Rua Tomás da Anunciação 52, Campo de Ourique, Lisbon. Tel: 213 954 522
I shouldn't do it but I’m following a review of one of my favourite Alentejan restaurants (Solar dos Nunes) with a new discovery (to me) from the same gastronomic region. I couldn't resist. I allowed myself to be shamelessly seduced, indeed ravished, by O Magano, which sits in an unassuming side street of the pleasant Campo de Ourique quarter.
It was the soup that gave me that "thunderbolt city" moment (cf Four Weddings and a Funeral). I'm not a huge soup eater but my friend Carlos Vicente (visit his outstanding organic supermarket, Brio, nearby), chose the Sopa de Cação – shark soup, made from a local, small, coastal species of shark – and I chose fried rabbit (Coelho Frito). We decided to split the dishes. Great decision.
The soup is really a stew, with generous pieces of fish and bread - a typical Alentejan addition – swimming in the thick, aromatic liquid. This traditional dish is frequently either bland or overwhelmed with garlic. In the Magano's version, the rich, almost pungent, fish flavours are given the lead, with a sharp zing of fresh coriander and a deep undertone of garlic. The bread is not the usual dollop of disintegrating pulp at the bottom of the plate but is its own chewy, tasty surprise. Rarely have I so carefully scraped the plate for every last, delectable, drop of a soup.
Rabbit is difficult to fry properly. Timing is everything to avoid dried out or rubbery results. Here it was perfect, full of flavour – the hapless bunny had been soaked for some time in wine and herbs – juicy with, yet, a hint of crispness on the outside. Another well-scraped dish and an extra notch let out on my belt.
The menu is extensive, although with few surprises for the Alentejo, but the execution is just unbeatable. Starters or, rather, hors d’oevres, are excellent, with some interesting ideas, such as fried strawberry pieces, thrown in amongst the usual sausages and cheeses. Puddings are splendid, including a number of classic monastery recipes (“doces conventuais”) full of eggs and sugar, as well as other rich, mouth-wathering and thoroughly wicked temptations. The wine list is broad and solid. The atmosphere is genuine, relaxed and, thank goodness, not too noisy.
O Magano is definitely going into my top ten. This is a perfect choice for a relaxed business lunch or an intimate dinner and the ideal introduction to the wonders of Alentejan cooking.
Times: 12.00 to 15.00 and 19.00 to 22.30. Closes Saturday. Booking recommended.
Copyright © 2010 Clive Viegas Bennett