ViseVersa, The Hyatt Regency Lisbon

It would be easy to say that the past decade or so has been kind to Lisbon – it’s subtly undergone the kind of glow-up certain other smaller European capitals keep putting on the backburner… and it’s been driven organically by tourism raised high on the shoulders of social media’s more gastronomy-oriented corners. 

However, putting it so blithely would risk being something of a disservice to those who’ve worked their socks off to make it happen. The whims, ebbs and flows of prevailing trends might do a bit of the heavy lifting, but at the end of the day, it’s the chefs working tirelessly to innovate in kitchens, the winemakers spending afternoons in the blazing sun of their vineyards, and the entrepreneurs breathing new life into old brick who are making that change happen. 

All that being said, Lisbon has always been something of a best-kept-secret foodie hub, albeit one in which the most celebrated dishes aligned with the shabby chic appeal of its crooked streets. The city’s all-out obsession with tinned fish has long since taken centre stage, along with small bistros serving up plates of seafood rice and peri-peri chicken nicked from the Algarve’s historic connection with Mozambique.

It’s historically been a food scene typified by the simple, the understated, and a veritable ‘hidden gem’ status often overshadowed by that of neighbouring Spain. 

While the higgedly-piggedly network of alleyway restaurants in the city’s historic Alfama neighbourhood still hold no shortage of charm (not least in their bakeries, where the iconic pasteis de nata retain their irresistible pull) Lisbon in 2024 is an altogether different beast, showcasing new restaurants aplenty flexing some considerable muscle. Rapidly ascending among them is the restaurant of the Lisbon outpost of the Hyatt Regency hotel. This grandiose affair offers a brilliant array of dishes and local wines, wrapped up in the kind of comfort and reliability only a hotel chain of this calibre can consistently provide.

The Hyatt Regency Lisbon is situated a fair stroll from the city centre, but it’s a stroll well worth taking if you’re not a guest at the hotel and fancy something delicious to round off your day. From Alfama or the baroque ‘n’ roll appeal of central Lisbon, march westward through the stunning Belem neighbourhood and beneath the towering 25 de Abril bridge. After a not inconsiderable march, you’ll be happy to find yourself seated at ViseVersa – the Hyatt’s effortlessly cool Portuguese bistro, and a worthy new addition to a food scene at the peak of its powers. 

Once you start thinking about it, going above and beyond in crafting a great bistro experience in a leading chain hotel in Lisbon is a fairly ballsy move. Hotel restaurants rarely need to be truly great – they often have a captive audience with varying expectations, and in a city like Lisbon where travel-worthy dining is never far away, many lesser restaurateurs simply might not have bothered. 

ViseVersa prides itself on its commitment to going that extra mile. Offering light bites, hearty meals and a curated drinks selection (thankfully, with a top-notch range of the kind of bright and breezy white wines and deep, sexy reds the Portuguese do so well in pole position), it celebrates locally-sourced ingredients and regional specialities – as all good new restaurants should. 

That’s not to say there aren’t a few savvy twists and turns when it comes to presenting the classics. A sea bream tartare came atop a pastel-green sauce with a clear whack of southeast Asian influence, allowing zesty lime, chilli and ginger notes to elevate those pearlescent slithers of fish. Fat, juicy prawns were just on the right side of fiery, slicked with a potent glaze that ran onto the plate, inviting us to mop at it with the bread provided.

Main courses included hunks of a clearly monstrous side of black cod drizzled with a vibrant herbaceous sauce, barbecued octopus tentacles accompanied by a mound of deeply savoury puy lentils, and Iberico pork with clams – exactly the kind of contemporary surf ‘n’ turf this part of the world invariably keeps up its sleeve to dazzling effect. 

Naturally, the menu is seasonal. Equally naturally, with the pounding Atlantic just along the Tagus estuary outside the window, there’s an emphasis on freshly-caught fish and seafood, and the thrilling element of surprise that invariably presents. Whatever happens to be on the specials board on any given day, however, ViseVersa is the kind of restaurant that lulls you into a sense that you’re in safe hands.

The dining room revels in an almost Kubrickian 70s aesthetic – there’s a lot of pastels going on, and the furnishings undulate and curl around the cavernous space. Service is attentive without being overbearing (as it damn well should be in 2024), and the sommelier is more than happy to discuss Portuguese winemaking at length, should you be so inclined. 

Dessert arrives with a satisfying flourish – it’s a joyous mess of banana, caramel and cottage cheese that’s almost childlike in its sweet simplicity, and by no means in a bad way. My companion (a local chap with a discerning view of Lisbon’s food scene) drained our bottle of Alvarinho, headed out into the breezy Lisbon night, and ended the evening more than satisfied in the knowledge that, if Viseversa represents a new chapter in not just hotel dining but high-end Lisbon gastronomy, the scene is in rude health indeed. 

Other top foodie spots in Portugal 2024:

Terrace, Martinhal Residence Lisbon

Terrace is the shining star of the brand-spanking-new Park of Nations in Lisbon, and home to a proper celebration of Portuguese cuisine’s connection with the Far East. There’s a stunning amount of sushi preparation skill on display, and dishes like the rare ahi tuna with tropical fruit salsa, black cod with miso, and lamb vindaloo (an Indo-Portuguese dish worthy of UNESCO status) blew me away. 

Ramires, Algarve

Plenty of eateries hail themselves as the home of peri-peri chicken, but Ramires in the pretty Algarve town of Guia is arguably the most convincing. Constantly packed to the gills with locals seeking that constantly-surprising chilli hit, the chefs at Ramires serve peri-peri the way it should be done: piled high on a platter with plenty of the explosive dressing on the side to add yourself. Is it refined? Absolutely not. Is it worth travelling for? Wars have been fought over lesser dishes. 

Veneza, Albufeira 

Is it a restaurant in a wine shop, or a wine shop that does food? It’s hard not to be dazzled by the towering shelves and temperature-controlled cellars on display upon walking into Veneza, and it’s equally hard not to be taken aback by the generosity of the chefs, who bring platter after platter of delectable dishes to be shared. The black pork reigned supreme, but special mention must go to the mountains of croquetas, pates, and lighter bites that seemingly never ended. A must-visit, and a world away from the tatty tourist strip this town is unfairly maligned for. 

Benjamin Mitrofan-Norris

As The Review’s Lifestyle Editor, Benjamin Norris takes the matter of his lifestyle both immensely seriously and perilously lightly, often in the same afternoon. A seasoned wine writer and specialist in perfumery, luxury hospitality, horology, gastronomy and more, he is an unwavering devotee to life’s finer things. Often found in Baltic capitals, Eastern European vineyards, dive bars and fine dining establishments alike, all while working as a copywriter for several of the world’s leading luxury brands, Norris brings a distinctive global swagger to luxury journalism.

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