Sustainable glance at Portugal
Portugal is the land where “local” is cherished. The universal focus is clearly on local artisans, locally grown food and slow lifestyle. From the vegan’s perspective, the country can seem a little bit intimidating at the first glance, with all its meat and cheese heavy restaurants, shops and bakeries. However, as we recently learned, it’s quite an incorrect impression.
It is true that sometimes it requires a some more background check but everything is possible with a positive attitude! We compiled this small guide for you and listed out brands and places, and basically everything that stroke us as sustainably cool and relevant in Portugal. Taking multiple perspectives into account - food, brands, leisure gems and overall experience - here is our, limited but ambitious, look at this beautiful country!
Vegan and vegetarian restaurants in Lisbon and Porto and literally everywhere! With minimal effort, one can find incredible selection of plant-based meals, loads of them being also vegan versions of the most traditional Portuguese dishes! Here are some of the places that we tried and loved:
Ao26 Vegan Food Concept (Lisbon) - awesome, small restaurant in the fancy district of Chiado - but the restaurant is far from typically posh and bougy. Great home-y and warm atmosphere, with traditional mains and deserts that are very well transformed into plant-based: francesinha, pastéis de Belem... all that topped with vegan wine. Need we say more?
The Food Temple (Lisbon) - touching closely the charming tiny alleyways of Alfama and located in one alike, The Food Temple feels like a touch of Asia in the heart of Lisbon. Now, we are not entirely in for getting crazy for finding other countries in already incredible culture contexts, but this place is a star! The food is entirely plant based, extremely tasty and amazingly simple, and the staff makes you feel like you are among friends and family. Incredible energy and a must-go in Lisbon, no joke!
Essencia (Porto) - Spacious restaurant with amazing outdoor area, serving delicious vegetarian and vegan dishes, with a seitan steak to die for. Again, the staff is extremely nice and accommodating and the area is calm and peaceful for a nice post-food-coma walk.
DaTerra (Porto+) - A definite vegetarian ruler of Porto, with at least 3 locations around town, and a couple of more in other cities. The menu is varied and very interesting with a healthy selection of juices and hot beverages - they also offer a generous veggie brunch in some of the locations.
Here are brands that caught our attention in Portugal:
Ballūta - The name comes from the archaic word "bolota", a Portuguese word for oak nut and reflects the love for all things natural and commitment to quality, durability and sustainability. The brand introduces 100% vegan shoes and is a personal answer for the lack of those observed by the founder, Catarina Pedroso. She was raised in a traditional family of bull-fighters, but early in her life, she developed the respect and love for nature that would later translate into more conscious life options, like becoming a vegetarian and now - creating a vegan brand.
Wetheknot - It is actually very hard to tell, from the look of them, if the accessories of Wetheknot are vegan or made of natural leather, as their texture seems very firm and delicate at the same time. However, they make it a point of their brand philosophy, not to use natural leather. Limited editions of accessories and clothing collection makes Wetheknot very clean and somewhat elusive brand, while the prices are at a very very reasonable level. A definite recommendation for those who like a more minimalist street style with a sustainable twist to it.
Where to go if you have some time and you wish to chill in an eco-friendly way?
Biovilla - A couple of kilometres off of Palmela, a city not far from Lisbon (and a short drive along the fields full of old mills), in the middle of endless meadows, Biovilla is an amazing enclave to just stay in silence, close to nature, with sounds of wind, rain and an occasional laughter as the only distractions. The food cooked and served in Biovilla is mostly vegan, with nearly all of the produce grown inside their own garden. The energy is incredible and people who run the place are among the most amazing ones we have ever met on our way.
Casa do Moleiro - located in a tiny village around 2 hours of tricky drive from Porto, this "rural tourism” spot is the perfect chilling zone. Located on a mountain and overlooking the valley of Douro river, the house is rebuilt from an old villa and catered by the most amazing elderly couple, who are extremely warm and welcoming. Home-made food and loads of active attractions connected to the nearby river, an amazing spot for those who love hiking, swimming, kayaking - and we do!
Tourism in Portugal is clearly on the rise recently and it does feel a little overwhelming at times, especially in the most recognizable spots of main towns. The amounts of people can be tiring and it certainly was also for us. However, with just a little bit of effort, going off the beaten track is as easy as a charm in Portugal. What is extremely important to us, is that recycling is mandatory, especially in Lisbon. We did not observe it to such extent in Porto, but Lisbon and the smaller cities definitely go an extra mile to separate trash and deal with it properly afterwards. In general, people seem to care about the origin of their food and commodities, and tend to make sure they are sourced locally; materials matter and prove the quality of a given product. Punchline is, if you care for sustainability in consumption and look for more conscious solutions for leisure and consumption, Portugal is definitely a place for you!
We’ve got also a couple of profiles for the Instagram geeks!
@mariagranel.lx (Maria Granel, Zero Waste shop)
@coracao.alecrim (Coracao Alecrim (Porto), a small shop with only local and handmade brands)
@vegansoflx (Lisbon Vegan Community)
@local.org.pt (LOCAL, a non-profit organisation promoting local, healthy and sustainable food culture.)