Solar dos Presuntos

R. das Portas de Santo Antão 150

1150-269 Lisbon



The Food:

Pata Negra and chorizo with Manchego

Galician-style sliced octopus

Cod fish cakes

Goat (kid) with potatoes and rice

Almond cake

The Wine:

2018 Quinta da Pellada Carrocel Tinto    94

I wanted to see what Lisbon’s more upmarket restaurants offer to discerning gastronomes. Not its cluster of Michelin stars, rather I sought a top-notch address serving traditional fare with a wine list that would leave me spoiled for choice. I was recommended Solar dos Presuntos and secured an early evening table. This was restricted to two hours, which remains a gripe of mine since I dislike having to keep looking at my watch, although I was not evicted from my table after my allotted time.

The Solar dos Presuntos exterior

Opened in October 1974, Solar dos Presuntos is another Lisbon institution specializing in cuisine from the northwest region of Minho. Approaching its entrance, you get the sense of heading somewhere special. A white neon sign illuminates its name over the cobbled street and large smoked hams dangle in the front window. The restaurant is far larger than its facade suggests. Solar dos Presuntos is enormous! It covers two floors with several annexes and private rooms. Every seat is full this Friday night, with numerous youngsters dining with their parents. Every square inch of the wall is plastered with the beaming smiles of celebrities that have entered its door: artists, politicians, athletes, pop stars and so forth. I enquire about their most famous visitor ever, and our waiter nonchalantly answers Nelson Mandela. I spot Cristiano Ronaldo just by the entrance. Apparently, his fellow ex-Manchester United teammate David Beckham is elsewhere. These photos ramp up the anticipation before you have even sat down. Overall, the interior, which I believe was recently refurbished, is brightly-lit, tasteful and luxurious: marble floors and racks of Portugal’s finest wines on display behind thick glass. The decor is spotless: all white linen tablecloths ironed to perfection. The atmosphere is quieter and more sober than Cervejaria Ramiro. A plate of Pata Negra ham lies waiting on your table as if to say: “I’ve been expecting you. Dare you to say no?” It’s not free. But I succumb. The glistening wafer-thin ham has just the right amount of melt-in-your-mouth fattiness, which is to die for; ditto the discs of oily chorizo. Yes, doing this is a bit cheeky, and I can’t believe many customers rebuff the offer.

Pata Negra and chorizo with Manchego

For starters, I choose Galician-style octopus: slithers doused with olive oil and paprika. This is off the charts. Having lived in Japan, I’ve eaten more than my fair share of tentacles, and this ranks among the best I have savored, so tender and flavorsome. They are prudent with the amount of paprika, so I dab on more thoughtfully sprinkled around the rim to add a bit of fire. The accompanying cod fish cakes are decent enough, perhaps just a bit conservative in flavor compared to the octopus.

Galician-style sliced octopus

The main course has to be a specialty of the restaurant and the Minho region: kid goat. This dish is served with rice and boiled potatoes. Wow. This ranks amongst the most delicious dishes I’ve eaten. Tender, moist meat slides off the bone - every morsel is to die for. Having finished the three cuts, I almost do a little jig of joy when the waiter reminds me there is more on the plate. Even the potatoes seem to have been roasted in the meat juices and infused with more flavor than your normal spud.

Goat (kid) with potatoes and rice

Nicely stuffed, I have just enough space to share an almond tart. This is another fabulous dish, crumbly and nutty, simple but perfectly executed.

As already mentioned, Solar dos Presuntos boasts one of the country’s most comprehensive wine lists. My only quibble is that I have to scroll through pages on my Smartphone. This is one occasion when I would like to peruse the list at leisure to make sure I choose wisely. You will find some of Portugal’s most coveted bottles, apparently including one made by Dirk Niepoort and produced exclusively for the restaurant. I push the boat out without going crazy, choosing a well-priced 2018 Carrocel Tinto from Quinta da Pellada, from the estate resurrected by former engineer Alvaro de Castro in 1980. Youthful on the nose, it delivers pure blackberries, cassis, incense and crushed violets scents: think Margaux mixed with Dão, even though it is pure Touriga Naçional. The palate is beautifully balanced with saturated tannins, perfect acidity, seamlessly integrated oak and a long, tender, pure finish. At 13% alcohol, this wine doesn’t overwhelm, though it clearly needs several years before reaching its peak. Not for the first time, it leaves me wondering why more oenophiles do not drink Portuguese wine?

Almond cake

Solar dos Presuntos fulfilled my expectations. It is a very impressive large-scale restaurant that operates like a well-oiled machine. The service was excellent throughout. My only regret was that I was the only person drinking that night. This would be a perfect place to join fellow wine lovers to make deeper inroads into the list. It is a restaurant that caters to families and couples, wine lovers and foodies, famous football stars and far less famous wine writers. I appreciate how it shuts out the outside world and foments its lively simmering atmosphere without compromising a sense of intimacy. Compared to the UK, it is well-priced at around €30 for many main courses (though you pay premiums for more lux dishes like lobster).

I will definitely be back to see who else I can spot on its hall of fame.

© 2023, Vinous. No portion of this article may be copied, shared or re-distributed without prior consent from Vinous. Doing so is not only a violation of our copyright, but also threatens the survival of independent wine criticism.