Nestled in the heart of Lisbon city center, facing the fountain of Praca Pedro, Nicola is as one of the most poplar tourist restaurants/cafe in Lisbon. There's no way you can miss it, especially that it's mentioned as one of the famous spots everywhere and even during the open tour bus ride. Here we are, checking it out to see if the place and the food is truly worth all the fuss.
Cafe Nicola boasts a lot of details, starting with the facade designed by architect Norte Junior to the silverware, the wood carving design, the iron cast, and plenty of lustrous chandeliers as well as a Marcelino Almeida's sculpture of Bocage. People are often amazed when they come in for the first time.
Choose to sit on the sidewalk on tiny little square tables, or inside in the luxurious space or maybe underground in a restaurant that is more of an event space. As you walk around, you will enjoy the long displays of desserts - mouthwatering.
Photos are not allowed, I don't know why, so enjoy the ones I could take.
I liked the way the first page of the menu has a list of recommended items. But three full pages filled with suggestions written in two languages is a bit too much. It won't be an easy task. Looking at the first page, you will find an interesting choice of items to order.
- Paella for two 44€: Worth the price tag, this plate was enjoyable. It contained two tiger prawns which cost 27€ alone, mussels, shrimps, crabs, prawns, calamari and a mix of vegetables in a giant pan. This order is suitable for four and not two as suggested. We should have ordered just this. It was decent and tasty.
- Codfish salad with chickpeas 13€: This salad was a bit too smelly to start with. It included too much crunchy things like celery and too many chickpeas. Served with boiled eggs and decorated with shredded carrots, I couldn't feel the fish at all. It is a big NO. Now I understand the price tag paid. It was for a chickpeas salad. This is not even a decent order to serve tourists.
- Grilled Tiger prawns with vegetables rice 27€: One tiger prawn cut in half and served with a tomato and slices of lemon on a bed of lettuce. Next to it was a portion of rice mixed with vegetables. The rice mixed with tomato sauce and vegetable cubes was too oily and soggy. It's more baby food. As for the tiger prawn, it was dry, served without any sauce and surely not worth the price tag. It was way too expensive.
Lunch started with a plate of appetizers that was placed on the table without asking for it. The plate included 10 shrimps, Parma ham sliced on spot, two kinds of butter, sardine paste and Queijo Azeitao artisanal cheese. The shrimps were fine despite the fact that they were cold and were not easily separable from their shells. The Parma was good but a bit too salty and the bread was fresh and enjoyable. Yum! The kind of cheese used was so good - creamy, fatty and intense in flavor - but it's not something for the faint hearted. The bad:
I wished the waiter had suggested that what we had ordered was too much for two. Waiters often do, but this one seemed to me concerned with increasing the number on the bill. I don't think that was too ethical of him. Famous or not, this is not a place I would visit again. It's way too expensive for nothing. Stop by for a coffee. It's more than enough.