TravelNoise: Casa de Cha de Boa Nova, Leça da Palmeira, Portugal
The approach into the restaurant is as impressive as the food that lies within. The roof sits low among a rocky outcrop directly on the ocean, which is pounding upon the rocks. From within, while the large windows allow you to watch the violence of the ocean, the howling wind and the crash of the waves is not audible, which is an eerily tranquil disconnect between vision and sound. Casa de Cha de Boa Nova means Sea at the Table, and this is precisely what is being delivered; the brutality of the sea combined with the tastes of a world-class, Michelin starred restaurant. This rocky outcrop surrounded by small sandy beaches, although only 20 minutes away, feels a world apart from the steep cobble-stoned streets of Porto.
Everything about Casa de Cha Boa Nova is calm. The ambience, the serving staff, and yourself, once you allow your surroundings to sink in.
Before the meal begins, a port cocktail finds its way to our table. Dry, white port, tonic, lemon, lime and fresh mint; a light take on an otherwise quite heavy and syrupy liqueur. It is not surprising that this is the opener – Porto is the home of the Port Wine, with dozens of factories visible from the city, and one can only imagine that if there is a way to drink port, the Portuguese have tried it.
A series of bite-sized snacks start the meal: a fish soup bite with salmon, roe and dill, a sesame tulip with horse-mackerel and yoghurt, a veal puff with tuna and wasabi, and a savoury seaweed and sardine macaron. Perfectly balanced flavours and textures complement each bite, not served on the table but merely handed over by the staff to enjoy as they arrive. A sparkling Portuguese wine, made not far out of Porto, is poured as a further teasers to the meal we’re so eager to start arrive. First, a sea urchin creme brulee, then scallop with a salsa of mango and passion fruit.
Bread is served from a cart wheeled to the table, where on offer there are breads of all descriptions: flat, dry fruit, fennel, corn, and even pretzels – all baked in house. We’re eager for the meal to really begin, and our appetite is as fierce as the ocean outside. The courses are themed, to tell the story of Portugal’s history and people, and the passion for food is found in the quality and imagination of the dishes.
Without giving away the whole menu, highlights include; Scarlet Shrimp, served in a Wild Mushroom Broth, with the head of the shrimp to be sucked straight out of the shell. A messy business, however the Portuguese never let a little mess get in the way of enjoying their seafood, and encourage visitors to do the same! Dover Sole with Curry and Coconut, aromatic and simple, served with rice noodles and paired with an Alvenheiro wine with fresh and fruity notes.
Dessert comes in several parts; a cacao and lychee gelati and sorbet combo; a delicate violet, raspberry, manjari and fig with white, milk and dark chocolate mousse crumble; petit fours; and what feels like endless port wine and cognac.
Food is amongst the richest cultural experiences one can have when visiting a new country. Food speaks to the past, present and future of a destination; it is a way of transcending language and cultural barriers. Treating yourself to an incredible and authentic culinary experience is not only a treat for yourself, it is an almost necessary component of understanding the places in which you visit and the people which inhabit it. Casa de Cha de Boa Nova is one of those unmissable experiences, and one that definitely sits at the crest of the wave that was our visit to the wonderful Porto.
Address: Rua da Boa Nova, 4450-705 Leça da Palmeira, Portugal
Telephone Number: +351 22 994 0066
Photo credit to: Joao-Morgado-Fotografia