As Lisbon's biggest market is transformed into a gourmet food hall, we take a look at the best places to eat in Portugal's capital, a city renowned for its seafood - and custard tarts
Time Out Mercado da Ribeira, Cais do Sodré
Within weeks of its opening in May 2014, the new food court at Mercado da Ribeira - Lisbon's biggest fresh food market - has become a firm favourite among Lisboans. The first permanent foodie venture for Time Out, the market hosts a total of 35 kiosks - all branded in the same smart black and white signage and selling regional specialities, including Azeitão sheep's cheese, plates of ham from the Alentejo, and custard tarts from award-winning cafe Aloma. Tins of sardines in beautiful retro packaging at the Conserveira de Lisboa, wines from Garrafeira Nacional or chocolates from Arcádia make great presents to take home. In addition, five top chefs have restaurants here, offering clever dishes playing with Portuguese flavours from €5 (marinated mackerel with gazpacho at Alexandre Silva). Settle yourself at one of the high wooden benches and it would be very easy to while away a few hours eating your way around Portugal's culinary highlights. The original fish, fruit and vegetable stalls on the other side of the huge 19th century building still sell their wares every day, except Sunday, until lunchtime.
• Avenida 24 de Julho Lisbon, open from 10am to midnight (Sunday to Wednesday), 10am to 2am (Thursday to Saturday)
Cervejaria Ramiro, Intendente
Nicknamed the seafood temple, Ramiro is a historic Lisbon institution, well discovered by tourists but still loved by locals. This is the place to come to indulge in the country's fantastic seafood - glass cabinets display fabulous tiger prawns, huge red scarlet shrimp, spikey shellfish (known as spiny dye-murex), crab, lobster, oysters, and of course, the classics in every Portuguese restaurant: clams and percebes (barnacles). Originally opened in 1956, Ramiro's is a well-oiled machine with slick, speedy service from waiters who zip about holding giant platters of seafood aloft, but still have time for a joke with regulars, or to indulge children - my son was given paper and pencils and lots of hair ruffles. Piles of toasted bread dripping in garlic butter are brought to your table while you wait - and replenished when you inevitably polish them off. If you can, leave room for a prego, a steak sandwich which is usually served after the seafood. Get there early to avoid queuing, although the staff do their best to keep hungry punters happy, offering drinks to those standing in line.
• Avenida Almirante Reis 1, +351 21 885 1024, cervejariaramiro.pt
Decadente, Bairro Alto
The Independente Hostel & Suites is one of the city's impressive crop of stylish hostels and the Decadente is its in-house restaurant, an atmospheric, funky space that appeals as much, if not more, to locals and non-guests as it does to the budget-conscious residents. Big shuttered windows, artfully arranged vintage kitchen finds and low-hanging table lamps create a stylish backdrop for a modern Portuguese menu, including seafood rice (described on the menu as Portugal on a plate), Iberian pork belly and cod with honey and almonds. Tables spill out into a pleasant cobbled courtyard.
• Rua de São Pedro de Alcantara 81, +351 21 346 13 81, theindependente.pt
Cantinho do Avillez, Chiado
José Avillez is one of Portugal's most famous chefs, a trailblazer in the same mould as Ferran Adrià and Heston Blumenthal, and owner of Michelin-starred Belcanto and the new Mini Bar, a bar with gourmet, experimental canapés. Cantinho do Avillez, his bistro, is a small, simple room embellished with industrial chic features - factory lights and a concrete floor. Olives were brought to our table with a delicious tomato and olive oil dip and filigree-thin toast. The menu cherry-picks from international cuisines with the likes of lamb tagine, steak tartar with New York potatoes and suckling pig with Asian flavours. My tuna main course was the most tender piece of the fish I've ever eaten, and prawns were sweet and fresh. Go at lunchtime and order the steak sandwich (€8.75) or dish of the day (€10.50) to keep the bill down. Even at night, the prices (starters from €4.50, mains from €17.25 and deserts from €5) are a lot less than you would pay for a similar meal and service in many other European cities. Worth splashing out for.
• Rua dos Duques de Bragança 7, + 351 21 199 2369, cantinhodoaville.pt
Tágide Wine and Tapas Bar, Chiado
This fabulous tapas bar is in upmarket Chiado, below the famous restaurant of the same name. There are two lunch options: one course for €8.50 or three for €12.50, both including a glass of wine and coffee. Or order separate small plates of Ibérico ham (€9) or the Portuguese classic amêijoas à bulhão pato (clams in white wine and garlic). If you haven't already gorged on custard tarts, the €12.50 menu is worth it for Tágide's version, served warm with cinnamon ice-cream. Set in an elegant room of glossy dark wood and shelves lined with Portuguese wines, overlooking the town hall, it's a place to linger.
• Largo da Academia Nacional de Belas Artes 18 and 20, Chiado, +351 213 404 010, restaurantetagide.com
Kiosks and churrascarias, city-wide
In Lisbon kiosks aren't the desperate last resort of late-night commuters, but civilised rest spots on some of the city's famous hills or in shady parks, and offering decent snacks, reasonably priced fresh juices, good coffee, beer, even cocktails. Many have been in the same spot for decades, their original wrought iron restored; newer ones are replicas but are painted the same classy racing green as the originals. As an example, the kiosk opposite the Independente hostel in Bairro Alto sells draft Sagres for €2, coffee for €1.20, sandwiches from €3.80 and soup of the day for €3. Come at happy hour (6-9pm) when a (150ml) beer costs €1.50 and a caipirinha €6, and nab one of the deckchairs offering views across the terracotta rooftops.
Every neighbourhood has at least one churrascaria - or grill. The Churrasco da Graça in the villagey neighbourhood of the same name is a classic example ... white paper tablecloths, TV on in the corner, tables full of locals. Grilled sardines cost €8, as does half a chicken (a great takeaway option if you're staying nearby).
• Largo da Graca 43
Atira-te ao Rio, Cacilhas
Lisbon is a city of spectacular views. Numerous miradors, rooftop terraces and historic towers provide panoramas. But if you want to see the whole city stretched out along the river bank you need to cross the Tagus to the south bank. Ferries run from Cais do Sodré to Cacilhas four times an hour until 1.20am. A short walk alongside abandoned riverside warehouses brings you to this little restaurant where a few tables and chairs lit by torches are set along the water's edge. There are tables inside (and fishing nets on the ceiling) but the point here is the view: you come here to see the sun setting behind the 25 de Abril suspension bridge and, as darkness falls, the twinkling orange lights of the city. The food's pretty good too. Nibble on tuna pâté, olives, bread and olive butter as you choose between confit cod, fish stew or Portuguese steak. Our dinner for two with beer, a glass of wine and two puddings came to €44.
• Cais do Gingal 69/70, +351 21 275 1380, atirateaorio.pt
A modern take on the seafood restaurant, SeaMe has solid wooden tables, waiting staff in grey Mao-style jackets, waitresses sporting I'm a Fish addict T-shirts, and a menu sprinkled with slogans ... 'Good things come to those who wait', and so on. Naff wording aside, SeaMe offers an Asian-inspired menu that makes an interesting change from the classics seen in most other restaurants. Alongside sushi and sashimi there's pan fried Azores parrot fish; seared tuna comes with wasabi ice-cream; and other fish listed include John Dory, grouper, turbot, cod, red mullet and Dover sole.
• Rua do Loreto 21, +351 21 346 1564, peixariamoderna.com
'The Nuns' Canteen' (Associação Católica Internacional ao Serviço da Juventude Feminina - ACISJF)
Tucked away on an unmarked side street, with a discreet sign on the door, this is a place few Lisboans know about, let alone tourists. Run by a Catholic association (hence the nickname), it's a favourite among students and local office workers who come here to eke out their euros - €6.50 buys you a main course and either soup or a dessert - served from a hatch by women in nylon aprons and hairnets. At that price you can't expect gourmet food but it's freshly cooked and comes with a gorgeous view from the roof terrace - tucked between the lush gardens of expensive apartments - of the rooftops and the suspension bridge. A bargain lunch with a spectacular view.
• Travessa do Ferragial 1, +351 213 240 910
Belém is one of the most touristy parts of Lisbon. They come by the coachload to see Belém tower, the spectacular Jerónimos Monastery, and of course, the Pastéis de Belém, the cafe that invented the famous custard tart, and still sells up to 20,000 of them a day. Despite their popularity the family owners have admirably refused to open other outlets, which means long queues for takeaways but it's easy to nab a seat in the labyrinthine interior. A tart of crispy, flaky pastry filled with meltingly creamy custard and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar costs a modest €1.05. They are dangerously moreish so avoid if you want an appetite for À Margem, a 10-minute walk along the waterfront. Housed in a gleaming white former shipping container with views of the river from its open side, À Margem is a cool, trendy spot that attracts well-heeled locals and some tourists. There's a selection of sandwiches (from €6.50), salads (from €9.80) or fill up on custard tarts before you arrive and just take in the view over a glass of €5.20 wine as sailing boats glide past. Not cheap, but a good option in a part of the city big on American chains and low on decent places to eat.
• Doca do Bom Sucesso, Santa Maria de Belém, +351 91 782 4149, amargem.com
• Additional reporting by Celia Pedroso
• Flights were provided by easyJet. Flights to Lisbon from five UK airports start at £34.99 one way. Accommodation at Vila Berta, a one-bedroom apartment in Graça, was provided by Your Apartment in Lisbon