember! You’ll have to take my word on it…
However, just after we had devoured our bread, the most tempting site on a plate that I had seen for some time whizzed past me to another table, and I knew I just had to try the croquettes. They seemed irresistible on their wood/tree inspired plate (like the rest of the restaurant decor), those perfectly shaped golden balls. I will not deny that there was something rather, ahem, sensual about their appearance, but food has had a long history of tempting all the senses from the beginning of time, and as a woman with Latin roots, I have no difficulty acknowledging that food also has a place in that sphere as well. In any case, the croquettes were perfect: the pork inside combined with the runny quail’s egg blended beautifully and felt very much like comfort food after the strenuous day we had. I was already delighted, and the main course had yet to come.
And then, it did. The dry-aged grilled entrecote, 15 days matured, pre-sliced, arrived ceremoniously to our table, topped with a garlic clove and rosemary, and served with a chimichurri sauce. It was perfectly cooked (medium rare), tender, and delicious. I am a firm believer that when steak is properly cooked, it doesn’t need a sauce to accompany it; and so, it speaks for itself that I didn’t even touch the chimichurri.
We also ordered a couple of side dishes to accompany the entrecote. The mashed sweet potatoes with lemon and orange were light and refreshing, something I didn’t think could be said of mashed potatoes. The citrus flavour comes through without being overpowering, and we didn’t leave a drop behind. We also ordered the spinach puree’ with toasted almond petals, and this might have been my favourite: any time someone makes spinach into something so creamy and tasty that it feels like comfort food, it feels like a special event.
Worth noting at this point that the customer service was fantastic: not only was the staff attentive without being overbearing, but I found it very impressive the way that they came by to elegantly mop up any steak blood that ran over the tray and onto a table with a disinfected cloth napkin that was guided using long tongs in a very dainty manner. A small touch that went a long way.
Having had such a spectacular dinner, I couldn’t possibly skip dessert. I ordered the orange souffle’ with tangerine and rosemary ice cream. And when it arrived, it was a picture to look at: very vibrant and inviting. I very much enjoyed the different textures, with the tangerine slices, the sweet crumble, the ice cream… the only issue I had is that it was not, by definition, a souffle’. The slightly firmer lid on the orange with the creamy, runny center mixed with diced tangerine underneath was very good and I enjoyed it – but it wasn’t a souffle’, and I am fairly certain this dish didn’t go anywhere near an oven. Had it been called something else I would have been entirely satisfied; having it called a souffle’ and getting something else left a little twinge of disappointment.
After dessert I ordered my typical espresso, and it was pretty good, closing off a pretty great dinner. The restaurant was fantastic; I’d gladly eat here again when I am next in Lisbon (which is a lot more than I can say for the restaurant the hotel concierge recommended the next evening!). The bill came to a total of 72 euros for us both (I had dessert, my friend didn’t), which was entirely reasonable and fair for such great food. We left the restaurant happy and satisfied, and I was very grateful for my colleague’s recommendation.
*Calories: I was on holiday so I wasn’t tracking with any real accuracy. It’s a holiday after all!
Food taste: 4.6 / 5 (Everything was delicious!)
Food/table presentation: 4.2 / 5 (I appreciated the clean and simple dishware as well as the plating; the bleeding from the steak is inevitable and it was handled as elegantly as possible)
Service: 4.5 / 5 (Friendly service, helpful and not in any way obtrusive )
Atmosphere/decor: 4 / 5 (There was a table of very loud Americans that were distracting. That aside, it was an inviting and calming atmosphere.)
Value for money: 4.2/ 5 (We both felt we got our money’s worth.)
Overall rating: 4.3/ 5
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Haha, loud Americans. I don’t remember ever encountering the stereotypical American. Lisbon is amazing. I must go back and try more of the many restaurants I’d missed.