Mercearia do Galo: a typical Portuguese grocery store

9 August 2018

When we visited Porto recently, we stopped in at the neighbourhood grocery owned by the godfather of our Head Chef Carlos Gomes. You can tell a lot about a country from what’s sold in their corner shops.

Stepping into Mercearia do Galo in Bonfim is to step into a microcosm of Portuguese food and drink. History, modesty, pride and expertise are all on display alongside a broad range of national produce.

Pinto, the owner of the shop, is Carlos’ godfather and Carlos had told us that despite it being a small shop we’d get a big welcome and see a lot of what makes the country’s food and drink so unique, and why it’s so deeply ingrained in Portuguese identity.

The shop on Rua de Santo Ildefonso was opened in 1942 by Pinto’s father, and ever since it’s been what the sign outside proclaims is ‘casa especializada em bacalhau’. They specialise in codfish and we were shown a wide range of fresh, cured and salted types. No other nation loves cod as much as the Portuguese do!

On the shelves was a huge selection of tinned fish – especially sardines – and seafood, cured meats, local cheeses, dried fruit and nuts, honey, biscuits, flour, local wines and spirits and more. All very typically Portuguese produce.

In Portugal, a ready meal is a tin of sardines, and a takeaway is often a bottle of excellent local wine with some cheese and charcuterie, to be enjoyed over hours of leisurely discussion and debate with friends and loved ones. If you’ve experienced that mix of passion, provenance and a relaxed attitude you’ll know how good this is. If not, you’re bound to enjoy it when we bring a little corner of Portugal to Ancoats next month. And if you’re in Porto, drop in and say ‘olá’ to Pinto.