Restaurants: Nuno Mendes’ exceptional Cozinha das Flores in Porto


I went twice in two nights to Cozinha das Flores. It was that good. The first time was with a large group from the Simplesmente Vinho festival, where owner Nuno Mendes cooked dishes from the menu to pair with the low-fi wines chosen for the evening. Then I went back and solo-dined to experience the restaurant on a more personal level.

I first encountered Nuno Mendes at Viajante in London, and then later when he was chef at the Chiltern Firehouse. He also had Taberno do Mercado in Spittafields market, which was an excellent budget-friendly operation. Now, in addition to Cozinha das Flores he runs Lisboeta in London.

Cozinha das Flores displays Nuno’s great talents in using local (here: northern Portuguese) ingredients and doing something imaginative and delicious with them. The space is also impressive: it’s a small, beautifully designed dining room facing an open kitchen. As you enter, if you turn left rather than right you end up in the adjoining bar, Flôr, which is also small and nicely designed.

The first dish was inspired by the almond tarts that Portugal has. It’s sweet but savoury with a lovely nutty character. Salty and fine. Jerusalem artichoke tart and grilled pumpkin seeds.

Razor clam on toast is a great example of Nuno’s style. Razor clam trimmings are pressed and made into toast. This is just so good: lively, bright and tangy. Citric with some meaty clam character. I’d call it profound.

One dish I had the previous night that deserves a mention, because the restaurant is famous for it, is the turnip natas with caviar, which are wonderfully sweet and savoury.

Soaked bread (French toast) with wild mushrooms and madeira. These are raw and cooked. Once again this dish plays on the sweet and savoury: it’s bread and butter pudding but with mushrooms.

Celeriac heart cooked in embers with a bolognaise of sweet beetroot. The celeriac and beetroot are boiled in salted water and then grilled hard.

Dessert was quite remarkable, titled simply as milk. Genius level. It’s milk skin and reduced milk, and is so layered and delicious.

This was served with Niepoort’s sake. It’s a richly textured sake with some dairy and rice notes. Vivid, intense and quite dry with a nice tang to it. It seems quite alcoholic. Lovely.

To drink. A bottle of Gonçalves Faria 2016 Barraida, at €60 on the excellent wine list.

Gonçalves Faria 2016 Barraida, Portugal
12% alcohol. This is fantastic old-school white Bairrada, showing lovely focus and weight. Very fresh and linear with a stony edge to the chiselled citrus fruit, showing some pithy hints and a saline twist on the finish. This understated but concentrated wine has such a limestone character to the acid line, and it’s quite beautiful. 95/100