The Francesinha is up there in calorific content and tasty as hell. It's also the perfect thing to eat whilst watching the football. And being Euro 2012, you're sorted! Also, now that England's out, perhaps I'll start cheering for Portugal...
A mega sandwich hailing from Porto
uh-oh, just thinking about writing about the Francesinha is making me hungry! The Francesinha - is a Porto tradition that, more so than Port wine, the locals absolutely love. And everyone you meet will have their own favourite place to get one… there's plenty to choose from, you can find them being served pretty much everywhere from tiny hole in the wall cafés to more upmarket joints in and around town.
Francesinha roughly translates to little French girl and you could say it's a take on the French Croque Monsier… but good heavens, it's so much more! A sandwich historically from Porto (apparently designed by a French chef who came to live in Porto and created the sandwich to cater for Portuguese tastes and to celebrate the meat of the region) that's made with thick white bread. It's fillings include ham, steak, a Portuguese smoked pork sausage called linguiça and a whole lot of melted cheese on top - it's basically a meat fest in a sandwich drowning in melted cheese. Not great for your heart but goddamn, it tastes good! A francesinha doesn't stop there either - it's perhaps most distinguishable by the thick orange and spicy tomato and beer sauce that it's then doused with. The sauce is delicious and top secret… (tho' obviously, it must have got out because you can find Francesinhas everywhere).
A Franceshina with a view
Port cellars in Gaia
Vila Nova de Gaia left of the River Douro. Lining up the river are the traditional boats that used to carry barrels of port from the Douro Valley where it was made to the town of Gaia - actually on the other side of the town of Porto which the wine took its name from. As well as finding port tasting tours here, you can also find a really tasty francesinha! Make the most of your Porto car hire and drive over to the Douro Valley to visit the lush vineyards where the wine starts it's journey as well as to Gaia where the storage takes place.
I met up with my friend, Ricardo, a born and bred Tripeiro (for an explanation, click here) who took me to try a Francesinha with a view on the other side of the River Douro actually in neighbouring city, Vila Nova de Gaia (or Gaia for short). If you're visiting Porto - Gaia's where you'll need to go for Port tasting at as the caves and cellars where they're stored are actually here! Even if you're not interested in a port tour, you should come to Gaia… if only for the views. Like New Yorkers will tell you that Manhattan is best seen from outside of it, the best views of Porto aren't from within the city itself but in Gaia. Drive your Portugal car hire across one of Porto's iconic bridges to get there.
Stylish Ar de Rio
We went to a beautiful place called Ar de Rio - an architectural gem that has a honeycomb-like roof, glass walls so you can make the most of the views and very friendly service.
Inside Ar de Rio
The room right by the windows (or glass wall) closest to the river and the one with the TV showing the England/Ukraine game was full so we sat in the other room. Also beautiful but with a dark wooden ceiling rather than the honeycomb but the TV here was playing the Sweden/France game. Not that it mattered, the rooms are split with more glass walls so you can see right through to the other side of the river as well as both TV screens. Anyway, being ever so nice, they offered to move us once a table on the other side was free so we could get a better view.
View from inside Ar de Rio
It's actually pretty hard to concentrate completely on the football when you're eating somewhere so beautiful and where that somewhere has such beautiful views. (Which to be honest, is fine with me I don't know how people can cope with the heartache when the football goes wrong). An England win deserved another glass of fino too! (Sadly, that was short-lived!)
Egg on top
As you can see from the photo here, we ate ours with a fried egg on top (because, you know… different types of meat in thick slices of bread drowning in cheese wouldn't be enough). We also had it served with fries and a glass of fino (a draught beer - in Porto, that'll be a Super Bock).
If you go, you must, must, MUST try it. It's delicious. Be warned though, you should come hungry! Work up an appetite wandering Porto's hilly streets and you'll thoroughly deserve it.
Ar de Rio Avenida Diogo Leite, 5
4400 Vila Nova de Gaia Tel: +35 1 223701797 http://www.arderio.pt
Not yet sure if you've noticed... but I do love food... eating it, talking about - funnily enough, not so much cooking it but more than happy to be cooked for! Anyway, you can learn a little more about eating in Porto here. And to find out what drink you have to try when you're in Porto, see our post on the not-port drink to drink when in Porto. Also, see what else I loved about the city in Oh so beautiful Porto
All about Porto Airport and Porto car hire
Get your Porto trip to a good start and see our following guides:
Arriving into Porto Airport
Collecting your car hire from Porto Airport
Travelling onwards from Porto Airport
Returning your car hire to Porto Airport
Departing from Porto Airport