I used to dread people asking me when my birthday is because I knew that once I told them I would be faced with those pitying looks and sympathetic remarks assuring me it’s not that bad. You see, I have what most people deem to be an unfortunate birthday. All you late December babies out there will feel my pain, but only those of you who also have birthdays within days of Christmas will truly understand the suffering. We generally get upstaged by Jesus.
Throw in the fact that my birthday is smack bang in between Christmas and New Year and you get the idea why I don’t usually celebrate it. There’s no point organising a shindig because people are either away on holiday or too skint to come toast to me getting another year older but none the wiser. So sometimes I like to celebrate my half birthday instead because June seems like a much more civilised time of year to have a birthday and in case you’re wondering, it was yesterday. Yep, happy half-birthday to me… all belated birthday wishes and gift are welcome, particularly if they involve food or drink.
However in recent years, since a certain someone and I have been together, we’ve been celebrating my real birthday is fairly good style. The first year we were en route to Hong Kong, the second was spent in Havana, and the latest was in Lisbon where I was treated to dinner at 100 Maneiras. Located in Lisbon’s hip nightlife neighbourhood of Barrio Alto, this tiny restaurant from Yugoslavian chef Ljubomir Stanisic serves only a regularly changing tasting menu of contemporary dishes with classic Portuguese flavours.
Small pieces of dehydrated bacalhau, the Portuguese staple of codfish, arrived at the table, hung on a tiny clothesline and accompanied by coriander aioli and red pepper coulis, both bright in colour and flavour. The codfish crisps themselves were deeply salty but delightfully light and moreish… if we weren’t in a fine dining restaurant it’s the kind of thing you happily munch on in front of the telly.
The first of the starters was a wafer thin lamb carpaccio with garlic puree and hummus which did that rather cliched thing of melting in your mouth and leaving the slightest hint of lamb and garlic; none of that overpowering fatty lamb taste here.
Next was the playfully plated ‘tic tac toe’ of seared scallop with turnip and ceps mousse, followed by the poached egg with potato foam, corn bread and sliced truffle. The humble egg was just cooked enough to leave the whites translucent and the yolk to ooze out over the corn bread crumbs, while the truffle really rammed home the idea that this was not your everyday poached eggs on toast.
This majestic fillet of mullet sitting on top of shellfish quinoa was nothing like the delicate fish dish I was expecting. Unsurprising was the perfectly cooked mullet, but what really impressed me was the intense seafood flavour the quinoa had taken on, and how well the robust grainy texture of it worked with the fish. Swiftly after devouring that dish, we were given a shot of the rise and shine cocktail, a concoction of grapefruit, ginger and peppermint to cleanse the palate, but honestly it just felt like a nice sip of juice!
This was without a doubt the most theatrical dish, but in my opinion, it was all smoke and mirrors in every sense of the word. Once the fog lifted, it unveiled a perfectly satisfactory dish of pork belly with celery puree and chayote confit; none of the wow factor in flavour or style that I was expecting but tasty none the less.
The first of our desserts was a Portuguese pear tartin with port and wine foam, arriving to the table in a coffin-like contraption which did make me think twice about lifting the lid to find out what was lurking beneath. Thankfully, there were no horrors to be found, only a deconstructed style tartin with delicate flavours of pear and caramel. The chestnut pudding with verbena ice cream arrived in a more traditional fashion, a velvety smooth but dense slice of cake with an unmistakable chestnut flavour.
Several hours later, we were full to the brim and grinning like fools because firstly, this was an excellent meal, and secondly they poured our matched wines with a generous hand. We found the service to be a little manic at times but in typical Portuguese style it was jovial and entertaining, consider it part of the restaurant’s charm. There are a lot of restaurants in Lisbon to choose from but 100 Maneiras does well to differentiate itself with its creativity; for those looking for a contemporary taste of Portuguese cuisine, this is the place for you. It was definitely a worthy place to mark the start of my 28th year of overindulgence and gluttony!
Reservations are definitely recommended but if you can’t get a table here or are after something more casual, consider their sister restaurant Bistro 100 Maneiras which has an a la carte menu.
If you’re looking for more ideas on where or what to eat in Lisbon, check out my Lisbon Food Tour.