Varanda Restaurant at Four Seasons Lisbon, Hotel Ritz (Lisbon, Portugal)
Four Seasons Lisbon, Hotel Ritz was built in 1959 by the Dictator Salazar to prove that Lisbon could do luxury as well as any other European capital. More than half a century later it is still setting the bar, managed now by the Four Seasons Group, and still renowned for the service for which they have always been famous.
Designed by renowned Portuguese architect Porfirio Pardal Monteiro and built atop one of Lisbon’s many hills to maximize city views, this monolithic structure houses Art Deco-meets-Louis XVI interiors embellished by more than 400,000 square feet of Portuguese marble and Norwegian granite. This was a hotel built for show and its unattractive exterior opens onto opulent interiors that reflect this. Décor is grand – think chandeliers and huge flower displays on gilded furniture. A good collection of modern Portuguese art from tapestries to sculptures and paintings hang throughout the hotel.
We walked toward the back of the hotel and over to Varanda for dinner. The dining room is similarly decked out as the hotel’s lobby with beautiful large floral centerpieces, a large rolling mignardises cart filled with jewel-like sweets, and chandeliers. When you read the menu, the cuisine is French but some dishes are inspired by in Portuguese cooking.
We opted for the signature tasting menu and started off with a few amuse bouches. The squid ink puffed rice chip topped with shrimp and basil aioli was a beautiful bite of brine, sweet and herbaceous flavors and the crisp texture of the chip was perfect. The cornbread wafers sandwiching a beautifully prepared foie gras torchon was a great bite as well; a good balance of sweet, ever so slightly liver-y and creamy without being overtly unctuous. The second amuse of clam and John Dory ceviche was refreshing and sweet with a touch of acid and a good platform
We did have wines paired throughout the dinner but instead of drowning you with wine talk, they were overall very good pairings of Portuguese wines ranging from the classic vinho verde, Pinot Noir to the dessert wines like the Madeira with the dishes the kitchen cooked for us.
The first course of Carabineros prawn (deep sea cardinal prawn), crispy tomato, “pata negra” prosciutto, white asparagus and pistou reduction was a great first course. The incredibly sweet and meaty prawn was enhanced by the prosciutto. The white asparagus and herbaceous pistou sauce was a smart move to brighten up the flavors.
The sea bass with Ritz salt and lemon myrtle, clams from Ria Formosa and Bulhão pato emulsion was a very good dish that really focused on the seafood and gently emphasizing each ingredient with its inherent briny flavors or sweetness. The lemon myrtle added a gentle lemon aroma and lemongrass-like flavors.
The matured tenderloin of Irish beef “à la ficelle”, foie gras, black truffle sauce was a very solid meat dish that was rich and hearty. The beef was tender and worked with seared slab of foie gras very nicely. The truffle sauce added extra depth of earthy flavors. It felt like a winter dish than the coming of spring but it was a very tasty dish.
If there was one true wine pairing I will mention and be excited about for the evening was the Blandy’s 5 Year Old Bual Madeira for the dessert courses. The sommelier was trying to be restrained on giving me details about the dessert and why would she think this Maideira would pair wonderfully. When our pre-dessert of grapefruit and a brûléed sugar sheet and a sip of the aged Blandy’s, it was magnificent. The sweet toasty, nutty, caramel notes of the wine works with the burnt sugar and the juicy, sweet, bitter-tartness of the grapefruit was a good contrast.
The dark chocolate croustillant, cremeux of salted caramel, and tonka beans ice cream was a nice variation on a classic chocolate dessert. The chocolate wasn’t too sweet or bitter. The creamy salted caramel cremeux and ice cream added silky textures to the crisps and the right amount of sweetness.
Then of course, we finished the evening with the mignardises cart rolling over to our table. We have indulged ourselves with the delicious little sweet bites that are made in-house; tea for my dining companions and a double espresso for myself.
It’s a wonderful dinner that indulged us. The service was great and I liked our sommelier for her knowledge of wines without overdoing the technical aspects of the wines and she made the dessert pairing really fun and it evolved with the desserts.
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Four Seasons Lisbon, Hotel Ritz
R. Rodrigo da Fonseca 88
1099-039 Lisboa, Portugal
Phone: +351 21 381 1400