Head south of the river, to the South Lambeth area and you’ll be forgiven for thinking you haven’t just miraculously made your way to a buzzing street in central Lisbon. During the 60s and 70s, a number of Portuguese families made their way across the English channel in search of a new life, finally settling in an area between Vauxhall, Stockwell, and Brixton. Thanks to this Portuguese community numbered today at about 30,000, the South Lambeth Road and connecting streets are now bursting with cafes, bars, and restaurants all offering a little taste of Portugal. And boy, is it a taste! Below is a list of some of the best 6 restaurants and cafes in and around Little Portugal in Vauxhall to sink your teeth into and satisfy many a hungry belly!
This family-run business nestled under the railway arches in Vauxhall has been around since 1988 and boasts a vibrant cafe, restaurant, and deli which is loyal to its Portuguese roots. Expect a reasonably priced offering of specialty cakes and breads, as well as a sit-down menu which boasts smoky grilled meats, tapas dishes, and a range of seafood from oysters to traditionally prepared salted cod, octopus, and sea bass. Their custard tarts, or pastel de natas, are award-winning, and include a standout raspberry and vegan version with perfect pastry laminations and the creamiest thick set custard. As if that isn’t enough, celebrated food critic and journalist Jay Rayner’s a big fan, waxing lyrical about the eatery’s seafood and dreamy custard tarts in a Guardian review in 2021. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you may as well settle into a 12-hour stint!
Fernando Marques and Gabriel Jesus made their way to London from Viseu in northern Portugal, an area renowned for its wine, in the 80s. In 2002, the pair decided to take over a small old restaurant on Wandsworth Road to showcase the best of Portuguese cuisine and wine. The result is a warm, friendly, and homely space which seats about 75 and offers unpretentious and authentic tapas, fish, and meat dishes as well as good vegetarian options. Menu highlights include their Bacalhau à Brás (a mix of salted cod cooked with onion, egg, and potato), as well as their Carne de porco à Alentejana (Pork with clams, potatoes and coriander). For more intimate affairs including business meetings or birthday parties, the restaurant has two private rooms for hire which seat groups of up to 30. If you’re after something lighter, the restaurant also doubles up as a relaxed cafe serving breakfast, lunch, and coffee until 4pm daily.
This local mainstay is located slap bang on South Lambeth Road and is extremely popular for its generous steak and octopus dishes, as well as its swordfish served with simply grilled veggies and a butter lemon sauce. By day and early evening, the white-walled, simply decorated space offers some of the most mouth-watering authentic Portuguese tapas dishes in the area. Once the clock strikes 11pm, the kitted-out bar buzzes to life and people flock to make use of the snooker table and darts board while knocking back some delicious Portuguese wine and beer. Its lively atmosphere and friendly staff make it a much-loved casual spot for good food and a few drinks with friends.
Famous for its great customer service and friendly staff, this cute corner cafe and bar is the place to go for a proper Portuguese welcome. If value for money and generous portion sizes are what you’re looking for then look no further. Expect huge hearty meals served in a small but relaxed, airy, and welcoming environment. Their sirloin steaks are cooked to perfection and can even be found in sandwich form – the perfect lunch for under a tenner. Make sure you don’t skip their small, strong, and affordable coffees which will keep you going for hours!
Another spot famed for its huge portion sizes and a great wine list. This one’s a firm favourite among football fans, and is well-known for being a lively place to watch all the Portuguese league matches. For their most up to date menus and daily specials head to their Instagram page which lists a range of options from grilled pork belly to traditional cow’s tongue stew. You’ll really feel like you’ve stepped into a busy Portuguese bar with chatty locals, authentically prepared fresh seafood, and strong coffee. Be sure to try the punchy mussels and fried squid.
Located on the Embankment next to the Thames, this lively contemporary bar-diner is an offshoot of the Casa Madeira family and is the ideal spot for a celebration with family and friends. Just one glance at this place’s raving reviews are enough to see why it has people returning time and time again. Glorious views across the water and seafood tapas dishes are a match made in heaven. And as the weather thankfully gets warmer, its outdoor seating area makes it the perfect place to soak up the evening rays and pretend you’re languishing by the sea in Porto!
With more and more high-end apartment blocks springing up in Vauxhall every year, it’s never been more important to support local businesses. And what better way to do it than tasting your way through traditional Portuguese cuisine that has such strong culinary roots in its Lusitanian culture? Saúde!