Truth be told, finding a vegetarian restaurant in Lisbon is almost as hard as finding a Portuguese restaurant without bacalhau. To make matters worse, the few that we know, are rather, well… disappointing. Too much tofu or seitan, not enough vegetables, too many things going on the same plate. The flame of hope lit up this Saturday on an afternoon in Oeiras – a seaside neighbourhood on the outskirts of Lisbon on the way Cascais.
“Convictus” is the kind of restaurant some would oxymoronically describe as a “hidden secret”. Oeiras is mostly famous for the beach and beach life and most of the tourists never venture out into the town – which aside from the park and the wonderful palace of Marques Pombal (free visit!) does not seem very interesting – itself. So it was luck, someone handed us a flyer on an afternoon stroll through the park and a couple of hours later, there we were.
Whenever Nora and me go somewhere new, we make a guess of how good it will be, and given the decoration, we were definitely giddy for the meal. The restaurant looked like an old Swiss chalet with some random artthrown in for good measure (including a rooster made out of rusty metal boards standing on one of the ceiling rafters), you could sit outside overlooking the garden and their herbs which are grown by and used in the restaurant. The menu also looked appealing, ranging from reworked Portuguese dishes to Italian dishes like Risotto which are vegetarian in their original conception anyway. What however really drew us in were the dishes that don’t have meat in their original state: a vegetable curry, some risottos (a mystery why so few vegetarian restaurants serve risottos), some pasta, all within the 7 to 12€ price range. it also helped that we had two very courteous waiters who were very involved with the food and loved it themselves. Needless to say, we were very giddy.
Okay, so the first course was not all that great: filo pastry and goat cheese sound like a match made in heaven, but the pumpkin jam underneath it was sickly sweet. The cinnamon in combination with the bed rocket and pieces of red bell pepper (why, baby Jesus, was there red bell pepper on every salad when a simple tomato would also have sufficed?) would not have made any sense in any other universe either, despite the pretty presentation.
Fortunately, the main course brought relief: Nora had the Upma, a type of Indian dish with cooked semolina and vegetables. It could have been hotter, but it was very satisfying and had a lot of mustard seeds and cumin, which is always a good thing! I had a mushroom risotto and even though it featured only button mushrooms and none of the “forest mushrooms” promised on the menu, they were deliciously baked and the risotto, though too peppery, was one of the best I’ve had in Portugal by any means.
Which leaves the question: what the hell is up with the salad folks? Why was there something like raspberry dressing (or something extremely sweet) on both of our accompanying salads? And again, God really did not invent the red bell pepper to put it on your designated salad. People stopped doing that after the 80s were over. Proven once again, with good reason.
Because I am the gluttonous type, I had to cap the meal off with an arroz doce (a sweet rice pudding) which was one of the better ones I’ve had in Lisbon, meaning, not as sweet. Although I feel they could have been more adventurous and used almond milk or coconut milk, it kind of sums up how I feel about “Convictus”: great setting, great service but still needs to grow some wings.Taking into account that it opened only three months ago, “Convictus” might actually be a golden unicorn: a vegetarian restaurant in Portugal we’d be happy to come back to. We’ll keep you posted when we do. (Nout Van Den Neste)
Opening hours: Lunch from 12h30h to 15h00h from Tuesday to Sunday. Dinner from 19h30 to 23:00h from Thursday to Saturday, closed on Mondays
Address: Rua Des. Faria 31, Oeiras
Phone Number: 214 416 007 (between 10 and 15h and 19h30 and 23h)
Rua Desembargador Faria, n.º 31, 2780-231 Oeiras