Hidden in Lisbon’s up and coming Mouraria neighborhood is a plant based restaurant with incredible food and a great vibe.
Veg. Food in Lisbon
Back in the early 2010’s vegetarian and vegan food weren’t much of thing in Lisbon. Fish and pork, pork and fish, with a side of fried chicken and a can of sardines. That was what you could expect.
Today, though, Lisbon is one of Europe’s top cities for veg. cuisine.
There’s also lots of places featuring cuisine from Portugal’s former colonies like Brazil, India, and Mozambique. One of my favorites is Roda Viva, a little hole in the wall located on a steep street in the Alfama neighborhood. It isn’t strictly veg., but has several options for the plant based diner. Trust me on this, the mushroom and eggplant Tchatinha with Xima (a white corn dough similar to polenta), is incredible!
The Food Temple
The finest vegan food in all of Lisbon might well be at The Food Temple. They’ve been around for a decade or so in the characteristic Mouraria neighborhood.
On our first visit, Karen and I took an Uber to the restaurant (we were exhausted from a day of trekking around Lisbon and couldn’t bear facing more hills). The driver dropped us off and we looked around for The Food Temple to no avail. A couple of guys leaning on a car and drinking Sagres (Portuguese beer) asked what we were looking for. They pointed us down a few flights of stairs and in 2 minutes, there we were, The Food Temple!
There’s a handful of tables inside, but we opted to sit outside. There’s six tables (little slats of wood, really, cut to sit on the stairs) with cushions on the cement staircase. This must be one of the most unusual seating configurations I’ve ever seen at a restaurant. But, it lends itself to a nice community feeling with the other diners and we soon struck up a conversation with a group of ladies from the U.K.
Adding to the vibe is the apartments surrounding the seating area. This is a residential neighborhood. Folks returning from work with groceries or kids coming home after playing outside reminded us that we were near other people’s homes and, as such, we kept our voices down. At one point a little dog scampered through the square and up the stairs before his human appeared and called for him to return.
What’s the food like?
Great care, meticulous preparation, and quality ingredients are what makes a meal at The Food Temple special.
We always like to start with a small bowl of olives. The chef brines the fruit in house with a delicious mix of herbs. Portugal isn’t as well known for its olives as her neighbor Spain, but we’ve had wonderful olives and olive oil here. The olives at The Food Temple might be the best we’ve had in the country.
After that, Karen and I like to share a bowl of soup. Recently, we had the broccoli soup with a creamy (non dairy, obv) base and accented with a crispy green (kale?). Incredible.
Normally, I don’t like Tempeh. I find its rough texture unpleasant in the mouth. However, at The Food Temple, they make their Tempeh with a smoother texture that is quite pleasing. Skewers of Tempeh and Shitake Mushrooms were enhanced with a sweet carrot and orange glaze and topped with (again, non dairy) sour cream. Outstanding.
The wine list at The Food Temple is short, but a red from Alentejo married well to the mushroom and Tempeh skewers.
Overall, The Food Temple is one of the best in Lisbon, veg. or otherwise. The portions are a bit on the small side, but if you know that going in, you can order some Entradas (appetizers) with your main course and still have room for dessert.
About the Author
Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides to Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Monsaraz, and Evora in Portugal. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms and is distributed by the Radio Misfits Podcast Network.