Porto is the second largest city of Portugal after Lisbon and is one of the major and popular cities in the southern part of Europe. I had the chance to travel to this UNESCO World Heritage Site and boy, did this lovely city surprises me.
I remember when I arrived at Porto, the weather was really cooling and comfortable. Hovering arund 15 degree celcius in early May, everyone was clad in their coldwear. Without any doubt, the weather is definitely one of the reason why I love visiting Europe.
I toured around Porto’s city centre, specifically in Cais da Rebeira which is right along the popular Douro River where one could see the magnificent Dom Luis Bridge. This bridge was, at the time of construction, the longest of its type in the world spanning at 172 m across.
The view from the Dom Luis Bridge, overlooking the Douro River
Along the stretch of Cais da Rebeira, you are able to find lots of souvenior shops and of course, various bars and restaurants. Being an uninformed tourist, I had no clue which restaurant to pick for lunch. As such, I went for the worse possible way to try out an eating venue – to pick one restaurant randomly.
I walked up and down the stretch and finally walked into one restaurant named A Marina which seemingly serve decently priced seafood. I sat down, looked through the menu and thought to myself “did I make the right choice?“.
Being on a specific budget, that also meant that I wasn’t supposed to keep my eating expenses too high (which is something rather hard to do at times). I looked at the menu and there it was, a dish at €8.50 called Francesinha. After some read up, I learnt that this is actually a very popular kind of Portuguese Sandwich originated specifically from Porto. You can probably argue that this is one of Porto’s signature dish if you want to.
So, what’s inside the Francesinha? It’s essentially a combination of a few main ingredients but of course, these ingredients would vary across different restaurants. It should, nevertheless, include sausage, ham, linguica, a certain type of meat all sandwiched between two thick bread slices before topping it with cheese, beer and tomato sauce. This dish is also usually served with chips or fries.
Excited when the dish is being served upon, I took the first bite and my initial impression is that the tomato sauce is quite salty for my liking. However I also realized that the more I start to indulge in this dish, I really do kind of love it. The version that A Marina serves comes with an egg topped on the Francesinha. The entire combination of the main ingredients taste surprisingly good and without saying, I finished the entire dish.
My second order was the grilled trout based on the waiting staff’s recommendation. I was informed that some fresh trout just arrived and I thought why not?
For it’s price, I would say it’s rather worth the money to be able to try this fresh, well-grilled trout. Accompanied with a generous serving of salad and potatoes, I could hardly notice any form of fishy taste. Most who have tried barbecueing fish might come across the experience of having the fish totally falling apart since it is so delicate but the chef here executed the grill very well. The fish holds itself very firmly together and doesn’t have the burnt taste at all. Squeezed the slice of lemon over the fish and it’s all for the diner to indulge.
A Marina was a surprisingly pleasant experience for me. The service was absolutely friendly and delivery time from kitchen to table was pretty much acceptable, perhaps due to the few tables that was being filled during my visit. If I were to revisit Porto again (God knows when), I am sure that I won’t hesitate coming back to A Marina. And luckily for me, the choice to choose this restaurant at random was rather right.
Ratings: 4.0 foodiedoos out of 5.0
Cais da Ribeira 29,
Porto 4050, Portugal
Tel: 222 000 302
Side Note: While having my lunch, the owner of the restaurant came by my table and kept on looking at my DSLR cameras, including my newly purchased Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera. While looking, he mumbled to himself and kindly rejected my offer to try the camera. Only after one of his staff came in to translate (since the boss don’t know English) that I realized the boss himself owns the original 5D. I’m sure that apart from running a successful restaurant, he must have some hidden photography talent in him.
Here are some shots taken in Porto