Portugal's Trinidade beer hall maintains tradition

LISBON Wed Aug 29, 2007 6:09pm IST

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LISBON (Reuters Life!) - A monastery, a beer hall and now a major tourist attraction: welcome to Lisbon's Cervejaria da Trinidade, where clients come to eat and drink under the grand history of the vaulted ceiling.

As you walk into the noise and confusion of the vast open space in the first dining room and take in the historic feel of bright coloured traditional Portuguese tiles on the walls you soon understand that you are inside a true Lisbon landmark.

The restaurant and bar will be operated from October by Portugal's biggest restaurant group, Portugalia, after a deal with brewer Sociedade Central de Cervejas, but that should do nothing to change Trinidade's rich traditions.

"The Cervejaria da Trinidade has followed Portuguese history from the time of the monarchy, to (former Portuguese dictator Antonio) Salazar's regime, to today's democracy," Trinidade's restaurant manager Ricardo Ferreira told Reuters.

"It is defined by its historical space, the vaulted ceilings and the traditional azulejos (tiles)."

The building itself has its roots in a 13th century monastery for the Trinos Friars of the Redemption of Captives, so-called for their mission of rescuing Christian prisoners from the Moors.

After the monastery was damaged by fire in 1708 and further ruined by Lisbon's 1755 earthquake, the Trinidade Beer Factory was founded by a Galician, Manuel Moreira Garcia in 1836.

Garcia decided that adjacent to the factory he would use what was left of the friars' cafeteria to build the Cervejaria da Trinidade, a bar and a restaurant where tourists and locals could have a simple meal and enjoy the celebrated atmosphere.

Portuguese 'cervejarias,' like English pubs, are a time-honoured location for finding decent grub, typically Portuguese food ranging from fresh shell-fish to steaks served swimming in a traditional beer sauce with fries on the side.

The drink is unquestionably a beer, and at this beer hall, though they serve others, ask for a Portuguese one; choose from the eight varieties of Sagres beer or the ever-faithful (and always cheap) 'Imperial' on tap.

Staff say the new management by Portugalia, one of Portugal's oldest restaurant groups, can only be good news for clients and employees alike.

"The change is going to be for the better I think," said waiter Joaquim Santos. "We're going to have more staff, better organisation, and hopefully see some remodelling done because the place needs it."

Portugalia has made clear that it aims to maintain Trinidade's historic heritage.

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