Have you ever wished you could travel back in time? If you eat at one of my favorite restaurants in the Lisbon area, Restaurante Cozinha Velha, you can do just that – for about as long as it takes you to enjoy a meal. The restaurant is located in the former kitchen of the Palácio Nacional de Queluz (Queluz National Palace), about 15 minutes outside Lisbon. It’s a little bit like stepping back into another century. At a time when so many restaurants are competing to have the coolest, trendiest, or most modern decor, Cozinha Velha really embraces its history and it’s clearly doing something right.
What do I love about this place? Let’s start off with the key aspect for any restaurant: the food. If you’re looking for some traditional but upscale Portuguese cuisine, this is a great bet. The menu changes seasonally and the challenge isn’t finding something you want, it’s choosing from a tempting selection of menu items.
Whatever you decide to eat, leave some space for dessert because there’s an entire dessert table from which you can choose. That’s right: a dessert buffet. What differentiates this buffet from others, is that the dishes are all authentic Portuguese desserts – some of which have been around for hundreds of years. The restaurant prides itself on this.
The quality of the service completes the delicious culinary delights – staff are attentive and extremely polite. It’s easy to forget about the waiters when you’re busy enjoying the food, but they really add to the entire experience by ensuring the service is seamless and easy.
The last point I want to highlight is the decor: this is the first thing you notice, even before entering the building. The pink facade takes you back to the 18th century. You then step into the restaurant, which used to be the palace’s kitchen. The high wood-beamed ceilings, enormous single-piece stone table (currently used for desserts) and the biggest fireplace you’ve ever seen are all striking features. The walls house old-fashioned cooking utensils and are reminiscent of a museum. It’s a strange feeling leaving the restaurant and seeing cars parked outside, instead of horse-drawn carriages, but you can always go back to escape the chaos and fast food of the modern world. To make it an even more memorable experience, I recommend you tie in Cozinha Velha with a trip to the Palácio Nacional de Queluz.
Verdict: if you’re looking for an authentic, fancy meal in a striking setting, try Restaurante Cozinha Velha. It’s perfect for both a romantic date or larger groups. Whilst pricier than most restaurants in Portugal, it’s still an affordable meal: 2 courses will set you back approximately €35. See what TripAdvisor says here.