Becoming a famous and much sought after Michelin Star chef is one thing, but sharing extraordinary food with your friends, and friends-of-friends, in a cozy home-like setting is another. No doubt Chef José Avillez is greatly appreciative of the acclaim his culinary skills have achieved; yet it was his dream is to share his passion with his community in a relaxed setting. This is the concept behind Avillez’s restaurant, O Cantinho do Avillez, in the Chiado District of Lisbon.
Most know Avillez as the young, talented award-winning chef of iconic Portuguese restaurant Tavares. Avillez landed at Tavares after training with such notable chefs as Antoine Westerman at Fortaleza do Guincho, José Bento dos Santos at Quinta do Monte D’Oiro, and Eric Frechon’s kitchen, at the Bristol Hotel. He also trained with renowned Alain Ducasse’s and worked in the kitchen of Ferran Adrià of El Bulli.
Recently, Avillez left Tavares to push forward with new projects, the first being O Cantinho.
Avillez’s idea for O Cantinho is to be simple and sophisticated. So, first, the space must be comfortable and unpretentious. Mismatched antique tables and chairs picked up from here-and-there are the basis for this home-y ambiance. Art installation from Joana Astolfi accents the wall. It is an eclectic collage of objects form a mid 20th-century kitchen.
On the menu for this relaxed environment, Avillez offers Portuguese comfort food, prepared with a special brand of expertise based on his creativity, experience and travels. Most ingredients are purchased fresh from the Mercado da Ribeira. Some products, such as cheeses, sausages and breads, are purchased from farmers and bakers who deliver the product directly to the Cantinho kitchen. The result is a dinner of purely Portuguese.
So, what can you expect? Baked Nisa cheese and ham, with rosemary and honey. Cream of crab served in a cold hard-boiled egg with toast and gherkin. Popular on the menu are several forms of steak sandwich (prego) inspired by Avillez’s trips to Mexico and China, or a Portuguese version with foie gras. A pastry made of partridge, bacon and chive is on the menu, as is boletus mushroom risotto with shaved parmesan. If you like hazelnuts, Avillez surprises you with the nut in three forms: ice cream, mousse and foam.
Avillez’s creativity also stretches to the bar. Together with Lisbon’s mixologist extraordinaire David Palethorpe (Cinco Lounge), they concoct specialty cocktails based on ingredients from the O Cantinho kitchen. For instance: the Lisboa is made with vodka, red berries and ginger; the Chiado Laranja consists of rum, honey and orange; the Primobasilico is a blend of gin, basil and anise. They’ve also created a signature Cantinho Mojito, but the recipe is a Cantinho secret.
For more information on José Avillez, visit his website.
O Cantinho do Avillez
R. Dos Duques de Bragança, 7
Phone: +351 188.8.131.52
Lunch – Tuesday through Saturday – 12:30 to 15:00
Dinner – Monday through Thursday – 19:30 to 12:00
Dinner – Friday & Saturday – 19:30 to 01:00