My wife and I look upon dining out as an adventure. We do a lot of research to find interesting and unique restaurants wherever we go. I had done a lot of research into restaurants in the cities on our itinerary. One restaurant that came up over and over was Ze Manel dos Ossos, in Coimbra. The fact that it was just a short walk from our hotel was a bonus. This would be our dinner destination.
Ze Manel dos Ossos is tucked down a little alley just a block from Largo da Portagem, a central square across from the Santa Clara bridge and a popular for shoppers and tourists.
A light rain was falling when we arrived at the restaurant. Ze Manel dos Ossos is a very small restaurant with nowhere to wait inside for a table to become available, so we waited in the rain with a young man from Greece and his dinner partner, a young woman from Croatia, and, eventually, a man from Lisbon. The young man had done his research as well and was not going to give up a chance to dine at Ze Manel dos Ossos.
We studied the menu so we’d know what we wanted when we were seated. The best way to describe the offerings would be country cooking, or, as Ann Marie called it, peasant food. We decided on a half order of braised goat and a half order of bean stew with wild boar.
Half an hour later we were all in and seated.
The restaurant is truly a hole in the wall. The inside is tiny. The front half of the restaurant is an open kitchen. The back half is filled with simple wooden tables and chairs and the walls are covered with small pieces of paper- drawings, doodles and poems. The waiter called our order to the cook, brought us our bread, a great bean and cabbage soup and a stoneware pitcher of red wine, and we were under way.
The soup, as I said, was great. The goat arrived in a stoneware pot along with potatoes and vegetables. We poured the wine and the gentleman from Lisbon, seated at the table beside us, leaned over and told Ann Marie that the wine is homemade on the cook’s farm and is very strong, so please don’t drive afterwards. He was a really nice guy who said he stops at the restaurant whenever he’s in Coimbra. And yes, the wine was strong, but very nice.
Remember that we had ordered only a half serving of the goat and a half order of the bean stew. By the time we had finished the goat, potatoes and veggies, we couldn’t eat any more. We asked the waiter if we could cancel the bean stew and he laughed and said, of course. But, he reminded us, that was just a half order!
We really enjoyed the dinner at Ze Manel dos Ossos. The food and wine were really good, the staff was friendly and seemed to enjoy what they were doing, and the atmosphere was one of a kind. And, best of all, the bill was half of what we paid at many other restaurants on our journey. Our new friend was on to something. Ze Manel dos Ossos would definitely be worth another visit the next time we’re in Coimbra.