Sitting next to Cais do Sodré station is this little gem of a bistro that inside only looks like a Berlin-inspired graffiti art shop (which it is) but on the other side boasts wonderful views over the Tagus. You’d be forgiven for being sceptical because of the location of “Montana Lisboa Café”, situated right between tourist traps and expensive bars and restaurants. Don’t be fooled however: “Montana” serves excellent coffee and has colorful, light Asian-inspired dishes that are as simple as they are delicious.
“Montana Lisboa” has a whiff of Berlin to it: inside, it’s a graffiti shop with artworks and books from famous street artists on display and for sale. The high walls are decorated with an ever-changing array of photos and artworks and the black steel and black tables give the place a highly stylized feel with a distinct industrial touch. Everything about this place screams out “hipster.”
But then things start to make sense: there’s soul, rap, funk, modern R&B playing in the background at just the right volume so you can still understand your friends, you notice the modern menu that boasts interesting food pairings of a burger with kimchi mayonaise or duck confit with pickled onion and you might feel the inclination to sit down and give this place a try. By all means: do, let yourself be tempted to sit outside and overlook the Tagus for a while, because what they have on offer is price-quality wise simply outstanding.
“Montana Lisboa Café” unfortunately still gets left out in the lists for specialty coffee places in town, but let from this article onwards justice prevail: their espresso has a lovely acidic touch, slightly reminiscent of berries and peach, counterbalanced with mocha and bitter chocolate flavors. Without blushing, this espresso can stand shoulder to shoulder with the other Lisbon specialty coffee bars, from Copenhagen Coffee Lab to Bettina & Niccòlo Corallo and matches the delicious, crumbly brownie that you can order on the side ever so well. Not only that, they also know their way around the aeropress which is silky, with notes of hazelnut and milk chocolate. Their matcha latte was not a fad or a whim, indeed, the grassy, almost spinach-like flavors came through and were beautifully balanced by a pleasant, creamy milk foam. It was just the right amount of very subtle sweetness.
Aside from having excellent baristas, what makes this place really stand out in so many ways, is the food. Sure, you might think that the multicolored buns and plate servings are gimmicky, however in the context of a graffiti/art shop, it makes sense and is one of those distinct touches that makes a place memorable. The duck sandwich for example, when you bite into it, literally bleeds pink paint, leaving splashes of pink on the beautiful white serving board, whereas the homemade cookie that was full of peanut flavors has multicolored M&M’s pushed into it. It’s thought out, conceptual, playful, colorful, fun, optimistic. It makes you happy.
It’s more than a gimmick: this place has a menu that delivers flavor in spades. Their recently simplified menu now focuses mainly on bagels, burgers and bolo do caco. Our guess would be that everything on the menu will be well worth their price as their dishes all rely on three or four simple flavor combinations that make sense. Chef Freddy Guerreiro has traveled all over the world and obviously knows what he’s doing, pairing a fantastic quality beef patty with the slightly astringent kimchi (Korean-style pickled cabbage) mayonaise served on a black cuttlefish ink bun. The result is just one of the best burgers in town, one that has all of the hallmarks and flavor profiles you might expect from a classic burger (the kimchi smartly replaces the pickles, the cuttlefish bun enhances the meat flavor) and creates a burger that is just a symphony of flavors. Added bonus: the bun is light and fluffy but hold its own until the end, so it doesn’t get too sloppy.
If we were nitpicking, there would still be space for some minor improvements. The vegetarian burger with the beautiful, deep-red beetroot patty, slices of goat cheese and delicious astringent pickled pink onions was without a doubt one of the best original vegetarian burgers we’ve had in Lisbon but was missing one component that would’ve linked all the flavors together and made this burger a true masterpiece: maybe a sweet balsamic onion jam, maybe the horseradish cream they serve on top of their salmon bolo do caco. The duck sandwich however was delicious with amazing intense, caramel-like notes of slow-cooked, pulled duck which the onion pickle cut through perfectly.
Traditional Portuguese cuisine, this isn’t. However, if you’re in the mood to try something a little different without breaking the piggy bank and without exposing yourself to confusing menus or incoherent, slow service, then give “Montana Lisboa Café” a go. It’s a great feeling of happiness to stroll by, see a table outside next to the river, sit yourself down, have something delicious to drink or eat and just watch the boats sail on. Go out via the back door so you don’t miss the enchanting selection of urban artworks and books. Now that’s what you call a Lisbom Evergreen.
Opening hours: Tues-Sun: 10h00-19h00
Address: Rua da Cintura do Porto de Lisboa, armazém A, porta 20, Cais do Sodré
Phone Number: +351 919 675 160