Fantastic gourmet bar from the talented José Avillez
Mini Bar is in Chiado, a few minutes walk from all six of Avillez’s Lisbon restaurants.
In the front room, mainly dedicated to imbibing, the walls and seating are eclectic: dark green wood panelled walls stand alongside different sets of patterned wallpaper; brown leather arm chairs sit side by side colourful mid century modern cocktail chairs made of velvet.
In the back of the space, where the dining area and bar are housed, there is a blend of Art Deco and mid century modern styles. Seating is mainly made up of plush booths.
The overall look and feel of Mini Bar is upmarket hip, with a fun, sexy edge. I was totally into it. The only slight quibble was that it got pretty hot in here and could have benefited from a bit of air con.
FOOD & SERVICE
They only employ beautiful people. Fact. The waiters were smoking hot and I couldn’t help but ogle them as they walked past. Sleazy? Guilty.
It was a different kind of service here – much more understated but still efficient. We never had to ask for something twice, they almost just left us to it, whereas in Belcanto the service seemed more proactive (but not in a suffocating annoying way).
For drinks, we ordered rounds of caprinhias which at €6 each were the cheapest and best caprinhias I’ve ever had. Definitely order cocktails here.
This was my second dose of Avillez cooking, a mere few hours after dining at his other restaurant, the 2 Michelin Star Belcanto. I was still stuffed by the time I arrived but gluttony got the best of me and I of course indulged myself once again.
In homage to the space as a former theatre, the food is served in ‘Acts’ like in a play. They have ready made plays you can choose from or you can build your own ‘Acts’ to form a play which is what we opted for. The 1st act comprised ‘mini cocktails to bite’; the 2nd, ‘mini snacks’; the 3rd ‘mini entrees’; 4th Act – ‘mini fish courses’; the 5th was ‘mini meat courses’ and the final act was desserts. I tend to dislike gimmicky restaurants but this idea is so well executed, it doesn’t feel naff at all.
A number of the plates of food are not what they seem according to the official PR spiel. In short, you’re not going to get your bog standard tapas here but exciting inventive dishes. Interestingly they had a few of the same dishes they serve / used to serve at Belcanto but at a much cheaper price point. So at Mini Bar, you can find the famous Ferrero Rocher dish, Capirinhia – Belcanto 2012, El Bulli ‘Exploding’ Olives and the Algarve Prawns in Ceviche.
To kick things off, we ordered the Caipirinha – Belcanto 2012 which arrived as a fluorescent green ball; we popped it into our mouths and it dissolved into a mini cocktail tipple – a nice refreshing start.
Then we ordered the Algarve Prawns in Ceviche which I had earlier in the day but had no qualms revisiting it, as it was so fresh and delicious the first time round.
Act 3 & 4
Another fabulous piece was the tuna tartar temaki cone with spicy soy. The tuna was really fresh and had a wonderful spicy kick to it, wrapped up in a mini cone that had the perfect crunch to it. We had to order two rounds of it.
I personally didn’t have anything from the 4th Act, I was pretty full at this point and needed to make sure I kept a bit of space for dessert. My friend had the the pan seared scallops with Thai flavours from the 4th Act though and my sister had the beef Tataki with Dijon mustard, black pepper and smoked flour du sel from the 5th Act. At this point all I could see were mouths moving but no words spilling out from them. When my friends and I don’t talk at dinner, you can rest assured the food is so damn good, that we respect the silence as we savour each mouthful.
I hadn’t eaten red meat for a long long time until late last year and have been trying it out here and there since then. The last thing I squeezed in before dessert was the veal rice with Parmesan and my word what a triumph this was. This risotto style dish was perfectly cooked, the veal exquisitely tender and the Parmesan brought a rich velvety quality to the dish. They also had on offer an ‘Isolated Act’ with 1 or 2 larger sized plates.
For dessert, we had the lemon, lime globe which looks quite similar to the mini caprinhia ball we had in the 1st Act but like many of the dishes, looks can be deceptive. This time round it was a green solid candy shell, made with lime zest I imagine and inside was a delicious cream with citrus tones. They brought me a lovely complimentary chocolate birthday cake to round off the evening. I was officially caput by this point.
They have a DJ on Thur, Fri and Sat from 11pm but we didn’t stick around to check it out. I was comatose from all the food I’d eaten that day and needed to sleep!
The 5 Acts ‘Menu Now On’ tasting menu is €39/£30 and the 7 Acts ‘Epic menu’ (a sort of surprise menu, with dishes picked by the chef on the night) is €48.50/£37. Our meal which we composed ourselves with elements from 5 different acts came to £35 per head including drinks and dessert. The price point is criminal. If you come to Lisbon and don’t eat here, you’re a fool.
THE TAKE OUT
This gourmet bar from José Avillez serves up delicious inventive mini bites in ‘Acts’, a nod to the space – a former theatre. Flawless food and amazing value considering you can taste some of the dishes here that feature / have featured at Avillez 2 Michelin star restaurant, Belcanto.
Cuisine: Modern Portuguese
Cost: c.£30-40 incl drinks
Address: Rua António Maria Cardoso, nº58, 1200-027 Lisboa
Hours: 19:00 – 01:00 (dinner) 19:00 -14:00 (drinks)
Phone:+351 211 305 393
LAST VISITED MAY 2015
All food images from minibar.pt