One of the main things I had planned for our time in Porto was lots of eating. I love visiting new places and finding their hidden gems of restaurants and cafés, trying local cuisine and basically munching my way around a city (what can I say, I'm a greedy guts at heart!) But sometimes it can be a little overwhelming trying to find the best places - especially when you want to eat local food rather than just buy in to the tourist hotspots. So when I was looking on Pinterest for must-sees (and must-eats!) in Porto and came across the Taste Porto Food Tour, I knew it was the answer. I quickly booked Tom and I onto a Friday morning tour (we arrived on the Thursday morning). The fact that many of the tours were already booked is testament to how popular the tours are.
I couldn't really find many reviews of the tour, and at €65 each for the 3.5 hour tour, whilst not expensive, it's also not something you want to spend out on if it's not going to deliver, so I thought I'd put up a little review and feature here for any of you thinking of visiting Porto (or anyone who just wants to have a peek at lots of yummy food!)
We met our tour guide Sara just before the tour began. The 10.30 tour that morning had sold out, so we were on the 10.00 tour with only one other couple, Joy and Ryan. It meant that we had a more intimate, tailored tour, so we were really lucky with the small number. With hungry bellies, we headed straight to our first stop - Loja Dos Pasteis De Chaves. Chaves is a small city in Northern Portugal, where the pastries served at this bakery are cooked fresh every morning, and then delivered to their various shops. The flaky pastry just melts in your mouth and is utterly delectable. The traditional filling is minced veal (I would never usually eat veal, for personal reasons, but I did try it) and then another with hazelnut and chocolate. We all preferred the chocolate! At this stage I'm afraid I wolfed down the pastries, so I can't whet your appetite with a photo - you'll just have to imagine how yummy it was...
Our next stop was Bolhão Market. I love visiting local markets when I'm travelling; there's something about the energy and camaraderie there that makes me wish I could buy all of my produce and fresh food from a market that's at the heart of the community.
In the market we met the couple who own the Bolhão Wine House - a unit right in the centre of the market that sells local wines, olive oil and sardines, and offers Port tasting. The couple who own it have modernised their shop so it looks very different to the others in the market - and they even have benches outside where people can enjoy a glass of wine whilst eating their lunch or other snacks brought from around the market.
We tried traditional sardines, a glass of Moscatel Gelago wine and a homemade pastry - all were delicious. I was a little unsure of the sardines as I haven't eaten them for years, but they really were exceptionally tasty. A glass of red or rosé wine here is €2.50 so it's definitely worth a visit to try their wines and watch the world go by. (You can also try three glasses of Port wine for €7 - the prices are really reasonable!)
After the market we went to probably my favourite location of the tour, Flor Dos Congregados. Tucked up a side street, and with a sign outside proudly explaining that they specialise in 'slow food', I had a feeling it was going to turn out to be a real gem. Inside, the low lighting, wooden rafters and stone walls gave it an atmosphere that was definitely conducive to enjoying a meal and a few glasses of wine without worrying about hurrying off somewhere - really savouring the ritual of going out to eat. One thing I noticed about Porto is that food and drink really do seem to be something to be savoured - the concept of 'take away', especially take away coffees and teas, isn't something they really have here. They seem to like to enjoy food slowly - taking time to catch up with family and friends, and really make the most of tasting their delicious foods and wines.
Our next food to try was one that had been cooked at a similar pace - a freshly baked roll that had been roasted with spices for hours, along with cured ham and cheese. This was just beyond amazing - you could really taste that the meat had been slowly cooked as all of the different spices had infused and the meat was so tender it just fell apart in your mouth. It's making my mouth water remembering how good it was! It was served with a glass of sparkling red wine, which was similarly delicious. If we'd not only had hand luggage we definitely would have taken a bottle back!
We loved Flor Dos Congregados so much that we went back for dinner with the other people on the tour, Joy and Ryan (it was so nice to share the tour with such cool, friendly people - we hung out the next day too!)
After emerging back into the Porto sunshine, we headed for a coffee at Café Guarany. I feel like such a fusspot but I actually don't like coffee, so I had a lemon tea, which was really lovely. Café Guarany is huge and the décor is really impressive - built in 1933, it's somewhere where businessmen, artists, politicians and musicians would go to chat over a cup of coffee (or "cimbalino"). It was redecorated with these impressive paintings of the Guarany tribe in 2003.
It was a little walk up the hill to the next tasting spot, so whilst the others were fuelled by coffee, I trundled behind with a belly full of lemon tea! There was definitely a reward at the end however, as we were seated at the Leitaria Da Quinta Do Paco. You might remember this café from my Day One in Porto blog post as where I had the amazing Oreo Cheesecake. As I mentioned in that post, all of their famous eclairs are made with fresh cream - a cream so light and fluffy we were invited to spoon it on as well as the eclairs being stuffed with it! We had a chocolate eclair and a lemon curd eclair. I'm afraid I don't have the words to describe these - you're just going to have to hop on a plane and go and try some for yourself (we were there for three days and we visited this café three times, if that helps to convince you...)
One of the amazing things about this tour is that it turned out to be so much more than just a food tour. Sara was so knowledgeable about everything to do with Porto, and showed us some amazing sights - from the Jewish quarter, to the only street in Porto with no name, to a set of beautiful roof tiles we would have walked straight underneath without noticing if we weren't told to 'look up!' We were also pointed out several shops and cafés that weren't on the tour, but that they recommended a visit to (and the tour map and guide gave you exclusive discounts, which was a bit of a bonus).
Sara showed us a beautiful viewpoint over Porto and the Douro river, so naturally we got our cameras out and took a quick snap.
She also kindly took a photo of Tom and I - Tom was too tall to fit in the photo, which is why he is bending down and I am doing a big laugh!
Our final stop was Taberna Do Largo. a little wine bar and café that also had a wonderful atmosphere - softly lit with the smell of food wafting through the bar and a huge selection of Portuguese wines all ready to be uncorked. The friends who owned Taberna Do Largo had the dream of setting up such a place in Porto, and went on a trip to find the finest foods from all over the country, to serve and sell in their café (I'm thinking at this point, this sounds like the best trip ever). From cheeses, to cured meats, to sausages, to fish, they specialise in 'petiscos' (Portuguese tapas) and in selling the finest foods and wines from all over Portugal (they have a gourmet shop as well as the café). We tried four different wines, as well as a delicious array of meats, cheeses, breads and olives, and the fired sausage. Again, I just can't over-egg how good all of the food was, and the wines, which we were told all about by the lovely owners.
By now, with full bellies and happy faces, our tour was finished and we headed back out for more exploring. We don't usually make 'holiday friends' (because I'm so miserable and unfriendly - ha!) but we really got on with Joy and Ryan on the tour so we headed back to the riverfront for a drink with them in the sunshine (and then we all headed back to Flor Dos Congregados for our dinner!)
The tour was absolutely amazing, and well worth the money. The tour guide was incredibly knowledgeable and really good fun, and it was a great way to spend a few hours in Porto. Tom actually said he thought it was the best thing we've ever done on a holiday or a trip away, which is high praise indeed!
Have you been to Porto? Would you go on a food tour?