Two Portuguese household catering legends celebrate anniversaries

 In Catering and Hospitality, News

Lisbon’s Belle Epoch 1920s café and patisserie ‘Versailles’ and steak house ‘Café de São Bento’ each celebrate milestone anniversaries this year.

The café Versailles, named after the famous French palace, has been synonymous with timeless Belle Epoque elegance and fine cakes and pastries since it was founded in the Roaring 20s in 1922.
The patisserie was founded by Salvador José Antunes, a Portuguese who loved the art of French patisserie. The café was done out in the pseudo-style of Louis IV with rococo and art nouveau touches.
Paintings by Benvindo Ceia depicting Versaille’s lakes, as well as wood carvings by Fausto Fernandes decorate the interior.
Paulo Gonçalves, one of the partners, told the Lusa news agency that he was: “proud to be working in an establishment with the history that Versailles has” and that it had managed to stay afloat and not lay off staff during the pandemic despite some difficulties like having to pay off debts incurred in order to keep staff on. He also said Versailles had also been able to “adapt to new times and a new clientele” that had emerged since then.
The Café São Bento has been a haunt of writers, thinkers and politicians – it is across the road from the Portuguese Parliament – for 40 years. Somewhat a misnomer since it is actually probably one of the most famous steak houses in Lisbon and has been serving them drenched in rich butter sauce and French fries for 40 years.
Currently owned by Miguel Garcia who managed the Tivoli hotels and successfully set up ‘Seen with Olivier on top of the Tivoli Hotels.
Café São Bento is currently enjoying a turnover that is 60% higher than in 2019. Each month it goes through a tonne of beef between it and the small outlet it runs at the Time Out Market in Lisbon’s Cais do Sodré area, and now plans to expand in 2023.
Since it relies on the fame of its beefs, it anticipated the supply chain problems caused by the war in Ukraine and the owner invested in huge deep freezes in which to store the meat to ensure the operation continues uninterrupted.