Every Lisboeta (Lisboner) we spoke to recommended dinner at Pap’ Acorda however I had also read some fairly bad reviews from reputable sources. It seemed that, as a tourist rather than a local, the service at this hip Lisbon restaurant could make you feel very second class citizen. Still with so many recommendations I really wanted to eat there so Clare, Lucy, Liv and I decided to try and blend in with the locals as much as possible by making a 10.30pm reservation (yes we were starving) and dressing up for the night eschewing sensible tourist flat shoes for heels which were lethal on the cobblestones but de rigeur for female Lisboners.
Pap’ Acorda is very much a place to see and be seen. Housed in the Barrio Alta the looks is modern and slick with the dining area divided into two rooms with one room (the smoking area) also containing a long bar along one wall while the main room is all white light and dripping with decadent Murano glass chandeliers. The restaurant buzzes with energy as the all male waiting staff clad in designer pink and white tops dart between tables.
First to the wine list which is an all Portugese affair that is largely a mystery to us given our limited knowledge of Portugese wine. Luckily our waiter is very helpful and guides us towards an appropriate bottle which is very reasonably priced. Onto the menu which is a hit list of Portugese classics although given the time of night we decide to skip the starters and plump straight for the mains.
Since we are at Pap’ Acorda I feel that I really should order the cod which comes served with acorda itself. The acorda is a bread based stew flavoured with vegetables and coriander that probably best compares with a chunky mashed potato. The combination of the acorda with three pieces of battered fish was too heavy and monotonous both in terms of texture and flavour. I don’t want to write off this national dish altogether and perhaps I would have preferred the acorda if I had teamed it with something lighter such as prawns or calamari. A better option at Pap’ Acorda is the grilled seabass which is served whole and cooked simply but perfectly. However, it is the breaded veal that is not to be missed and we look on in envy as Clare cuts open the thick chunks of veal which are served in an earthenware dish to reveal the tender rosy meat.
Order the chocolate mousse for dessert and skeens of dark mousse are ladled with great theatre from a huge mixing bowl onto a plate to share. Pap’ Acorda prides itself on its chocolate mousse and the silky sensuous taste justifies this parochial view.
Pap’ Acorda is all about the experience rather than the food itself, so I can imagine that if you received bad service you would feel quite disgruntled. Luckily for us, our waiter was charm personified (perhaps it was the heels that did it) so we did enjoy our meal despite it being our most expensive meal in Lisbon by far. Go to Pap’ Acorda for the atmosphere and the chocolate mousse but maybe give the acorda itself a miss.
Details: 57-59 Rua du Atalaia, Lisbon, Portugal (Ph 351 21 346 4811)
If you liked reading this you might like to read about our fabulous meal at the tiny Cantinho do Bem Estar in Lisbon or what about the brilliant rotisserie chicken with peri peri sauce at Restaurant Bonjardim.