Where things stay real in Porto
Getting to know the Bonfim neighbourhood is a stroll through an authentic pocket of town. All around the former industrial precinct you can still find laid-back restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and bakeries made not for tourists, but for real people.
While the gorgeous views of downtown Porto (Baixa do Porto) are must-sees, one of the best districts to discover a more genuine side of the city is Bonfim. This neighbourhood east of Invicta City has been adopted by creative folk who have woken up the district, giving it an edgy vibe with spaces ranging from studios and galleries to old-fashioned cafés. Put on your walking shoes and make sure you go on an empty stomach as the area is packed with tempting pit stops for indulging in the Portuguese art of petiscar (nibbles).
Manuel’s tasty legacy
Cozinha do Manel literally translates as “Manuel’s Kitchen,” but these days his son-in-law Jorge runs this traditional eatery famed for its high-quality portuense (Portoan) cuisine. Boasting two firewood ovens, the thirty-year-old establishment is famed for its roast lamb and veal and its rich array of traditional dishes, all made with regional and seasonal ingredients.
Baking with Jorge
Bolinhos do Jorge (Jorge’s Cakes) in the heart of Bonfim is a bakery with a down-to-earth, home-spun concept, using “ingredients that people can easily find in any supermarket,” says the owner, Jorge Santos, who also teaches baking workshops with the same concept. But if school’s out for you, pop in and try one of his famous chocolate brownies, a scone, or one of the ever-changing creations on display.
Sundowners in Guindalense
The Bonfim neighbourhood extends south to the Douro River, and no visit would be complete without a stroll down the Avenue Gustavo Eiffel (of Parisian tower fame). Head west towards the D. Luís I bridge and you’ll discover streets exuding authentic Porto charm around the Guindalense Football Club just outside Bonfim. Guindalense’s rooftops simply beg to be photographed, and invite you to relax at sunset with a beer and a bifana (sandwich) or varied petiscos (snacks).
Jamming at Pedra Nova
The best way to understand the Pedra Nova is to talk with the owners, Carlos Carvalho and Maria Emília Pereira, who describe the place as “different.” The self-service concept is certainly unique: If you’re thirsty, simply go to the fridge and take out a drink. Afterward, you return the bottle(s) and pay when you’re done. Hungry? Try the classical francesinha (traditional meaty sandwich), but vegetarians are not forgotten either. Live music is performed by students from the neighbouring music school who pack the bar during experimental jam sessions. No tables available? Check again: There’s always a seat, even at a crowded table. Join in, grab a beer from the fridge, enjoy.
School of degustation
Offbeat accommodation is offered on the fringe of Bonfim at the Artist Porto Hotel & Bistrô, a pint-sized hotel with 16 rooms, a restaurant, and a bar all themed around the building’s previous role as an art school. The hotel, now integrated in Porto’s Hotel School, is run mostly by students, offering visitors an opportunity to enjoy different types of culinary experiences at affordable prices. The executive lunch costs under €10, and the more sophisticated tasting menu, comprising five to seven dishes, costs only €30-40.
Text João Canto and Silja Kudel
Photos João Canto