Review: Cura, Lisbon: worthy of the journey
Cura: A Lisbon restaurant, worthy of the journey
Cura, Ritz Hotel Four Seasons Lisbon, R. Rodrigo da Fonseca 88, 1070-051 Lisbon, Portugal. 13-course Origen tasting menu, €130 (US$154, £111), 6 Origen wine pairing menu €75 ($89, £64), 2 bottles sparkling water €. Meia Cura tasting menu: €95 (US$112, £81), vegetarian tasting menu: €85 (US$100, £72). A la carte: starters (€10-33), mains (€32-47) and desserts (€19). Website: https://www.fourseasons.com/lisbon/dining/restaurants/cura/. Tel: +351 (21) 381-1401.
Cura delivers some of the best modern Portuguese food in Lisbon behind chef Pedro Pena Bastos serving tasting menus with regional wine.
Written by EatGoSee // Find other food reviews here.
Lavish, precise modern dining harnesses and reimagines local ingredients
The squid with hazelnut, bergamot, roasted seaweed butter and caviar is astonishingly good
Minhota with celery two ways is another standout course
Portuguese-focused wine list challenges and delights with unfiltered wines, fruity reds and an old Madeira
Service is engaging and friendly
Some course flows are out of sync
Cura: I made it despite the odds
I assault Lisbon’s arduous near-vertical hills ascending towards the Hotel Ritz Four Seasons. Cardio is not my usual Thursday night. The top hat and tailed doorman reviews my wet flop sweat-drenched gingham unclear whether this is another foolish tourist walking or do I just look every inch a man four days into a serious illness? You know which one by now.
Cura is based inside of Lisbon’s Hotel Ritz Four Seasons (first); Cura’s chickpea-based amuse bouche course (second)
I pass muster and alight into Cura’s Art Deco-inspired modern dining room panting through a sweat-logged face mask. It is like waterboarding, but far less pleasant. Breathing through a mask that is, Cura looks fabulous.
An intimate space yet with soaring ceilings and enough social distancing to put each table in its own postcode. An open plan kitchen from which celebrated chef Pedro Pena Bastos examines his brigade and the restaurant floor.
I shimmy my increasingly large frame into a seat and a table for one. I sit alone in a comfortable chair where both my bones and my hopes rest. Cura charms with modern elegance. It is near library-level quiet, even when full. Swathes of copper, warm woods and restrained features feel precise, deliberate and familiar. Would the menu be the same?
Cura’s chef Pedro Pena Bastos serving tasting menus with regional wine. (first); Cura’s spacious modern dining room (second)
Cura’s tasting menu and wine pairing
Cura also offers a la carte menu. A succinct collection of four starters, five mains and two desserts. Cost-wise, three courses put you within touching distance of the Meia Cura menu. A la carte is the preferred choice if more than three courses feels a mountain too high.
Cura’s pumpkin puree and herbaceous oil. (first); Cura’s aged homemade butter (second)
Cura’s Origens menu and wine pairing
Five starters set the tone. A mouthful of charred, slightly bitter lettuce is nutty, sweet and the first sign of a lingering pickled theme that re-emerges through successive courses. A shatteringly-crisp tartlet of precisely chopped minhota beef tartare purrs with sesame. A grilled Sado oyster lays pristine under airy-light foam twinned with the fresh crunch of cucumber morsels. The meaty oyster is nearly lost but rolls forward as a latecomer with a distinct saline finish.
Cura’s beef minhota tartare with sesame in a crisp tartlet. (first); Cura’s grilled Sado oyster with foam and cucumbers (second)
The Origen wine pairing successfully couples this oyster course with a 2019 Granito Cru Alvarinho (€75 for six glasses). The wine menu challenges with exceptional drops like an unfiltered white wine that shares more with a French cider than a stereotypical Portuguese white. The wine menu highlights some exceptional Portuguese regional wines proving this country is foolishly overlooked by buyers. Race down to your local wine shop and find out what you are missing out on.
Cura’s star courses start with the last starter. Ribboned squid resembling tagliatelle sit proud against a pool of roasted seaweed butter and bergamot topped with caviar. Gold flecks greet me like an old Dubai friend waving back at me. Gold in food follows me like a bad smell. Nevermind. This is an exceptional signature Cura dish that creatively demonstrates the kitchen’s imagination. The only issue with this plate-lickingly good dish is there is not more. I consider whether to order a second from the a la carte menu (€33).
A minimalist turbot dish arrives with asparagus and a rubble of chipped mushrooms in a light mushroom broth with cockles and a roe mayonnaise. The super-soft turbot peels easily away fleshy petals like layers of a millefeuille. The ochre, lightly-flavoured mushroom consomme is lifted by bouncy cockles. It feels like a modern surf and turf where the land is both vegetal and autumnal.
The last star course is the supple minhota beef with celery two ways, broccoli and mustard greens. The beef tears away easily, fatty, delicious and moreish. The celery purée and a roasted snail shell of celery adds grassy sweetness. It is steak and two veg at its core. Elevated and served with precision in a bath of the minhota’s glossy roasting juices. You would also want to order this from the a la carte menu (€47).
Cura’s signature squid ‘pasta’ with bergamot oil. (first); Cura’s turbot with mushroom broth (second); Cura’s beef minhota with celery two ways and broccoli (third)
Other honourable mentions include an intense seafood curd bolstered by smoked eel and elevated with the sweetest prawns and verdant oil. The texture wobbles and collapses like a savoury flan. Cura’s service shines as Diogo, my chummy server, brings me yellow lupines, which I admit I never heard of until this moment. Diogo confidently talks me about lupines like he is Jack and this is his beanstalk. I mean that in an admiring way. The service is so engaged and familiar that this dinner for one becomes a family affair, but one where they astutely know when to leave me be.
Lastly, a grilled onion with buckwheat shingled with seasonal truffle balances the bitter burnt char with an onion’s natural sweetness. That haunting pickling flavour re-emerges with a hoppy earthiness under the crunch of buckwheat. The truffle is undetectable.
Cura’s seafood curd with smoked eel and swwet prawns. (first); Cura’s charred onion with buckwheat and truffle (second)
Is Cura the perfect meal?
Cura delivers excellence and fun. Pedro challenges preconceptions and provides the familiar in unexpected ways. I enjoy this kind of dining and, by the third course, I was already texting family and friends telling them they need to come.
There are some eyebrow scrunching moments mostly to do with flow.
An ancestral bread course arrives at the seventh course like a guest apologising for being late. Sure I like the aged, cheesy, umami funk of Cura’s butter. Yes I would spend a lifetime dredging spelt bread through slick pools of delicious Portuguese olive. Seriously, where were you about six courses ago? An entire bread course feels like filler. I could do without filler just before the mains.
Later, the first dessert of strawberries with coriander and elderflower is a sharp turn from the sublime minhota beef main course. It should be a palate cleanser and not a course on its own.
The final dessert of roasted Azores pineapple crowned with hay ice cream (wow, it’s good) and miso caramel is spoon-lickingly good. Yet, the citrusy timut pepper and lemongrass granita is ‘holy shit’-sharp distracting from one of the best pineapple desserts to pass these lips.
Cura’s ancestral bread course including this delectably buttery brioche (first); Cura’s strawberries with coriander and elderflower (second); Cura’s roasted pineapple with hay ice cream (third)
Cura, Would I Return?
I cancelled a table at Belcanto in favour of Cura on the advice of a friend who’s forgotten more about food than I will ever know. Cura lived up to expectations and is a serious restaurant to watch on the global stage. There are no Michelin stars (yet), Michelin Plates (yet) or lists of fifty or so restaurants. But watch this space.
Cura’s beef minhota tartare tartlet
Cura, Who Should Come Here?
Gastronomes looking for the next best thing, modern food enthusiasts and Portuguese food lovers. Travellers looking for that ONE place they should go to in Lisbon before leaving. Solo travellers that like eating alone. Oenophiles looking for a chaperone through Portuguese wine over dinner. Vegetarians looking for a tasting menu.