Obidos is a beautiful, historical walled town in the west of Portugal around 85km from Lisbon, known as the ‘wedding present town’ as it was a wedding gift from King Dinis to his new wife, D. Isabel, in 1282. These days Obidos is famed for not only for the the old world charm of its sleepy, cobbled streets and imposing Medieval castle, but also for the production of Ginjinha, a sour cherry liqueur traditionally drunk from mini chocolate cups. We spent 4 days there earlier this summer and here are my picks of the best restaurants to eat at when you visit this historical walled town.
Pousada Do Castelo
Its not every day that you get to eat in a castle and for a really memorable evening you should not pass up the opportunity to have lunch or dinner at the “Pousada do Castelo” a beautiful traditional Portuguese boutique hotel and restaurant inside the Obidos castle itself.
As with many of the restaurants we visited there is a small cover charge per person which covers everything from bread and butter to olives, local cheeses and tinned fish pastes. Although you can decline the offer, thus avoiding the cover charges, I enjoyed the assorted cheese, olives and bread with my aperitif – a local drink of white port, tonic and mint – very much and it was a nice start to the meal.
We started with the “Degustação de 3 Petiscos Regionais” a tasting platter of 3 regional appetizers ; Mariscada em Vinagrete com laranja (Shellfish salad in vinegar and orange sauce)Peixinhos da Horta (Fried green beans with flour, eggs and onion purée) and a Seleção de enchidos regionais (Regional Charcuterie selection) all of which I enjoyed, especially all of the different types of sausages on the charcuterie, many of which I had never tried before. Other appetisers included Sopa de Espargos com Amendoa Torrada an asparagus soup with the unusual toppings of toasted almonds and slices of chicken, Vieiras Frescas Salteadas, sautéed scallops with fresh apple and watercress and a simple Salada Quente of mixed greens, diced vegetables and local fresh cheese and we were all impressed with the dishes we chose
I loved my main course of Bacalhau à Brás polvilhad a dish of what was essentially scrambled eggs with shredded salt cod, fried straw potatoes and local onions mixed through it, making for a hearty and flavourful main course that I really enjoyed. My sister was similarly impressed with her choice and for her, the Bife à Portuguesa was one of the best dishes of the holiday; local veal steak in a garlic and herb sauce topped with shredded smoked ham and sliced potatoes.
Other main courses of Peito de “Pato Real” honey glazed roasted “royal” duck breast with sultanas, grapes and dried figs in an orange and honey sauce and Polvo a Lagareiro – grilled octopus with potatoes and turnip tops in a spicy olive oil showed a talented kitchen and an interesting insight into regional Portuguese cooking and whilst a dinner at the Pousada is not cheap, it is certainly a meal you will remember for a long time to come.
Cozinha das Rainhas
Another similarly high end restaurant – although admittedly in slightly less glamorous surroundings – is Cozinha das Rainhas restaurant inside the Casa das Senhoras Rainhas hotel in Obidos.
We were somewhat amused by the menu descriptions which included such gems as “Flamboyant Prawns, stripped and marinated in chilli with allegro tones” but the prawns were indeed flamboyant, packing a good chilli kick and making our taste buds dance as we ate them! The giant scallops were said to be “flattered with coriander” and it was true that the flavours of spinach, coriander and the juicy scallop coral worked together harmoniously, as did those of my meaty fish soup which although good, couldn’t hold up to the delicious crab soup from earlier in the holiday.
I had another intriguing main course, Fillets of Hake fried until golden and served with a wild mushroom panada – a sort of thick, bread based sauce – interesting but a little heavy and sadly missing some vegetables, those who chose the Silver Seabass nested with herbs and shrimps and the Duck Breast with foie gras purée and sketches of raspberry seemed to be more successful than with their main courses but I was glad to have tried something different and the restaurant was still lovely so I would have no hesitation in recommending it.
Although Alcaide was noticeably cheaper than the first two restaurants we visited in Obidos, we were all very impressed with the food there and it was a great restaurant to visit on our last night.
Appetisers of Warm Goats Cheese with Local Honey, Sardines on Home Made Corn Bread or Asparagus with Porco Preto Vinaigrette were so simple yet the quality of the ingredients used meant that the flavours really shone through. I also loved my Seafood Crepe – available as both starter and main course – the creamy seafood sauce was generously filled with shrimp, scallops and flakey white fish with salmon yet it was portioned perfectly so as not to be too filling.
Continuing my run of unusual main courses, I decided to try their signature dish of Bacalhau Alcaide; salt cod with cheese, chestnuts and apple which although sounding incongruous was actually a really good flavour combination with the sweet apple and earthy chestnuts playing off nicely with the saltiness of the cod and rich cheese. Polvo Grelhado; grilled octopus with baked potato was beautifully tender – a recurrent theme with all the octopus we tried on this trip – and simply adorned with salad and potato so as to give the Octopus centre stage as it deserves. And of course, it wouldn’t be Portugal for us without some more Camaraoes al Alhinho, juicy, garlicky prawns with just a squeeze of fresh lemon and fresh bread to soak up all of the cooking juices.
Like any town that relies mostly on tourism, there are some hits and misses when it comes to dining out there but I was impressed with the quality of the produce and the cooking skills of all of the restaurants mentioned above and whether you are celebrating a special evening at the Pousada or having a fun family dinner at Alcaide I am sure you will find yourself in agreement.