Every now and again you have a meal that is so wrong on so many levels and that was our experience at Senhora Mae in Lisbon. It didn’t start off too badly the menu read promisingly (if perhaps with the benefit of hindsight a little too adventurous) combining Portugese food with an Italian influence. At lunchtime the sunny outdoor seating on wooden decking overlooking the street was fairly full. Our waiter was fairly knowledgeable about the wine list and brought out bread, some excellent olives and a very moreish pesto spread.
Things went downhill from there very swiftly as soon as our actual meals arrived. The problem with Senhora Mae is that there is someone in the kitchen trying to be much too clever. This means that the food is overly calculated and suffers from mismatched flavour combinations and textures. A prime example was the innocuously named Portugese chicken salad. The name suggested a simple rustic dish and perhaps you would even expect a couple of pieces of lettuce as well. No such luck. For some unfathomable reason the chef had decided to make the Portugese chicken salad using those crisps you can buy that look like french fries (and I think are also called French fries). The result was completely bizarre and almost inedible although we were so hungry that we managed.
It was a similar story with the cod and mashed potatoes which was the waiters recommendation. What could have been a lovely, simple dish was massacred by actually mashing the cod into the mashed potato creating a gluggy listless mix that was then shaped with a chefs ring and topped with curls of fried potato. It would almost have been amusing if I had not had to eat it.
Eating at Senhora Mae is like seeing a beautiful girl with her face caked in makeup and wearing unflattering designer clothes. Through too much effort and a misplaced sense of style Senhora Mae manages to transform Portugal’s excellent produce into overworked and overwrought culinary disasters. If you make a trip to Lisbon avoid Senhora Mae at all costs and try out one of the simple local restaurants instead.
Details: Largo de Sao Martinho, 6 e 7, Lisbon, Portugal (Ph 21 887 5599)
If you liked reading this you might be interested in reading about some far superior meals I had in Lisbon including succulent rotisserie chicken at Restaurant Bonjardim and excellent seafood at tiny Cantinho do Bem Estar.