Words by Nye Longman
Early Cedofeita sits comfortably in what is perhaps Porto’s trendiest district, just minutes from the city’s rich arts scene, nightlife, and iconic Douro river.
The specialist coffee shop and eatery has striking vintage décor, offering a bright atmosphere suitable for anything from quick afternoon bites through to more indulgent evening dining jaunts.
Its ethos is all about being ahead of time – cedo means ‘early’ in Portuguese – which translates into an interesting menu, blending local and international cuisines made with the finest produce. It certainly has a lot to excite. Keeping with the café’s ‘early’ vibe, there is also a diverse specials board, changing weekly to keep things fresh.
With locally sourced ingredients and innovative culinary presentation, I was not surprised to find a variety of people enjoying the cafe’s handmade creations. Groups of friends chatting away happily, busy, plugged-in freelancers and even a few smiling oldies could be found sharing the bright space that Friday afternoon.
My friend and I split a pork katsu sandwich and a hearty portion of vegan gnocchi. The pork – tender and gently seasoned – went down perfectly with the red cabbage dressing, while the thick fulfilling white bread had an almost oaty palate and texture.
The sandwich was served with a knife and fork, which felt like a playful take on a normally far less-formal dish and certainly made me pay attention to the effort invested in such an interesting dish. The gnocchi creation presented almost as many textures as tastes. The gentle saltiness of the soft, creamy almond sauce complemented the earthy, al-dente ziggurats of romanesco. This was a perfect example of a modern reimagining of a timeless dish – a strong feature that played out across the food and drink on offer.
For dessert, I couldn’t choose anything other than the organic fruit cheesecake. My companion decided on an equally sumptuous-looking vegan brownie. For me, the real gastronomic treat was the cheesecake, which was garnished with an enticing medley of rich fruits – sourced from Portugal’s sunny Algarve region, I was told. Its middle was full-bodied and had a gentle cinnamon seasoning, which went well with the refreshing fruit and robust biscuit base.
Stealing a bite of brownie, I was pleasantly surprised that it was sweetened with figs and other fruits, so even this extravagance was a healthy sin. Orange zest helped to bring out deep cocoa undertones. Despite this strong blend of flavours, the brownie was light and washed down well with my artisan black Americano – made with speciality beans from local roasters, our waitress told us.
Having the pleasure of sampling a fine selection of treats from Early Cedofeita’s menu, it is not hard to see the theme of ‘early’ feature across everything on offer, from the freshness of the ingredients through to unique combinations of cuisines, flavours and textures.
The eatery’s friendly staff really care about the food being served – as well as the people enjoying it. From a brief conversation, it was easy to tell that they had a passion for where the food came from and the pains taken to make the dining experience unforgettable without at the same time feeling too serious – perhaps the only way to fully enjoy great food.
For those wanting to immerse themselves in the unique ethos more deeply, Early Cedofeita frequently offers one-off dining experiences and cocktail evenings. If you’ve got company, can also opt to dine in the old vault, which once served an important government function but now lets you kick back in larger groups in your very own intimate space.
Early Cedofeita is a must visit for those looking for carefully selected taste experiences and new takes on classic dishes in perhaps one of the choicest settings in Porto.
Address: Rua dos Bragas 374, 4050-122 Porto, Portugal
Phone: 351 22 112 4203