So one day, I was sitting on the pavement of a dusty street in Mexico, eating spicy tacos from a roadside stall, and the conversation turned to this: “Which country in the world makes the spiciest food?“. It seemed obvious at the start – Indian food can be startlingly hot and heavily spiced – I have eaten fish curries in Kerralla that were so hot I couldn’t physically put them in my mouth. But then what about the dry spice of Sichuan peppers and the warm burning heat you get from them? Or Mexico with its spicy chilli and peppers? Or Thai Tom Yum. Or Jamaican jerk chicken (YUM)? Can you tell it’s lunchtime and I’m hungry?
But after our experience at the Lisboa Grill last week, I’d say Portugal and its peri peri is right up there. To put this in context, I’m pretty much a spice wuss. I love spice but it makes me drip with sweat and turn purple (my father did the same but didn’t care – he’d happily eat a curry with sweat dripping down his face until his shirt was two-tone). The waiter in Tayyabs got so worried about my wellbeing, he fed me Indian ice cream. I sweat with Nandos MEDIUM peri peri sauce. Mustard makes me sweat, as does balsamic vinegar. I have even been known to sweat with an extra hot mint. But there is also something addictive about spicy food. When I order a curry that isn’t a bit hot , I get disappointed. And post-ohmagod-mymouthisONFIRE kick, I want to try some more later.
So I heard about the Lisboa Grill – an authentic Portugese restaurant on Brixton Hill – and went along to try it out. You have to walk through the front takeaway down the stairs to the restaurant, and it’s all tiles and dark and cosy and a nice mixed crowd of friends and couples. They have a decent wine list and I was impressed that they decanted the bottle of red for us to drink. And then the food:
They have a lot of seafood too but we ordered a giant mixed grill (around £25 for two) of sausage, chicken, steak, ribs and pork, all tender and cooked really well, and eaten with a big plate of salty chips and a salad. Think Bodeans but a hell of a lot better. It came with several different types of peri peri sauce that were medium to hot spice and went perfectly with the food, but then we requested something hotter. I love how the hot sauce came out by request only in a Pooh Bear-type honey jar with “V. HOT” handwritten on it. So very Homer Simpson at a fair.
It was an incredibly hot spicy peri peri that came with a warning from the elderly waiter and just about blew my tongue off. To the point that I would happily have kept my tongue lolling in a glass of water like a dog if I weren’t in public. It was a dry intense heat that disappeared and made you want to try a bit more, and if it is spice that you are after, then this is the place to get it.
The service was slightly iffy – they were all lovely and friendly but we would have stayed for digestifs if we’d been asked and had to wait around a bit for the bill. But this place has character and charm and is a lovely addition to the eccentricity of Brixton. I’ll be back with a group of mates and in my best Nike dry-sweat clothes to try some more. The huge mixed grill plus chips and salad and a nice bottle of wine came to around £30 each, so great value too.