A real taste of Portugal right here in Dubai…

A trip from the UAE to Portugal probably isn’t on the cards for a while. We suggest you avoid the nasal swabs and potential quarantining, and instead head down to Lana Lusa to get your fix of authentic food from this phenomenally underrated European country.

Set within the new Wasl 51 development in Jumeirah, Lana Lusa is probably the most attractive restaurant that’s opened in 2020. Everything has been painstakingly custom made by Portuguese artisans specifically for the venue.

From the colourful ceramic plates sourced directly from potters in Barcelos to the burnished copper light fixtures and cork-fashioned menus from Porto, we feel whisked away to a stylish neighbourhood café on the Bairro Alto. We particularly love the familial photos decorating the walls – a nod to founder Jessica Viveiro’s Portuguese past. Even the menu has been drawn up incorporating her grandmother’s recipes.

Over the course of two delightful hours we sampled a range of unique and beautifully-presented dishes, arriving at pace in pretty plates, bowls, and miniature pans.

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You must eat bacalhau. The dried and salted cod is largely agreed as the national dish of Portugal, and can be eaten several ways. Three of them appear on Lana Lusa’s menu, so three of them we ate. We savoured them in croquette form (Dhs57) as a trio of dainty oval parcels; in a salad (Dhs72) with seabass and avocado chunks; and as bacalhau com natas (Dhs82), a gratinated pie with cod, diced potatoes, cream and parsley and baked until golden brown. The latter was easily one of the most heart-warming miniature fish pies we’ve ever had the pleasure of eating, and judging by the number of piping hot pans flying out of the kitchen, the feeling was shared among others in the dining room.

We ‘mmm’d’ and ‘ahhh’d’ over other dishes, too. The prawns in garlic (Dhs72) were tasty but the buttery sauce they lay in was sensational. So good, in fact that we left a tiny morsel of prawn in the claypot so the eagle-eyed waiter wouldn’t take it away without us soaking it up with bread first. Even the prego (Dhs42), a beef sarnie for one, is so simple yet so juicy we’re desperate to know its secret marinade.

It would be a disservice to head chef Helio, owner Jessica, and probably the entire Lana Lusa team if you don’t finish with a pasteis de nata. We have waxed lyrical enough in past articles on WhatsOn.ae about this perfectly creamy Portuguese custard tart, so take our advice and order one – heck order five and take the rest home. It’ll be the perfect breakfast treat with your morning coffee.

Lana Lusa, Wasl 51, Jumeirah 1, daily 8am to 11pm. Tel: (0)4 380 1515. @lanalusadxb

Images: Supplied and Jade Wills Photography