Modern design concepts and creative gastronomy have always fused together well, and at one hot new Lisbon restaurant this union is further enhanced by the fact that it’s incorporated within the premises of one of Portugal’s most respected research institutions.
Darwin’s Café is named after Charles Darwin (1809-1882) the eminent British scientist who laid the foundations of the theory of evolution. It’s housed within the recently inaugurated Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown, home of the private Champalimaud Foundation. The Foundation was created at the bequest of the late Portuguese industrialist and entrepreneur, António de Sommer Champalimaud, and supports individual researchers and research teams working at the cutting edge of biomedical science.
Pretty impressive street credentials for any eatery, eh? But don’t be put off by the highbrow image. Darwin’s is accessible to all.
The restaurant enjoys a fabulous riverfront location near Algés, a Lisbon suburb west of the city centre, and the sweeping views from the terrace tables embrace the Tagus estuary and the Atlantic Ocean.
Themed around the life and times of Darwin, the striking interior décor resembles a huge Victorian study complete with faux bookcases and reproduction antique furniture. The colourful and eye-catching wall murals depicting tropical flora and fauna are straight out of a scientific journal.
The idea was conceived by upmarket fashion brand Lanidor’s architectural department and overseen by António Runa, the designer also responsible for La Caffé, another upscale restaurant in Avenida da Liberdade. The result is a fresh and contemporary atmosphere that illustrates the great naturalist’s theory on the origin of species – one of the most imaginative restaurant concepts in the capital.
The menu showcases traditional Portuguese cuisine with southern European accents, food exemplified by lunchtime dishes such as veal carpaccio with rocket and Parmesan cheese, smoked salmon with wedge of mozzarella cheese, and chicken and shrimp risotto with salsify (oyster plant) and parsley pesto.
Dinner brings with it linguine with spinach, cream and goat’s cheese, or duck magret in mustard crust and home made jam and grilled vegetables, or saffron risotto with salmon and cherry tomato, among other choices. Recommended is the tuna steak with red onions, sautéed potatoes and string beans.
Desserts include delights such as ginger crème brulée and grapes in red port, and chocolate muffin with vanilla ice cream. The tropical fruit platter is a revelation.
The wine list numbers champagnes, rosés, vinho verde, and reds and whites from across the country including Duas Quintas from the Douro, Marquês de Borba from the Alentejo and Quinta dos Carvalhais Encruzado from the Dão region.
Champalimaud Centre for the Unknown
Tel: +351 (0)21 048 0222
Hours: 12.30–15.30, 16.30–18.30, and 19.30–23.00
Closed from 16.00 Mon