A short tram ride from Portugal's second biggest city, Porto, lies a beautiful and quiet neighborhood built on understated affluence. From a former fishing village, and later a seaside resort for the wealthy; today the district of Porto da Foz is characterized by green boulevards, old mansions, and direct access to the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean. Here, we travel back in time to the golden era of Porto's bourgeoisie at the restaurant of the five-star hotel Vila Foz, where old-world glamour kisses cheeks with modern design and sustainable luxury.

From the creatively crafted pre-dinner drinks taking you around the world (Fiji, anyone?) to the very last bite of dessert, Vila Foz is an indulgent feast for the senses. The chic decor in the 19th-century mansion, not least in the lavishly decorated bar where our evening begins — designed with heavy, green velvet curtains and golden details — is only adding to the feel of absolute opulence. Think Bridgerton meets designer cocktails and hip, to-die-for ceramics from Catarina Nunes. The gilded, former ballroom now act as host to the Michelin-starred restaurant simply named Vila Foz.

Author: Karina Janø;

Reopened in February 2024 with a new menu and shortly after a renewed Michelin star, we enter a space where the waiters are warm and smiling, charming even, carefully explaining all the dishes and accompanying wines. Soon all of our senses are invited to come out to play: with noisy, “fake” yet edible clams; servings on ice; empty nests, and colourful, edible, floral wreaths. Sights, scents, tastes, sounds, and touch (eat with your fingers!), it’s all in the mix.

A playful homage to Portugal

With his roots firmly placed in the Portuguese soil, head chef Arnaldo Azevedo makes balancing flavours look like child’s play. Azevedo likes to keep us guessing and toying with our expectations and the relation between what the eyes sees and what hits the palate. This feels like an homage to Portugal: from the cow-shaped butter from the Azores to the crispy, black octopus silhouettes, the Portuguese wines, and, not least, eggs from the local, Lusitanian Black Chicken.

Author: Karina Janø;

Azevedo literally stepped into his father's restaurant when he was two years old and arrived at Vila Foz Hotel & Spa in 2020, earning the first Michelin star for the place in 2021. His career was shaped by the cooking course at the Hotel School of Santa Maria da Feira, followed by other experiences between Porto and the Algarve. He prefers to source local produce and has a keen love of working with the flavours of the ocean. Boldness and creativity, but also focus lead him and his team to enter a winning streak of Michelin stars for Vila Foz.

Maresia or Novo Mundo

And since we are now sitting in a restaurant by the ocean, it makes absolute sense to chose the tasting menu Maresia, which is comprised of fish and seafood. You will also find a completely vegetarian option, the Novo Mundo tasting menu. Both can be paired with a careful selection of six wines. There is also the opportunity to steel a seat at the chef’s table but at a higher rate.

Author: Karina Janø;

We feast on oysters from the Ria Formosa with marinated seaweed; spider crab, shrimp, and moqueca sauce; Azorian pineapple with yogurt, and much more. The Alentejo lamb with artichokes, spring onions, and Madeira wine sauce is the only meat dish on the menu and is, like everything else, prepared to perfection.

There is a clear and beautiful nature theme to be found here, yet transformed into the delicateness of the setting in the 19th-century house. Some may even call it poetic. It’s hard to find something I would have wished differently, the only thing being that it’s a lot. For some maybe not, but 16 courses, small as they may be, and even if this is standard for most Michelin places, is quite filling. But all the impressions and flavours will surely leave you more than content. Ultimately our waiter becomes a DJ, sending us home with carefully arranged petit fours on a spinning record, a little nod to the festive hall we are sitting in and the celebrations of time gone by, twirling us into the 20th century, Gatsby-style.

Author: Karina Janø;

To market, to market!

The next day we find ourselves firmly back in 2024, accompanying Azevedo to the local fish market, following his thought processes as he shops and prepares for a traditional lunch for us later, tasting fresh oysters, sea urchin, and sipping bubbly from an ice bucket along the way.

Author: Karina Janø;

This experience can be booked through the initiative The Art of Tasting Portugal, promoting Portuguese produce and chefs. I would have loved to have followed Azevedo into the kitchen learning the recipe or maybe just some tricks, but the fish market was enjoyable and the dish very tasty. All in all, a rare blend of authenticity and luxury.




Karina Janø has been working in journalism, photography, and communication since earning her master's degree in Visual Culture and Cultural Journalism in 2012. Now a full-time freelancer, she writes and photographs for some of the biggest publications in Denmark and for some in the UK and Portugal. Topics of interest are mainly food, culture, and travel.  https://www.instagram.com/words_and_visuals_/

Karina Janø