Adega São Nicolau

There are few places that don’t need introductions, but even inside those, there are some that still deserve them, like this veteran Adega São Nicolau.

The history of Adega merges with the evolution of the Ribeira do Porto, where it’s located, with more than 80 years of life, an adega (winery) that transformed into a tasca (tavern), and from tasca to casa de pasto (“eating house”), and then to one of the gastronomical references in town.

That evolution is the work of mainly António Coelho, who commands the space for almost 20 years now, with a unique charisma and a nicely tuned finger to the kitchen and respect for tradition and old customs. Simple customs that make the difference, like going to the countryside, namely Resende, for Arouquesa meat supplies and other local produce. In the last years, and with the tourism growth in the city, the space evolved, was renovated, the tables are more comfortable, the dishes were improved (winner of the Traditional Restaurant title in the Flavors & Senses – The best for 2014 and 2016 – see) and the space won brothers in other points of Ribeira – the Terreiro and the Taberna dos Mercadores.

But let’s put history aside and on to our experience! We arrived early, in a quite warm summer evening, with people packing up in the terrace (that almost deserves an architectural award for “desenrasca” – typical Portuguese expression describing our way of always solving things!), leaving the room calmer and more comfortable.

Nicely welcomed and installed, starts the debate on what to choose among the more common dishes and others less usual in the traditional menu, while tasting the good broa (cornbread), some nice bread and olive oil with green notes, stimulating the taste buds.

Codfish Cakesor pastels, don’t wanna hurt the regionalization (1€/un)

To start, positive note for not being overwhelmed with starters, mostly because of the touristic location of the restaurant, we couldn’t resist some classic codfish cakes, very well fried and lean, with a thin crispy cape and the right ratio of potato and fish. A comfy and tasty start.

Octopus fillets, with octopus rice(15,5€)

If there’s a dish always present in a traditional restaurant menu in town it’s this one (the tripas don’t count, but they’re also in there). Thin fillets, tender, flawlessly fried, but the best about this dish at Adega São Nicolau is really the rice, perfectly cooked, with a very refined and own flavor, showing a few drops of some secret recipe of Mr. Coelho.

Stewed Veal Tongue with peas (12,5€)

Another proof they don’t just cook for tourists, cooking a dish that does not please foreigners nor the great majority of the new generations, cooking one of the less noble, but more interesting, parts of the animal, the tongue.
Upstanding stew, with an enticing sauce and perfectly cooked meat, succulent and tender. Accompanying were some very crispy potato chips.

Veal Tail, our way (14,5€, there are two doses in the picture)

Those who know me, know that when it exists in a menu, I rarely resist a nice tail (both veal or ox, of course!). Melting meat as mandatory, with the gelatin and the traces of marrow merging nicely with the succulent sauce, right seasoning, based in tomato and carrot. To go with, I rarely pass on a good puree, but here the fluffy white rice did its part nicely when mixed with the meat and the sauce.

Quindim (4€)

Starting the sweet chapter, we traveled to Brasil with an excellent Quindim. Sweet as the law dictates, coconut basis in the right measure and silky texture in the cream. Very good!

Toucinho do Céu (4€)

Toucinho my parents used to buy for special occasions, to an old artisan of traditional sweets, and I still wasn’t able to find a better one! But this one at Adega São Nicolau was one of the best I tasted lately, right amount of almond, correct texture and on point flavor.

The wine list goes around the country with references showing the best we have to offer and also some champagnes (Mr. Coelho’s passion) for a celebration day. The day asked for a white, so I went for a full-bodied wine that would pair nicely with the meat, choosing the Quinta de Cidrô Chardonnay 2015 from Real Companhia Velha, at an unbeatable price of 15€.

As to the service it went wonderfully, as the expected for a traditional restaurant, extremely nice team, having in account the bustle of the service, respecting the times and with those little details that bring comfort and make us feel at home.

Guests with the right to tunas and fado in the staircase that gives access to the terrace

Final Remarks
The gastronomical offer at Ribeira was never one of the best, with the majority of spaces living off the coming and going of tourists, but Adega is one of those restaurants that proves the exception to the rule. Nicely prepared Portuguese cuisine, with simple and efficient presentation, and above all, with lots of flavor. The touch António Coelho puts in his kitchens is still accurate and he benefits nowdays from the help of his daughter Renata, commanding the room brigades in his three restaurants.

Resuming, and with the growth of the contemporary cuisine and the spotlight pointed at fine dining, you could fall into the mistake of saying Adega São Nicolau is “just” a good traditional restaurant, but with all the fails we see in new restaurants and the crimes committed in so many restaurants of Portuguese cuisine, the “just” gains another dimension, because this is a restaurant you really want to visit. Time after time. Where you want to take your friends or grandmas, and above all it’s a restaurant from where you leave happy!

Adega São Nicolau 
Rua de São Nicolau nº 1 (Ribeira), Porto
+351 222 008 232

Versão Portuguesa

 Text: João Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses 

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