First published on 21 Jan 2009. Updated on 11 May 2011.
Occupied for centuries by Romans and Arabs, and absorbing influences from neighbouring Spain, Portugal adopted a wide range of cooking techniques. You can find many of them in Petersham, Sydney's very own Portuguese quarter.
As you might have gathered from the name, this restaurant has a focus on things with fins, gills and tentacles. The service isn't what you'd call light speed, so don't go if you're in a hurry and don't expect to be served right away. If you simply can't make it without a drink in hand, there's a bottle-o across the road that has a large selection of Portuguese wine and beer.
To keep with the tone of the restaurant (sea shanty chic), order the prawns a la plancha - simply grilled and dressed in olive oil, parsley and lemon, they're big, sweet suckers that you peel at the table. Try the chourico (spiced sausage), too. The Portuguese version of chorizo, it's grilled and served with pickles. By far the highlight of the evening is the pork alentejana. Little chunks of potato are tossed with pipis and pieces of pork - the pipis enrich the sauce and the pork takes on a briny quality, while the potatoes provide a little respite from all that richness. Or try the salt cod, cooked on clay and served wearing a crown of potato crisps.
Dessert-wise, you've got caramel flan and Portuguese tarts, but there's also molotoff, the Portuguese version of meringue.
Petersham Charcoal Chicken
Giant hot pits of coal, huge braziers, iron cages filled with meat and queues out the door for the frango de churrasco (aka barbecued chook) are what you'll find here. It doesn't look like much outside or in, what with the Laminex tables and 70s style countertop, but head out the back to the seated area and you'll find beers in the fridge and house-made hot sauce in squeezy bottles - perfect on the fried pork sandwich. The chicken is the main event here though: butterflied, grilled and spiced with plenty of hot sauce.
The best thing about eating Portuguese is the carb loading. Not only are you likely to get rice with your chips, but also mashed potato. Make sure you order the chicken at Silva's, though. It's tender, perfectly seasoned and excellent with a cerveja (beer) on the side. Salt cod croquettes are more potato than cod, but it's hard to resist a ball of deep-fried mash. And of course, you've always got meat on swords (espetada). Dangling over the table like a Madeiran sword of Damocles, the weapon comes with a slice of bread underneath the meat to catch the juices. Service is swift, the room is breezy and best of all, it's cheap.
While you're down there...
The best place to go for hot sauces, tinned goods and pretty much anything else you'll need to cook Portuguese at home.
Talho Portuguese Butchery
You'll find excellent chourico here, as well as hams and bacon.
You can't beat the Portuguese custard tarts here.
An extensive range of Portuguese wines and beer plus all your regular favourites makes this worth the trip alone.
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