Boyd Tonkin finds great buildings, a bold new art gallery and custard pies to die for in Portugal’s capital
Everyone in Lisbon says that, since Portugal’s great age of exploration, the city has looked far out to sea. It took a hand-written list of pratos de dia outside a little restaurant on the Rua das Janelas Verdes – Street of Green Shutters – to add spice to that truism for me. Today’s specials? “Tandoori chicken €6.50, pork saag €6.50, chicken dansak €6.50, pork biryani €5.50”.
The pork dishes tell the story on a plate. In 1497, Vasco da Gama’s first expedition to the Malabar coast inaugurated Portugal’s brief heyday as a maritime superpower and began an affair with India (above all in Goa, Portuguese until 1961) that persists until now. António Costa, Portugal’s prime minister, comes from a part-Indian family that still has an ancestral house in the south Goan town of Margao.
Costa helped clear the path for the latest, and boldest, project to restore the links between the city’s hilly, labyrinthine old quarters and the waterfront that runs along the river Tagus to the sea. By the river at Belém, not far from the exuberant Jerónimos monastery built to celebrate Vasco da Gama’s return, the new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology (MAAT) will open on 5 October with a 12-hour jamboree of exhibition launches, music and performance. […]