Balthazar and the Invisible Restaurant

What’s the main problem with an invisible restaurant? It’s hard to find the door. Thus our problem finding our way into the Casa de Chá Boa-Nova — the Boa Nova Tea House, a restaurant of some reknown here in Leça da Palmeira designed in the mid-1960s by Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza. Siza’s design, it says here:

…is about ‘building the landscape’ of this marginal zone on the Atlantic — through a careful analysis of the weather and tides, existing plant life and rock formations, and the relationship to the avenue and city behind.

In other words, the place blends in in a deeply serious fashion. So we found ourselves coming around the back by mistake, and having to ramble over some serious boulders to get to the front door.

It was worth it. Catherine said it was like eating at Frank Lloyd Wright’s house — and it was:

Inside the Casa de Chá Boa-Nova Inside the Casa de Chá Boa-Nova Casa de Chá Boa-Nova Table Lamp

As I’d managed to fumble my way through making a reservation over the phone, a table was waiting for us. But for a large German tour group spread out over half the restaurant, we almost had the place to ourselves.

Our head waiter was Balthazar — we know his name because Oliver asked him — and the service was a perfect in that “slightly officious but with knowing winks to let you know that everyone’s in on it” kind of way. I continue to be amazed at how taking Oliver to a chi chi place for dinner — in a way that we would never imagine doing at home — seems like second nature over here; he was well cared for.

We started with appetizers of seafood soup (me) and avocado and seafood (Catherine and Oliver). Main course was “sea perch” for Catherine (she said “like perch, but bigger”) and grilled hake for me, with Oliver sharing all ‘round. On the side was creamed spinach and boiled potatoes. Service was interesting: food was rolled to the side of the table on individual large platters and then served in two identical “settings,” each on a clean plate. It was very civilized and makes me think everyone should do it that way.

For dessert I had a chocolate mousse (I am a creature of habit) and Oliver and Catherine shared a banana split (when I say “shared” I mean “Catherine got one bite”). I finished off with a cup of strong black tea (it being casa de chá after all).


I can tell I’m getting euro-acclimated: the 1/2 bottle of wine for dinner is making me less loopy. At least I think it is.

After what ended up being an excellent dinner in a stunning sea-side location, we headed off on a brisk 30 minute walk home along the beach, which was a great way to end the night.

Casa de Chá Boa-Nova Entrance


Sandy's picture
Sandy on May 17, 2006 - 13:07 Permalink

I am glad to hear that you are having such a nice time. Riley and Bailey are missing Oliver. Out of the blue, the other day, Bailey announced that he wished Oliver was his brother. Please say hi to him from all of us (and Catherine, too).

Olle Jonsson's picture
Olle Jonsson on May 17, 2006 - 16:19 Permalink

1/2-bottles of wine, chichi places to eat, fresh SIM cards in the phone: you folks are so set for Europe. Copenhagen, me and Luisa await you in the North.

Say hi to little “soon-to-be-kicked-out-of-childhood”. Gourmet.

Leah Tremain's picture
Leah Tremain on May 17, 2006 - 18:46 Permalink

I’m really enjoying your travel posts. As I sit — currently ensconced in Campbell River, BC — it is liberating to read of your family travel adventures overseas. From Canada Post to this forum our correspondence has changed — and overall, I am quite pleased that I can still sit in on it all. Thanks Peter!