Words by Nye Longman
With unmatched views of Porto’s renowned river Douro and accompanying Cais de Ribeira promenade, Restaurante Casario brings a unique fine-dining experience to one of the city’s most energetic, well-loved districts.
As my guest and I settled into our cosy nook, we were greeted by the restaurant staff, our chef for the evening – the famed Jose Guedes, no less – and waiter Antonio. Alongside doing their utmost to make us feel at home, their genuine passion for the food, drink and for Porto itself was unmistakable.
I kicked off with the luxurious foie gras terrine and pears – an exquisite sensation created by a fearless blending of rich and salty with delicate, hydrating sweetness of fresh, local fruit. My companion went with the seabass and local herbs – “unimaginably fresh-tasting” in his words – and I couldn’t agree more.
While we dined, Antionio informed us the grapes for the fine port wine my friend was sampling with gusto were grown and processed by the restaurant owners within just a few miles. The owners have taken great pains to ensure as much of the food and drink as possible is sourced locally, Antonio added.
My apple juice, although less pedigreed, was served in an exquisitely decorated glass, which bore a striking star design, which I happened to notice was a subtle theme across the dining room and beyond, “the Portuguese style,” Antonio explained. Complementing the bright, plush surroundings, the view of the Douro, glossily illuminated by a gentle stream of evening traffic crossing the imposing Dom Luis I bridge, was idyllic.
I was pleasantly taken aback by my main – sea bass with wild rice and prawns. The fish was tender and subtle tasting. I imagined it had been caught that day and brought straight from the ocean to my waiting plate. Interestingly, what really made the dish truly resonate was the generous rice portion – infused with saffron and lemon, which stood out as an exciting citrus contrast to the gentle saltiness of the fish.
My more adventurous companion went for the slow-cooked pork belly with cabbage and black pudding, which was as warming as it was rich, he noted. Determined to outdo me yet again with his food choices, for dessert my friend plumped for the uncompromisingly proud creme brulee, served with pine nuts and cinnamon ice cream. I sneaked a taste and was impressed by how the chefs achieved such a balanced dish, with just the right level of thickness and opulence.
While more conservative, my ‘almond tiles’ with sheep’s cream and berry sorbet certainly held its own, combining thick dairy with oh-so-sweet fruit flavours that invoked simple rural summer scenes. As we sat and enjoyed our aperitif, it struck me that Restaurante Casario simply couldn’t be anywhere else but in Porto, such was its assured place in the city’s culinary oeuvre.
The restaurant offers so much more than a nice place with a view, it provides a tantalising glimpse of what flavours, both subtle and strong, can be achieved by the city’s finest chefs, offering menus that respectfully re-imagine traditional Portuguese high cuisine. For those searching for an authentic taste of the city, with more than a fair share of tasteful luxury, look no further than Restaurante Casario.
If you can drag yourself away, you’ll find yourself well placed for further adventure as the restaurant’s prime location offers plenty of choice. For those looking for material pleasures, many high street shops are just short walk away, but for me, an after-dinner walk along the Cais de Ribeira, crossing the bridge to take in the breath-taking view from the Jardim do Morro, is essential.
Address: Praça da Ribeira – Viela do Buraco 19, Porto, 4050-132 Portugal
Phone: 351 227 662 270