back to Portugal
Rua de S.Miguel nr.20, Alfama, 1100-544 Lisboa, Portugal
- Quality and/or choice of drinks –6/10
- Style and Decor – 8/10
- Character, Atmosphere and/or Local Life – 10/10
- Amenities, Events & Community – 7/10
- Value for Money – 7/10
- The Pub-Going Factor – 8/10
Although you may read reviews referring to A Baiuca as a restaurant, the homely open-kitchen style, late-night drinking and the music-focused atmosphere make this place definitely worthy of the name pub – indeed the doors themselves present A Baiuca as a ‘Taberna’, which is near enough to meet my threshold.
That said, there is an entrance fee which covers the flow of wine and ginjinha and the musical main event, Fado, dramatically mournful Portuguese folk music which translates as ‘destiny or fate’, but symbolising a bohemian, or vagabond lifestyle, signposting what you might expect in the performance.
This may seem off-piste so far considering the beer halls and pubs covered on the blog, but be aware I have offered a degree of latitude to this venue on account of the authenticity and character, and I am seeking to provide a broad range of options.
Lisbon’s traditional working class neighbourhood the Alfama is the perfect setting for a place like this. Wandering up and down the maze of winding streets on the hillside is atmospheric at any time of year.
A Baiuca is not the easiest to spot at night – I remember we ended up locating it by peering through a metal garage door which seemed to correspond to the co-ordinates after wandering around in a circle. The front door itself was shut, but after a couple of knocks the owner met us at the door and arranged our seating, only after payment was made.
At the time of the visit our fee was 10 euros which at the time seemed very reasonable considering the wine and music were both very good.
We gathered on a communal table in a small room, most places taken already, and were made to feel welcome with a couple of glasses of red wine. There is no stage, and the musicians simply perform in the corner of the room. Each song is dramatic and passionate and the performers looked extremely well practiced at the style. An overkill of maudlin music doesn’t seem like the basis for a night out, but the songs are short, melodic, often intense and were received enthusiastically by the room.
There are a great many corporate joints in the city centre offering Fado performances in a large restaurant with a full sit-down meal, and while there is always a place for that, this is where to go for the real McCoy, stripped back, homely and raw, following an unbroken folk tradition.
After considering the experience overall, I think aside of the entrance fee, it occupied a very similar social space as going to a pub, both in terms of the homely working class surroundings and manner of drinking.
Our visit extended long into the early hours of the morning leading to a very uncomfortable wake-up call the following morning to the airport!
There are a few other traditional Fado venues in the Alfama, which I am sure warrant exploration, but I can strongly advocate visiting here if you prefer real and rustic above sheen and pretension. Finding this place on our final night in Lisbon more or less made our holiday.
P.S – I would recommend reserving tables if there are more than two of you, or if it’s the off-season with it being such a small space.
Have you visited A Baiuca? Please let us know!