A Coimbra Classic: Arcadas Restaurante
The Arcadas Restaurant is located within the Hotel Quinta da Lágrimas. There was much anticipation before our meal, knowing that Arcadas was highly rated for its fresh, “Market Cuisine” and because of the great chefs who were responsible for putting Arcadas on the map. The restaurant specializes in traditional dishes from Portugal with an international flair based on family recipes.
Arcadas uses vegetables and herbs grown organically on the grounds of Quinta das Lágrimas. The chef’s garden also has oranges, lemons and avocados from its own orchard as well as raspberries and wild watercress that grow here. The chef describes his style as “Cozinha de Mercado,” or cooking from the market, owing to his penchant for selecting the freshest and most suitable produce available each day at the market in Coimbra. As a result, the menu is updated regularly to reflect the changing seasons and availability of the best ingredients.
Executive Chef Laurenço has worked as a chef in some of the best restaurants in Portugal, such as Ermitage and Sao Gabriel, both earning one Michelin star.
We were seated by a large window, framed by an arch, overlooking the romantic garden’s Fountain of Love and well-kept formal landscape. Who would know this location was formerly the setting for the palace stables?
We decided upon the six-course meal, “Pedro & Inês,” named for the star-crossed lovers and the tragic death of Inês, Prince Pedro’s lover. As intended, the ambience of the restaurant, the lovely garden outdoors, and the specially prepared courses made for a romantic evening dinner.
The restaurant opens at 7:30 p.m. Since we were guests of the hotel, a welcome drink is served to guests in the bar area. A glass of fine Portuguese red wine was brought to each of us while seated at a cocktail table overlooking the garden, creating a nice romantic mood before dinner. Several minutes later we were seated at the restaurant table, the menus were presented and we discussed with our server an appropriate choice. As this was our first time at the restaurant, we opted for the special Pedro & Inês selection of courses, a choice we were glad to make.
The servers, dressed smartly and formally in their black coats and white shirts, were cordial and professional, often standing at attention as they waited in between servings. Before the official Pedro & Inês dinner was served, we were presented with a four-course “amusé bouche”—a very pleasant surprise.
Each of us were presented a plate upon which were four items. The first was a lovely, very rich mushroom soup, served in a small shot-glass-type pitcher that allowed one to drink directly from the vessel. Next olive bread was served with fresh olive mousse. Our third item was black sausage puffed pastry. The final item was called Portuguese game meatball, consisting of a blend of poultry items. We asked our servers what game was within the meatball and they simply said, “We don’t know.” Nevertheless, all four were welcome treats. After taking a brief survey, we decided our favorite items were the mushroom soup and the poultry meatball.
The first official course on our menu was Orange Marinated Shrimp, Barnacles Vinaigrette, and Pineapple Jam. Two giant shrimp were served, fresh and tasty. The hint of pineapple from the jam gave the dish a tropical zestiness.
Next came the Chicken Egg “Mollet” with Lobster Vichyssoise. A hardboiled egg, covered in a coating, was served upright on an enormous plate and surrounded by sauce. It made for a colorful presentation as well as a bright second course salad-type item.
The third course was really the main course. It was the Veal Duet, Marrow and LBV Port Wine Sauce, with “Alcobaca” Apple. Two cuts of meat were included in this duet, one was more like a small steak, the other something like a slow-cooked brisket. Both were equally tasty. The first required a knife to cut, but just a fork was needed to divide the second portion. A separate plate of “rustic potatoes” came beside this course. The potatoes were shredded finely and fried.
Next, a very lemony sorbet course was served to cleanse the palate. The sorbet was very tart, not at all sweet, and made one’s mouth pucker from the sourness. It was truly a wake-up call delivered to one’s palate, instructing it to pay attention to all that was to follow.
Following true to the theme of Pedro and Inês, Portugal’s version of Romeo and Juliet, the Arcadas Restaurante created a special dessert for “Inês” and another for “Pedro.” My wife received the Inês dessert, simply entitled “Our Black Forest.” Indeed, by the use of the word “our,” the restaurant was putting one on notice that this cake was not going to be the Schwarzenwalder Torte of Bavaria one might expect. Rather, their version of the dessert consisted of a very plain slice of chocolate cake, beside which was served a scoop of dark cherries that had been cooked and sweetened in a syrup. Along with this came a scoop of vanilla ice cream. My “Pedro” dessert was a very lovely traditional Crème Brulée with Thyme ice cream and a “tile” (toasted thin crisp bread) covered with poppy seeds. The two desserts provided a very happy and satisfying fulfillment to a wonderful evening.
We were so filled that we begged not to stay longer for the coffee and petit fours that were also on the menu. This famous meal of Quinta das Lágrimas fills and satisfies. It is well worth the effort to find this hotel and restaurant and take advantage of all it has to offer.
Quinta das Lágrimas
Rua Antonio Augusto Gonçalves
3041-901 Coimbra, Portugal
Tel. +351 239 802 380