I’ve come to believe that the best coffee shops and eateries are those with grumpy staff that can’t be bothered with niceties. Take for example Kyani’s in Dhobi Talao, where the cashier never returns your smile, I’ve tried. Or Maggie’s in Lewisham where you’ll be yelled at for ordering a single egg, ’cause “who eats just one one a weekend”, true story. Or Cafe Bonsle’s in Panjim where you’re tea is tossed your way, never mind a fourth of it falling out.
Seeing as all my favourite eateries seem to have this quirk in common, I knew I’d struck gold with Confeitaria do Bolhão. It all began with the waiter grunting his displeasure at my not knowing that a ‘café com leite’ would be an espresso with milk. What I really wanted was a ‘café meia de leite’ – what would usually be an americano with milk.
The Mercado do Bolhão is like a tiny version of Bombay’s Crawford Market, located within the atrium of an old building. Little shops line the isles, selling fruits and veg, sausages, cheese, bread, kitchen utensils, plants, crockery and other miscellaneous other bits and bobs.
This confeteiria, is located just opposite the market’s entrance. It has a rather inviting display of typical Portuguese baked sweets like pastel de nata, bola de Berlim, etc. and some savoury croissants, bolo de carne and so on. Nothing you won’t get in any other little coffee shop in Porto really. Men stop here before work,old ladies catch up with friends after their weekly shop, parents bring their kids for a little treat, and the simplicity and normalcy of the atmosphere, I found, very comforting.
If I lived in Porto (or when), I imagine waking up early on a Saturday to shop at Bolhão, in no small part as an excuse to hang around at the confeitaria and have a little coffee and snack.