During our evening at the Sessenta restaurant we were fortunate to be seated next to a husband and wife who had been born and lived all their life in Lisbon. We spoke about many things including their favourite restaurants and Fado!
João was going to be busy on Thursday evening entertaining colleagues from Cyprus but Marina suggested we meet her at one of their favourite places for food and especially Fado. When we agreed she immediately phoned and booked the restaurant "Faio" for the three of us. She then phoned us on the Thursday afternoon to confirm that all was well. In fact we have both been suffering from colds and it was touch-and-go whether we would make it. However, fortunately, we did.
We had arranged to meet at the restaurant at 20:15. Because we had to take a taxi and were not sure how long this would take, Jean and I were a little early. This was not a problem. We entered through the small bar alongside the main restaurant and were quickly shown through to the main bar. Once our booking had been confirmed we were soon seated in the calm, elegant main dining room. We ordered a Porto Seco to sip whilst we awaited Marina. She was not far behind us and was soon taking charge of the menu. For a small starter she ordered some Iberico ham and then soup. Cabbage soup for Jean and fish soup for Marina and me. Jeans soup was light and fresh tasting and she enjoyed it. The fish soup was richer and full of flavour. With the soup we had another couple of glasses of the white port; a drink both Jean and I enjoy very much.
For our main course Marina ordered the lamb for Jean and me and the sea bass for herself. The waiter was pleased when we both said we preferred our lamb "pink"!
I will add here that the waiters were superb. Well trained, attentive without being obsequious or overbearing.
When our lamb arrived it turned out to be "rack" of lamb perfectly cooked with just the right degree of "done-ness". We were each served two racks of 3 ribs. The fat had not been so severely trimmed as it would be in the UK and this suited me more than Jean. However, she was able to cut around and leave the small excess. I feel that the severe trimming of the fat in some places removes some of the flavour and can also cause dryness. These ribs were perfect. They came served on a bed of mixed spinach and tender stem broccoli. Small golden disks of crisply sautéed potato adorned the plate and there was an artistically placed "dash" of a homemade mango sauce on one side. A real treat for the eye and the palate.
Between the starter and the main course we shared a bottle of a crisp white wine and Marina finished it off with her fish.
With the meat, Jean and I were offered a nice red which was smooth and rounded. However, I a m sorry that I did not think to get the names of either wine as I was too busy enjoying the meal and the conversation.
For desert I asked for soft goats cheese and left it up to the waiter to decide which type to give me. In the end I received a plate with a largish round of very soft cheese, bounded with grease-proof paper, that was easily spreadable on the selection of biscuits. The cheese was rich and creamy with a lovely subtle flavour that was in no way as overpowering as some goats cheeses I have eaten in the past. In a small bowl was a portion of apricot chutney the sweet sharpness of which complemented the cheese beautifully.
For the girls, Marina had asked for a small selection of sweet deserts. These came on a long narrow plate. There were five in all comprising of a scoop of coffee ice cream, a red berry compote, an orange flavoured "tiramisu" style dish, a sweet "cake" and one other that disappeared so quickly I did not get a chance to see what it was!
This was a meal to cherish with a lovely lady who spent her evening explaining to us what she loved about life in Portugal in general and Lisbon in particular.
Marina is well known and loved at this restaurant and this was reflected when I asked for the bill. I won't go into details but it was far lower than it should have been and I was told that it was because of who we were with! I won't argue with that.
And then the Fado began.
We had been told by people on TA and by other locals such as Pedro of Lisbontaxis and Carla of Mywaytours, that it was rare to get both good food and good Fado in the same restaurant. "Faio" is one of the exceptions.
We had just finished our deserts when at about 21:45 the lights dimmed and the musicians and the first of four singers made their way to the middle of the restaurant.
When we had seen "touristic" Fado in Madeira the lights had not been dimmed and the restaurant continued to function around the singers. In Faio however everything stopped for the music. Waiters stood like statues, customers stopped eating and there was a very respectful silence.
The music filled the air as the guitarists started. Jean was totally surprised that only two instruments could produce such a volume of sound.
Then the singing began. The First Lady singer had a powerful voice, as do they all but there was also a soft sweetness to her voice. Jean had been put off of Fado in Madeira as it had all been rather drab and dour. Last night she fell in love with it as the music was lyrical and sometimes with quite an upbeat rhythm.
Once she had sung four songs the lady retired and life resumed in the restaurant for a short while. Then the lights went down again and we were entertained by another lady with a slightly softer but even more lyrical voice.
Once again four songs were sung with one of them engaging the audience in some participation.
An elderly man followed giving the music a totally different, but very enjoyable sound.
The best was yet to come.
A lovely, blond lady now followed. Her voice was a revelation. It was so powerful that she could have filled a stadium with sound without amplification. Once again the music was lively and once again the audience was encouraged to join in, which they did with gusto.
We loved it and both of us were in tears when the evening came to an end.
We are already talking about coming back to Lisbon next week from Estoril on the train if we can get a booking.
I should have mentioned that there was not an empty seat in the house... Or very many dry eyes either!
Thank you so much Marina for an evening to remember.
Peter & Jean. :o)