Text José Silva | Translation Jani Dunne
Lamego is a very old city. It’s full of history, and gastronomy is very important. Smoked sausages range from salpicão [thick pork sausage], chouriço and alheira [bread, garlic and mixed-meat sausage]; the excellent presunto [prosciutto], the typical bolas [meat cakes] made with thin-crust dough; be it sardines, codfish, presunto or the most popular: mixed meats. These products are still processed in the same way today, which is a big tradition in the city of Lamego and the surrounding region. Some proper eateries, however, have maintained their excellent food based on the regional recipe book and use many of the products above.
Behind the Sé de Lamego [cathedral], in a narrow granite-stone street, we can easily find one of those establishments, Adega Matos. It’s a very simple venue with a small window and a long counter at the entrance.
The room in the ground floor is small yet cosy and welcoming; the walls display a few panels of tiles and in the back we find the very organised and tiny kitchen where the owner bosses pots and pans round. She uses the oven a lot, which is traditional in the North. Up in the first floor, a bigger room hosts a higher number of customers. Tables are laid simply and the service is quite personalised, under the [other] owner’s guidance, as he leads us through the house’s different specialties.
This couple has been managing this kitchen for over 35 years, although it existed for longer and is one of the oldest in the city. The aroma floating around the room with the tables sets us up for the good stuff, which will eventually come to our table.
The bread and broa [corn bread] arrived straight away along with a few delicious appetisers: codfish buns, well-sliced ham, a delicious and crunchy meat bola, gizzards, eels, fried small river fish and sardines in pickling brine.
The vegetable soup of the day was, of course, a part of this meal.
Then we had the choice of a damp and tasty Bacalhau à Brás [pulled cod fried with toothpick chips], a decent piece of cod roasted in the oven or an excellent Polvo à Lagareiro [roast octopus with potatoes].
In the meat section, there was more to choose from: charcoal-roasted alheira, thin pork steak or veal steak also grilled over charcoal.
For more substantial courses, we can choose from oven-roast lamb or veal, which come with marvellous also roast potatoes and a delicious oven-rice, which is served in an iron pot; irresistible.
Just as irresistible was the “lazy rice” [watery] with salpicão, a very typical dish in this region, which is prepared with precision in Adega Matos; generous round slices of delicious salpicão, the rice was indeed “lazy” yet gummy, and red beans; wonderful. They have wine from private producers and some wines in the region accompany this type of food very well.
The same happened with the Três Raposas Colheita 2010 Tinto: it was structured, had volume on the mouth, and felt strong; really good.
As for dessert, we tasted a few sweets such as custard – either with cinnamon or with a broiled top – a very well prepared chocolate mousse and delightful fritters, which were crunchy and sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. A quick chat with the owners transported us to times gone by, back to the story of the house, to the traditions behind the cuisine they practice, the quality of the products they use and the paramount need to preserve this immense heritage that is a part of Portuguese popular culture. A walk in the city’s fresh air is compulsory…
Rua Trás da Sé, 52
Tel: (+351) 254 612 967
Mobile: (+351) 968 894 170