If you haven’t been to a Pousada in Portugal, I think it’s time, especially if you like great food.
A Pousada is a historic inn with fine restaurants that hire chefs who have a respect for the local food traditions. Pousadas are the places to stay in the historic centers of Portugal. I’ve enjoyed every one I’ve stayed in.
I thought the sign was a bit pretentious. Then I ate there.
First waiters brought out some freshly made bread sticks with some dips and that great Portuguese olive oil. You see it on the right. It’s a great way to start a meal while you sip some of the local wine.
Then I had ordered a wild mushroom soup. There’s a picture of it over there on the left, cappuccino style. Chef Valdir Lubave is passionate about collecting and serving the local wild mushrooms. They’re a fantastic path to the main course of a meal. Just the right size, because next was the main course.
But I just had to order the pork with clams. It’s a dish from the Alentejo region, not far from Belmonte. But this Carne Porco à Alentejana is different. The succulent and tender marinated pork lies on a bed of mashed potatoes which are flavored with the local sausage called Alheira. Alheira is a spiced, smoked sausage made by Jews during the inquisition which has become a long standing tradition. It’s a faux “pork” sausage made with chicken or game, so the local Crypto-Jews could appear to eat traditional “Christian” foods. With this and other tactics, many survived the inquisition; you can find out about them in the Jewish museum in Belmonte.
Are you getting the picture here? At Convento de Belmonte we were being served traditional foods given a bit of a twist by Chef Lubave, who built upon traditions while entirely respecting them. It’s what makes Portuguese cuisine one of the most exciting in the world right now; it’s a rapidly developing cuisine that has well-respected roots, a fine way to “taste” a country.
Find out more about the Convento de Belmonte Pousada or reserve a room at a decent price. The town has a castle which hosts events and festivals and some very interesting museums.
[Click any of the pictures to see them larger]