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Popularity of Portuguese food in the UK on the rise

Antonio Carmona e Costa

Portuguese cuisine has gained some popularity in the UK in recent years, and there are now numerous Portuguese restaurants and cafes across the country. While it may not be as prevalent as some other international cuisines, Portuguese food has earned itself a place in the UK food scene.

The success can be attributed to several factors. The sizeable Portuguese community in the UK, particularly in cities like London and Manchester, have contributed to the demand for authentic Portuguese cuisine and have helped establish and sustain Portuguese restaurants. The vibrant food scene in Stockwell contributed to the area becoming known as "Little Portugal”.
Portuguese cuisine offers a unique blend of flavours and dishes that appeal to a wide range of palates. The use of fresh ingredients, seafood, olive oil and traditional spices adds to the appeal and makes it distinctly healthy. The seasoning is influenced by the country's history of exploration and it pairs perfectly with the superb wines produced in the nation's terroirs.
This has led to some Portuguese restaurants in the UK receiving critical acclaim. Michelin-starred chef Nuno Mendes' new eatery Lisboeta in London has been designated "One to Watch" at the National Restaurant Awards 2022. The growing chain Casa do Frango has been decorated with several awards for its piri piri chicken, including ‘Emerging Concept’ at the Retailers' Retailer Awards 2023. Joia, by two Michelin starred Henrique Sá Pessoa, and Bar Douro are others that stand out.
The boom of Portuguese cookery is probably a result of a growing influence of Portuguese culture and tourism. In the last decade, Portugal won numerous travel gongs such as Best Tourist Destination in Europe, the European Football Championship, the Futsal World Cup and, last but not least, the Eurovision.
This success is not one sided, as it is a result of the enthusiasm of British diners to explore new culinary experiences and are open to trying different cuisines, including the Portuguese. Their steady quest has led to chefs and restaurateurs striving to offer quality and variety.
Dishes such as bacalhau (salted cod), grilled sardines, bifana or octopus are staples in any small tavern or terrace in Portugal. But these aren’t always widely available or a first choice by British diners. The most famous Portuguese food in the UK is arguably piri piri chicken. This combination of grilled chicken marinated in a spicy sauce made with piri piri peppers, garlic and herbs, and then grilled through, keeping the meat moist and skin crispy, is now common in any high street.
The success of the piri piri chicken is not unrelated to the universality of the pastel de nata in the UK. Both are favourites. Maybe the sweet and creamy custard helps to balance out the heat of the piri-piri chicken. They may not be traditionally served as a combined dish, there's no strict rule against enjoying them side by side. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding what to serve as a main course or a dessert. There are no rules when it comes to culinary creativity!

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