Jose Avillez Lisboa- Local Food

José Avillez

Lisbon was packed in November, partially due to a web conference, so I was happy to obtain a dinner reservation at Barrio do Avillez. I arrived unfashionably early at 8:30 pm, at least I wasn’t the only early diner – the restaurant was actually very full. This location has three distinctive restaurants under one roof. On arrival you pass through an al carte restaurant to reach Barrio do Avillez. In an upstairs loft is the Pisco bites bar. Eventually two young guys sitting next to me from South Korea asked me about one of my dishes. We ended up chatting during dinner and since they had never tasted the yummy local cheese, I ordered it, had one bite and shared the rest. Friends are made everywhere over food! They invited me to Seoul saying the country loved Americans despite our current political risk.


Portuguese and a chef, José Avillez’ main focus is to promote Portuguese gastronomy and to contribute to making Portugal a top gastronomic destination. He’s considered one of the great references of gastronomy in Portugal and has stood out because of his enterprising spirit and of his drive to keep pushing further.

José Avillez grew up near the ocean and a pine forest, in Cascais —this influenced his work very decisively. He studied Business Communication in College, and presented a dissertation on the image of Portuguese gastronomy, under the orientation of the key author on traditional Portuguese gastronomy, Maria de Lourdes Modesto.

In 2001, when he stepped in to the kitchen of the restaurant Fortaleza do Guincho, in Cascais, to start his first professional internship, he knew right away that he wanted to become a chef. He did many more professional internships in several different restaurants, such as Ferran Adrià’s  El Bulli, that transformed his concept of cuisine.

In 2008 he took on the role of executive chef in the emblematic restaurant Tavares, in Lisbon, the place where he’d later win his first Michelin star (2009).

In 2011, he decided to open his own restaurants. Currently, José Avillez has several restaurants in Lisbon and in Porto. While they all offer different gastronomic experiences,
they all express his great passion for cuisine.


At Belcanto —distinguished with two Michelin stars and considered one of the100 best restaurants in the world by the prestigious “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List”— José Avillez offers a revisited Portuguese cuisine in a sophisticated atmosphere that evokes the old romantic feel of Chiado. This is the style that truly defines José Avillez and expresses his creative evolution;

Beco is José Avillez’ most surprising venue. This is a special place where haute-cuisine meets show business in an immersive and memorable experience. In this bohemian and sophisticated restaurant and bar inspired by the 1920’s and 1950’s clubs, there’s a set tasting menu that is never revealed beforehand;

Mini Bar is José Avillez’ gourmet bar. Located inside Teatro São Luís, it has livened up Chiado’s evenings and nights, offering a new entertainment concept. Monday to Sunday, from 7.00 p.m. onward, José Avillez suggests a Bar Menu, and small, varied and flavorful gastronomic experiences, along with wonder and fun that can be enjoyed in the bar area or at the tables reserved for dinner. This is not a traditional restaurant. Here, everything is not what it seems;

Bairro do Avillez is an ample and bright place with different, yet complementary gastronomic concepts inspired by the best Portuguese flavours. This is the most atypical of Lisbon’s neighborhoods. Open every day from 12.00 p.m. to 12.00 a.m., here there’s a Mercearia (gourmet deli) stocked with irresistible delicacies, a wonderful Taberna for those who like hearty food, a Páteo where seafood and fish are king, and Cantina Peruana, with an offer of Peruvian contemporary cuisine signed by the chef Diego Muñoz;

Cantinho do Avillez is a relaxed meeting point in both Lisbon and Porto where you can sample a new style of Portuguese cuisine, clearly influenced by the chef’s travels;

Café Lisboa was designed to bring new life
to Largo de São Carlos. Café Lisboa is part of Teatro Nacional de São Carlos and has a beautiful terrace. At Café Lisboa, you can drink coffee, have a snack, eat lunch or dinner or simply enjoy a drink, at any time, from noon to midnight, seven days a week;

Pizzaria Lisboa is an old dream come true. José Avillez dreamt of opening a pizzeria ever since he was a little boy. Maybe because he was fascinated by the way pizza has travelled the world, maybe because he loves the fun,
family-friendly atmosphere of pizzerias, or maybe because he loves a challenge. Quite probably, for all of these reasons;

The People You Meet Along The Way

Meandering through cities, wandering across ancient stone hallways of massive churches and monuments in the countryside, occasionally we pass a farmer and his wooden stand along the side of the road, I always make a point to stop and investigate the local produce stands. I have a photo of myself along a rural road in France, wallet open, letting a withered old farmer pull Francs out of my wallet for the bag of walnuts I purchased. We communicated with nuts, he may have robbed me of Francs, but I’ll never forget the simple encounter.

In Portugal, everyone snacks on sweets, I love dark chocolate, but multiple sweet stops is not high on my list, thus if I encounter a vendor selling nuts or fruit, I line up front & center!

The Convent of Christ, Tomar Portugal

A historic visit in Tomar to the Convent of Christ, originally a 12th-century Templar stronghold, the order was dissolved in the 14th century the Portuguese branch was turned into the Knights of the Order of Christ, that later supported Portugal’s maritime discoveries of the 15th century. The convent and castle complex is a historic and cultural monument and was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. Filled with cloistered rooms, numbered crypt laid under the stone floor, radiant religious Portuguese tiles and fading frescoes.

An upper rampart view provided an elevated view of the original vegetable and fruit gardens which sustained many people hundreds of years ago. These empty buildings and grounds are haunted by interesting stories.

Gardens at the Convent of Christ, Tomar Portugal

On departing, I turned back toward the garden and to my surprise a woman had set up a fruit trolley while we were inside the convent. Perfect- healthy snacks. Helia spoke a bit of English, and my guide translated for me… I carried that little bag of dried figs around for days, noshing from a local garden. She had a basket of small wild strawberries, that she fermented – just the aroma of the liquor was too much, so I didn’t indulge in the local berry liquor, but I did buy a large bag of dried oregano! I’ll be reminded of this simple exchange whenever I stir the fragrant oregano into a delectable salad dressing or marinade.

Helia’s Fruit & Vegetable Trolley – The Convent of Christ, Tomar Portugal

Wild strawberries and Fermented berries in jar- too strong to taste!

Helia, a local woman selling her fruit, spices and vegetables at The Convent of Christ, Tomar Portugal

Through The Frame