Are you ready for 2020’s Best New Restaurant* in Lisbon?
Skillful curatorship – curadoria in Portuguese – lies at the heart of CURA, the new restaurant at Four Seasons Hotel Ritz Lisbon. Like the timeless Portuguese modern artworks that frame the Hotel’s common areas, each seemingly simple dish reveals layers of complexity to evoke an emotional and sensorial response.
Chef de Cuisine and head culinary curator Pedro Pena Bastos selects his seasonal ingredients as meticulously as an artist chooses his paints, drawing from Lisbon’s richness of seasonal ingredients to create artisanal dishes of great depth and meaning.
Treating his ingredients with devoted respect – and following his instinct when it comes to the pursuit of taste, texture and technique – Chef Pena Bastos relies on the purity of the freshest local produce in a constant quest “for the complexity that lies beyond simplicity.”
Like the finest exhibition, CURA unites a collection of innovations and intentions into a stimulating whole. It foregoes tweezer precision in favour of artistic freedom; favours quality over quantity with a seasonal menu of just 12 dishes inspired by local hero ingredients; and adds poetry to the presentation through custom ceramics, cutlery and glassware.
And like the presentation, each dish is a dramatic celebration of reverie and reality: freshly caught sea bass garnished with brassicas, parsley and saffron; squid with hazelnuts, roasted seaweed butter and caviar; Hokkaido pumpkin, chanterelles, pistachios and Indian cress.
Further revealing complexity within simplicity, the “bread moment” is one to savour. Crafted using ancient grains such as emmer and spelt for an intense depth of flavour, CURA’s iconic side dish is served with aged butter from Ilha das Flores in Açores, and vibrant green olive oil: an “early harvest” speciality from Chef Pena Bastos’ Tomar family estate. Desserts also merge modern flair and ancient seasonal edibles, from figs with beetroot, lime and reindeer moss to chocolate lovage sunchoke arabica.
Chef Bastos’ team comprises a mechanical engineer and “joyful bear” Mário Marques, the Restaurant Manager; an innovative and introverted Sous Chef Marco Carmo; boldly creative Pastry Chef Diogo Lopes; and intuitive and skilled Sommelier Gabriela Marques. With a quest to “cook with joy and make others happy,” they take to CURA’s open-kitchen stage like a well-rehearsed band, delighting audiences with a culinary experience.
Everything from the wine cellar to the walls and furniture has been developed as if it were art. Madeira wood panelling and bevelled mirrors adorn the walls. Bahia blue granite adds drama and colour to the tables and bar. The swirling spirals of the Picasso-inspired carpet tell a tale of the Hotel’s history, punctuated by teal sofas, brass accents, black Kenyan marble, while a vine-like wine rack harks back to Chef Bastos’ countryside upbringing; the source of much of the restaurant’s culinary inspiration too.
“Where I was raised in northwest Portugal, ingredients weren’t something that you browsed and chose at the grocery store, but alive, transformative, and meaningful,” Chef Pena Bastos comments. It’s these memories that have shaped his approach at CURA, from working with small local suppliers to picking plump chickpeas from the wild. Each ingredient is selected not only for its flavour but for the roots of meaning and memories it contributes. And while vegetarian Bastos can appreciate the marbled meat of Alentejo Iberian pigs, the menu’s plant-based offerings are set to steal to show.
Mindful ingredients deserve a sensitive wine pairing, skilfully curated by Gabriela Marques, organic, Portuguese, and biodynamic specialities head CURA’s uniquely curated wine list or one of many non-alcoholic beverages and cold-pressed juices that combine to add ever-deeper layers to a menu that is itself a 21st-century work of art.
With a reduced total of 28 seats (to comply with physical distancing requirements), CURA is open for dinner only from Monday to Friday, from 7:30 to 11:00 pm. Selections include a dedicated vegetarian menu and a range of set menu (7 and 13-moment menus) and à la carte options. All menus have wine or juice pairing options.
For bookings, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or call +351 213 811 401.
* this distinction was given by the infamous foodies and gourmands Portuguese Blog, Mesa Marcada.