Stuart Forster outlines what to expect at the Clube de Jornalistas Restaurante in Lisbon, Portugal.
The Clube de Jornalistas Restaurante means the ‘Journalists’ Club restaurant’. Anyone can dine here. You don’t need to be a journalist. It’s worth calling ahead to reserve, especially on weekends, as this dining venue is both highly regarded and popular.
Far from being a smoky den where cynical hacks exchange opinions and sneer at the world – that stereotyped image which many laymen hold of journalists’ clubs thanks to old films and novels – this is an uplifting place to dine.
Journalists do, in fact, still meet at this address, which has operated as a restaurant since 1983 and re-opened under new management in May 2011.
The Clube de Jornalistas
It’s worth taking a few minutes to walk through the rooms of this attractive old townhouse in the Lapa district of the city. It was built as an aristocratic residence and has character by the bagful. The wooden floors and tiled azulejo-decorated walls of the rooms beyond the reception desk will appeal if you enjoy historic settings.
In summer the majority of guests choose to dine in the garden of the Clube de Jornalistas.
Tables are set out on a courtyard that, thanks to its small cobbles, is typical of Lisbon. Surrounded by tall trees, however, the usual whoosh and burr of urban traffic is excluded from the garden. Ice blue fairy lights are draped over a couple of the trees and soft jazz music plays. Add the burr of conversation and soft light of candles and the result is a venue ideal for a romantic dinner or a special night with friends.
A fusion of cultures
The menu – which diners peruse in picture frames rather than the more conventional bound booklet form – features a number of inventive, inspired dishes that fuse influences from Brazilian, Portuguese and, to a lesser degree, south-east Asian cuisines.
Foodies looking for something out of the ordinary are likely to enjoy dining at the Clube de Journalistas. The wine list features specially selected bottles from vineyards around Portugal, not necessarily the well-known names commonly seen in the majority of restaurants around the country, and offers reasonable value for money.
After nibbling on the couvert, which featured three types of breads plus dips, I chose the sautéed baby squid as my starter. Served in a sauce featuring lemon and coriander the tiny squid proved acceptable but, to be honest, not really the culinary highlight I’d hoped for or expected after reading a number of glowing reviews.
Moqueca’s risotto and more
My main course, Moqueca’s risotto, made up for that. Lightly spiced and featuring prawns and coconut, the delicious risotto – inspired by a dish popular in Brazil – was notable for its creamy yet balanced texture.
The quality level rose again for the dessert. I chose the chocolate soup, purely because it sounded intriguing. Cream, chocolate and even a hint of chilly featured in this wonderful, creative dish that was notable for the presence of crunchy particles of sweet that exploded on my tongue; the popping in my head sounded like hail falling on the roof of a car.
In my view the service was friendly but a little slow.
Overall, this is a restaurant that warrants and rewards the taxi ride across Lisbon. That said, real romantics may well choose to travel here using the 28 tram, which stops just a few minutes’ walk from the restaurant.
Without a doubt, I’d visit again.
The Clube de Jornalistas is at Rua das Trinas 129, Lisbon 1200-857. Tel. +351 213 977 138.
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