A pop up Pho restaurant in a forgotten Lisbon Palace

Illustration by Sarah Campbell

“Stop whatever you’re doing, there is a temporary Pho restaurant right near our house!” – I messaged Nick the other day, when I found out a Vietnamese restaurant had temporarily settled on a street below ours.

I walk past the Sinel de Cordes Palace every day and the last few months I noticed they were announcing something related with the Lisbon Architecture Triennale, an event that focuses on contemporary approaches to architectural spaces. I figured it was an art exhibition like they often do there, but I didn’t realize something else was happening, something that I should have known a long time ago.

Last Thursday I finally decide to check the website and see what was actually going on inside this forgotten palace. I was surprised when I saw that besides the regular exhibitions there was also a pop up restaurant. I got even more excited when I read they were serving Pho – a typical Vietnamese noodle soup.

I’ve been to the Pho-Pu restaurant in Martim Moniz a few times, but this one was different. Maybe it was the fact that we had the whole place to ourselves on a Friday night or the nice guy who served us or maybe it was the taste of the food. One thing was certain, I hadn’t left and I was already wishing to come back for more.

I actually tried to go there the day before. I rushed out of the office, walked up the hill from Santa Apolónia and asked the lady at the entrance where to find this mysterious Vietnamese restaurant. She told me to head to the courtyard and check if they were still there. I walked up the stairs, took a brief look at the exhibition and was disappointed to see that the restaurant was closed.

Nick was as excited as I was and convinced me to come back the next day and I’m really glad I did!

It was about 7pm when I spotted the Cafeteria sign outside the small room where the Pho was being cooked. In front of me, a black board announced the food and drinks that were on offer – three types of Pho, a pork sandwich, craft beer and even ice cream.

Phoi – Cavalo was the name chosen by chef Hugo Brito for this temporary establishment. He is responsible for another restaurant in Alfama called Boi-Cavalo. The name hasn’t changed much but the food is completely different. Boi-Cavalo focuses on reinventing Portuguese cuisine, while Phoi-Cavalo is all about the Vietnamese street food spirit!

First you choose your favorite flavour, there is the meat classic, vegetarian or even a codfish version! Then you decide how big do you want it, small or big?

We went for two small portions of the classic Pho. Afterwards the guy recommend us to try the bahn mi sandwich. I was overwhelmed with the amount of ingredients they manage to put inside that bread, but boy was it delicious! One thing I love about Vietnamese cuisine is the freshness of the ingredients, unlike Chinese food which can be quite greasy sometimes, I can never get enough of Vietnamese dishes.

To finish off I ordered a homemade coffee and cardamom ice cream to go. I was about to leave with it on my hand when I realized I still had to pay! I quickly apologized, gave him the money and promised to come back the next day.

While I didn’t manage to go back just yet, I thought it was worth sharing this secret spot before it’s gone! The good thing about it is that you can take the food back home with you 🙂

Campo Santa Clara 142, 1100-155 Lisboa
Go inside the palace, up the stairs and then find the door that gives access to the courtyard. Go down the stairs to the left and you will see the sign that says Cafetaria, the door should be open.

Phoi-Cavalo is open from Tuesday to Saturday, 12pm to 8pm.

You have until the 10th of December to experience this delicious food, so make sure to visit asap!

Bonus: If you go on a Tuesday or Saturday you also get to see Lisbon’s Flea Market.

What you should know?
They only accept cash, make sure to bring at least 10 euros with you, depending on how much food you’re getting!

About the Illustrator
I met Sarah through Instagram. She started following me there and I immediately fell in love with her illustrations. We had a quick chat on Instagram about future collaborations and since my food photography skills aren’t the best I figured this could be a good opportunity to work together! She’s incredibly talented. If you want to ask for a commission or if you’re just curious about her work, take a look at her website here. Hopefully this will be the first of many collaborations 🙂

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