Lunch With A View: Why You Should Visit Restaurant Vinum In Vila Nova de Gaia (Porto, Portugal)
Of all the meals I had in Portugal, my lunch at Vinum Restaurant takes the top spot (or possibly tied with the similarly-epic Castas e Pratos in the Douro Valley). Located in the Graham’s port lodge and perched atop Vila Nova de Gaia, it boasts wonderful food, interesting wines, and a great view.
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Restaurant Vinum and Graham’s port house is located across the river from Porto in Vila Nova de Gaia, where all the port houses are located. Many tourists don’t realize that it’s technically a different city, and so it’s common to hear it referred to as Porto as well.
Graham’s is one of the most well-known names in port wine, owned by the Symington family who have been major players in the port industry for over 130 years. They also own Dow’s, Cockburn’s, and other (non-port) winery brands as well.
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And while the riverfront is absolutely delightful, to get to Vinum you actually have to go UP.
It is a hot, steep walk up from the main drag of port lodges, and quite a long one (about 3 km if you can’t take a shortcut, all hilly). If you can catch a cab or Uber, it’s worth it. Unfortunately I couldn’t and was running late, so I was REALLY booking it up the hill and arrived sweaty and out of breath.
However, here’s a tip if you’re walking…when you see this building with the big Graham’s sign, see if you can walk in that little gate there. If not, you’ll have to keep going even further uphill and then around to the restaurant, which adds at least another 5 minutes to your walk. This pedestrian gate would be a great shortcut.
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Reservations are recommended, and you can make them at Vinum’s website, though their website is terrible so I’d just call them. On this particular trip I worked with a travel planner to help me figure out parts of my itinerary and deal with the logistics, since I had less than two weeks to plan everything.
She’d arranged for a 5-course meal with wine and port pairings, rather than me just ordering off the menu, and they accommodated my dietary restrictions (no pork or shellfish).
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I was welcomed into Vinum and seated in the sunroom-like portion, with a great view over the patio and out toward the river. Graham’s whole operation and Vinum Restaurant both manage to blend the vibes of a 19th-century port lodge with a very contemporary feel, lots of white with black touches and high ceilings. It’s very light and airy, and really sparkled on a sunny day.
I started off with an amuse bouche (some kind of like beef with guacamole? delish) and a glass of white wine, as well as some bread.
The bread was a sourdough that had been fermenting for 48 hours, and was chewy and crusty with lots of flavor…it’s worth noting because a lot of nice restaurants really drop the ball on good bread (which in my opinion is lazy because making good bread is cheap and easy, and it’s often the first thing a customer gets).
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Then we were off…the first course was thinly-sliced roast beef with rocket, topped with toasted pine nuts and shaved parmesan and with drizzles of mustard (and I think honey?). Soooo good!
They paired it with a white wine that had a hint of floral to it. The texture of the roast beef was buttery and tender, and all of the textures and flavors went so well together.
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Next was wild sea bass that was cooked perfectly, with a crispy skin and crystals of sea salt on top.
It came with some kind of amazing cauliflower cake or soufflé kind of thing, which was SO good! The texture was creamy and silky, and it had strong flavors including garlic and onion. I really want to figure out how to recreate this cauliflower thing myself.
The drier white wine they paired this course with was perfect to cut both the salty, fatty fish skin and the luscious cream of the cauliflower cake.
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The third course was duck magret that is as rich and meaty as steak, with stripes of melty foie gras embedded within the duck breast. It was so delicious and rich, served in a sauce that I assume had some port in it.
They paired this with a really intense red to cut the fattiness, and they were perfect together.
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Three down, two to go! Now we moved to the after-dinner courses, starting with Portuguese cheeses and a ruby port. Specifically, it was Graham’s bold and fruity Six Grapes port. Nothing especially unique, but you can’t go wrong with delicious cheeses and port.
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Lastly, they brought out this truly giant bottle of 20-year tawny port and poured me a glass. Seriously, biggest bottle ever.
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With the tawny port, they served an apple tart. I was served almost this exact dish twice on my trip and it’s…okay? I think it’s kind of trying to be a tarte tatin? But as desserts go it’s a little underwhelming and the textures are weird. However, the flavors were good and the 20-year tawny is delicious.
Both the Six Grapes and the 20-year tawny were part of my tasting at Quinta do Bomfim out in the Douro Valley as well.
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Feeling pleasantly full but (surprisingly) not stuffed, I headed around the building to the lodge for my tour and tasting. Graham’s offers guided tours that need to be reserved in advance (their website offers one way to do this), and have a couple different tasting room options.
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The tour was quite long and did have a lot of interesting information in it…about the port industry and how port is made, the history of Graham’s, a lot about the Symington family, and more. For me I was antsy because I’d already done a few tours that were very thorough, so it was repetitive and I just wanted to get to the tasting 🙂
One thing that was cool was getting to walk through the cellars of old vintages, including some that were 100 years or more.
If you’re visiting Porto and looking for a stand-out meal, I highly recommend Vinum Restaurant! Whether you want to tour Graham’s is kind of up to you—if you haven’t done any in-depth tours of port lodges or out in the Douro Valley then it would be really helpful. If you’ve already done a few then it might feel repetitive.
I recommend calling them about reservations or with questions, as their website does not work well. You can read reviews on TripAdvisor as well, you get a lot of people who really love it but then some who really don’t, so always helpful…my opinion was that this meal was super good bordering on exceptional. I did see a few comments about the vegetarian/vegan options not being worth it.
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