Chef Silvino Lourenço talks about the creative menu at the Insólito restaurant in Lisbon
Insólito means ‘unusual’ in Portuguese, and indeed, the restaurant absolutely lives up to its name. You travel to the top of this old, idiosyncratic Lisbon mansion in an original lift to emerge into an eccentric world of antlered deer wearing a dinner jacket and a monocle.
Also unusual was the view, a stunning panorama of Lisbon. Unusual too, the cocktails (follow this link to learn more about the Tangerine Fizz I enjoyed on arrival.
But the truly unusual at the Insólito restaurant comes out of the kitchen. For example, I enjoyed a ceviche and popcorn – fish with tiger’s milk and mango served with freshly popped salted popcorn. I wanted to know more about where the eclectic culinary ideas which peppered the menu came from, and Silvino Lourenço generously spent time with me to explain.
I was very lucky with my first job as a chef – I’d sent my CV everywhere and was discovering just how difficult it was to find a job. This was in 2012 when it was still very hard to find work in Portugal. But finally I was offered a job at the Longueville Manor, a really prestigious hotel in Jersey. I was especially lucky to working under head chef, Andrew Baird, a Yorkshireman who was happy to pass on his very extensive experience.
I learnt a lot during my time there – one thing being that English food was not so awful! In particular I learnt a lot about fish – which being Portuguese I wasn’t really expecting. In Jersey we had the best scallops I’ve ever tasted, but there were so many fish. What Andrew taught me was that fish is often unpopular because many people can’t be bothered to prepare it properly. [see La Lanterna] In Portugal, of course, we use a lot of garlic and onion.
I learnt a lot during my time there – one thing being that English food was not so awful!
Now I’m back in Portugal and I’ve been working with head chef, Antonio Sousa (it’s August 16 and he’s away on holiday this evening). He’s also very experienced, he won an internship to Noma in Copenhagen. But I’ve known him since school and we work very well together, brainstorming ideas.
Insólito means ‘unusual’, and we try hard to be creative and original. We get our best ideas while we are cooking together. For example, we had a dish of turbot with bone marrow and celery purée, but we had the idea of replacing that with purslane. Another slightly quirky concept was stingray with a Greek salad – sea meets Mediterranean.
Another slightly quirky concept was stingray with a Greek salad – sea meets Mediterranean.