The birthplace of Portugal and European Capital of Culture in 2012 is also home to some of the north’s food temples. From starred restaurants to timeless favourites, with a creative bent or a vegetarian soul, Guimarães is a great city for foodies. Discover the town one dish at a time!
Words: Teresa Castro Viana
A Cozinha by António Loureiro
From an early age, traditional cuisine loomed large in the life of António Loureiro, chef-owner of A Cozinha restaurant, with a Michelin star since 2019. “I always loved being in the kitchen of my grandmother, or my mother and aunts… as soon as I got home, I’d smell the pure, delicious aromas wafting from that minhota kitchen, from the land to the plate,” he remembers. When he embarked on his professional career, he went precisely in this direction at Ruínas, “a restaurant with codfish, kid, pork rojões and smoked meats,” some he still considers to be among his signature dishes.
Later on, he felt the need to explore other cuisines and techniques from home and abroad, but this only served to make him dig deeper into his origins. In 2016, he opened A Cozinha (The Kitchen) by António Loureiro, in Guimarães’ historical centre, “promising to celebrate the identity of Portuguese cuisine and take it to new heights” flavouring the traditional with a dash of modernity.
Fond memories are the foundations of his creativity, as well as mother nature, where much of his inspiration comes from. “Our kitchen is run based on four criteria: buy locally; close to zero waste; socially and also environmentally responsible,” he explains.
Bárbara Rodrigues (Portuguese) and Christian Rullan (Spanish) met in France in 2012. Two years later they opened Le Babachris (yes, it’s what you get when you join both their names together) in Guimarães, thus realising their dream of owning their restaurant with a bistro flavour.
With a kitchen influenced by the Mediterranean and French cuisine thanks to the experienced chef’s origins, and with a bias towards seasonal ingredients, there’s no fixed menu, but rather suggestions that change according to the availability of products on the market. “All my dishes are unique. The ingredients may repeat themselves, but the preparation and flavours are always different,” Christian explains. Faux ravioli with mussel escabeche, fava beans and peas with a saffron foam; duck magret with cardamom sauce, fennel couscous and cauliflower purée; 64% dark chocolate beetroot ganache, cacao de terre and vanilla ice cream have been just some of the dishes offered on the restaurant menu, as well as paellera-cooked rice on Saturdays for lunch, now available only by reservation for a minimum of four people.
Recommended in recent years by both the Michelin and Bib Gourmand guides, Le Babachris is for diners seeking fine quality at a good price.
Cor de Tangerina
The idea of Cor de Tangerina being a kind of cultural, political and gastronomic hotspot emerged in 2004, and while its doors didn’t open until 2006, today it is one of the most celebrated and respected restaurants in Guimarães. “Its mission is to actively participate in sustainable development, through a holistic approach to food and nutrition, and with a vegetarian menu manifesto,” explains Liliana Duarte and Álvaro Dinis Mendes, its owners.
Lacto-ovo vegetarian, with a bread and pastry bakery, Cor de Tangerina is a local producer, fair trade and organic agriculture kitchen — the little organic material it does not reuse going to a local farmer. Seasonal, locally-grown ingredients dictate what’s on the menu, such as potato, chanterelle and acorn mille-feuilles, nominated for the “7 Wonders of New Gastronomy” award in the vegan category, which it eventually won. “To have a dish which won a national award, with the word acorn in the title and that doesn’t raise eyebrows was quite an achievement” in upping the gastronomic and food sovereignty bar, they admit.
Besides the restaurant, they also offer education, with courses for the elderly, workshops for parents and children, cooking classes with farmers, and so on.
In Moreira de Cónegos, a parish in the Guimarães municipality, one of the best restaurants in the country is found, where many head off the beaten track in search of a meal they’ll never forget. São Gião opened in 1987, and after more than thirty years in business it continues to be a reference, largely thanks to Pedro Nunes’ passion for gourmet cuisine, mentor of this one-of-a-kind project where the service, ambience, and food embrace tradition with a contemporary twist.
The menu is seasonal according to the availability of ingredients, always top quality, but there are the timeless signature dishes such as the huevos rotos, the tomato and pancetta tarte tatin, the fire-roasted cod, the partridge and capon tartlets with truffle risotto, the tripas in the house style, the pig’s trotters stuffed with goat meat and of course the canilhas for dessert.
With a view overlooking vineyards and the Moreirense stadium, and a magnificent fireplace in the centre of the dining room, which warms everyone on even the coldest days, São Giao is truly an exemplar of comfort and the art of serving well. The exceptionally generous wine list is another of this locale’s attractions.
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