Nuno Mendes’ Latest Culinary Masterpiece: Exploring Cozinha das Flores in Porto

By | 9 June 2024


I visited Cozinha das Flores twice in consecutive evenings because I was thoroughly impressed by their offerings. My initial visit was part of a large group event from the Simplesmente Vinho festival, during which Nuno Mendes, the proprietor, prepared several dishes from their menu that perfectly complemented the selection of low-fi wines of the night. The following evening, I returned to dine alone, seeking a more intimate and personal dining experience.

My first introduction to Nuno Mendes was at Viajante in London, followed by his time as a chef at the Chiltern Firehouse. He previously operated Taberno do Mercado in Spittalfields market, known for its quality yet affordable fare. Currently, he is not only at the helm of Cozinha das Flores but also oversees Lisboeta in London.

The culinary prowess of Nuno at Cozinha das Flores is evident through his innovative use of local northern Portuguese ingredients to create delightful dishes. The restaurant itself is quite stunning, featuring a modest yet elegantly designed dining area overlooking an open kitchen. Upon entry, a turn to the left leads into Flôr, an adjoining bar that mirrors the restaurant’s charm and design sensibilities.

The inaugural dish draws inspiration from Portugal’s famed almond tarts, blending sweet and savory tones with a delightful nutty essence. It features a Jerusalem artichoke tart paired with grilled pumpkin seeds, balancing salty and refined flavors.

The razor clam on toast showcases Nuno’s culinary style brilliantly. Using razor clam remnants, the toast is crafted, delivering a zestful, bright, and slightly tangy taste, enriched with the robust flavor of clams. It’s an impactful dish that resonates deeply.

A notable mention from my previous dining experience is the turnip natas topped with caviar. This dish, a highlight of the restaurant, perfectly marries sweet and savory elements.

The soaked bread, akin to French toast, served with wild mushrooms and Madeira, is another example of the sweet and savory theme. Featuring both raw and cooked elements, it resembles a bread and butter pudding but is ingeniously paired with mushrooms.

Celeriac core roasted in ember paired with a beetroot bolognaise that exudes sweetness. Both the celeriac and beetroot undergo boiling in salted water before being intensely grilled.

The dessert presented was uniquely simple, named “milk.” It showed true culinary brilliance, featuring layers of milk skin and condensed milk that left a lasting impression with its depth of flavor.

Accompanying the meal was Niepoort’s sake, which is characteristically creamy and rich with hints of dairy and rice. It presents a vivid, dry palate with a noticeable tang and seems to have a substantial alcohol content, making it delightful.

The chosen beverage was Gonçalves Faria 2016 from Barraida, priced at €60 on an impressively curated wine list.

Gonçalves Faria 2016 Barraida, Portugal
With an alcohol content of 12%, this exquisite old-style white Bairrada wine displays marked focus and substance. It’s refreshingly direct and sharp with a mineral-like quality enhancing the defined citrus flavors, which are accompanied by subtle pithy notes and a saline hint at the end. This wine, though reserved, carries a concentrated taste with a distinctive limestone quality in its acidity, making it quite remarkable. 95/100

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