Claim to fame: theatrics on the plate, entertainment all round by Master of Ceremony José Avillez
Reason to go: Lisbon’s best value for re-inventive cuisine
To look out for: Edible cocktails and other surprises we’re not going to spoil for you
There’s been a lot of drinking going on in this bar that used to serve theatergoers during intervals and beyond. And it’s not going to stop any time soon either, judging by Chef José Avillez ability to lure thirsty guests into this historic edifice that once was Lisbon’s São Luiz Theatre. Mini Bar looks on first inspection like a 70s hotel milieu trying to look older. Perhaps what gives it away is the neon sign, vaudeville-like, above the bar itself. Because this place is much more fun than what most people used to have in 70s hotel milieus.
Mini Bar allows itself to be unabashedly entertaining. Guests sense this (so long as they’re willing to be entertained), and as a result the atmosphere is informal and flirtatious. Friendly and helpful waiters obviously contribute to this as well. Many of the dishes play with the element of surprise, so let’s not deliver spoilers here. Suffice it say that El Bulli has been an inspiration–as is acknowledged in the El Bulli olives XL – LX starter–and that several dishes featured here are also a staple at Chef Avillez’s Belcanto. Whatever you do, don’t miss the ‘edible cocktails’!
Avillez himself has said that Mini Bar is an homage of sorts to Tickets Bar in Barcelona (that name in neon again), run by Ferran Adrià’s brother Albert and itself an homage to El Bulli. The good news is that reservations are much easier to get here, and prices are decidedly lower. In fact, considering the prices at similarly creative restaurants in Lisbon, including Alma and Belcanto, Mini Bar is very good value indeed.
The wine list is not biblical in length but in wisdom, covering the length and breadth of Portugal and featuring more than a few non-mainstream producers. As the name suggests, Mini Bar can also be used as a place for drinks only. The cocktail menu includes a ‘Godot’, made with vodka, dry vermouth, mango, chili and coriander. Worth waiting for…