Les Mauvais Garcons (Gourmet Chick in Portugal)

Sadly just because you can whip up a good caprihini it doesn’t mean that you can make a decent plate of pasta. This was the lesson I learnt after my meal at Les Mauvais Garcons in Lisbon. American in London had recommended Les Mauvais Garcons to me as a great bar in Lisbon’s alcohol fuelled party district of Bairro Alto. As a bar (and that was the capacity in which it was recommended) Les Mauvais Garcons is a winner. Its tiny size makes it feel exclusive and cosy while the well worn leather sofas and cluster of tables and chairs exude a comfortable charm. The legendary caprihinis are refreshingly acidic but lethal in strength.

Clare, Lucy and I loved Les Mauvais Garcons so much that after a night spent sipping caprihinis there we decided to return the next night for dinner. The name means the naughty boys in French and reflects the European influenced menu which features Italian, French and Spanish dishes. A starter of of pan con tomate demonstrates the Spanish heritage of the owner of Les Mauvais Garcon and the toasted bread is delicious although so heavy handed on the garlic that we should really be wearing surgical masks in public even a full day later.
The most intriguing dish on the menu is the wild rice salad with prosciutto (pictured below). The flavour combination really works and the nutty rice complements the salty prosciutto. In contrast, Les Mauvais Garcon’s chicken Caesar salad is a pale imitation of the classic dish. The chicken, egg, bacon and anchovies are strangely miniature in size and sit atop limpen mixed lettuce leaves rather than crisp and refreshing cos lettuce. A big miss on the menu is the pesto spaghetti. As soon as the first strand of spaghetti had been slurped it was clear that the pesto was straight out a jar rather than freshly made. Poor Lucy was despondent “how hard can it be for a restaurant to make its own pesto” she moaned.

Les Mauvais Garcons puts so much passion into the bar side of things that it is disappointing to see the lack of attention and care given to the food. Sad to say but it’s best to stick to the caprihinis and eat elsewhere.
Details: Rua da Rosa 29, Bairro Alto, Lisbon, Portugal (Ph +351 2134 33212)
Damage: Reasonable
This is my last post on Lisbon so here are some final tips if you are planning a trip:
  • for the best pastis de nata (we taste tested at least three each day) go to Cafe Gelo, Praca Dom Pedro IV 5, 1100 Sao Nicolau, Lisbon; and
  • make sure you also check out the lovely wine bar Alfaia Garrafeira, Rua Diario de Noticias, Bairro Alto, 125 Lisbon.


  1. Gourmet Chick, I’m eating at a local Portugese restaurant tonight, so your recent Lisbon posts have left me well informed for an idea of what to order!

  2. Great tips for Lisbon, thank you. And I really do love the look of that wild rice salad with prosciutto. xx

  3. Interesting that the bar serves food, and I agree with your friend Lucy: pesto is not hard to make. šŸ™‚ Thanks for all the posts on your Lisbon trip – I always enjoy re-visiting places through other people’s experiences.

  4. Dan – what Portugese restaurant did you eat at? I am yet to try one in London (or Essex)

    Top Bird – the salad was the best part (and the caprihinis)

    American in London – We did LOVE the bar – we just should have stuck to the drinks not the food so thanks for the recommendation

  5. The food in Portugal is – shall we say – good honest fare at best. Nothing fancy. So ordering the Spaghetti Bolognese as a diversion from the chicken, pork and fish of previous evenings seemed like a no brainer. I mean who cannot cook spag-bol? Even the most basic student can whip up this dish on a dodgy single burner hob in no time. I eventually received my 10 euro plate of Spaghetti and that’s just what it was. Spaghetti. Oh sure there were teeny pieces of tomato spotted here and there and I believe I even caught a glimpse of some beef at one point. The dish was dry to say the least. When I asked for some actual sauce I was told that the dish is made differently all over the world. I explained that if this is how they make it in Portugal, they might want to change the name to something like dry Spaghetti with bits of tomato. Iā€™m sure the Italians would be ashamed! When extra sauce arrived, my spaghetti – which had been sitting on my plate – was even drier, colder and more congealed than before. It was inedible. The restaurant had a nice feel to it, but the food I tasted was not up to scratch.

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