José Avillez

Credits Brambilla-Serrani

Credits Brambilla-Serrani

Belcanto

largo de São Carlos, 10
1200410 - Lisbona
+351 213 420607
belcanto@belcanto.pt

José Avillez, born in 1980 in Cascais, is redesigning Portuguese cuisine. Today is at the helm of a group that now includes 20 restaurants and 600 employees. It all happened very fast, starting in 2011, when the then enfant prodige from Cascais left Tavares – the historic restaurant (established in 1784) which two years earlier he had led to a Michelin star – and started his solo venture.

In January 2012 he opened Belcanto in Chiado, a scenic labyrinth of alleys around Baixa and Bairro Alto, famous because it is where Fernando Pessoawas born. Now the neighbourhood is more and more linked to the name of Avillezbecause to the flagship restaurant (one star arrived almost immediately, the second arrived in 2014), the young man added many more places in those small alleys: a few weeks before Belcanto  he opened Cantinho do Avillez, a magnificent informal place offering Portuguese cuisine (ah, that partridge pie!) created in an old internet café. Over the years it tripled, with branches in Parque das Naçoes, also in Lisbon, and Oporto.

In 2013 he opened Café Lisboa, an elegant after-theatre restaurant with a gazebo, in a wing of the Teatro Nacional de Sao Carlo, and Pizzaria Lisboa a restaurant offering simple Italian cuisine, with a Marano oven where they make a decent, thin pizza «My father, who passed away when I was very young, always made pizza to make me happy». In 2014 he opened Minibar, next to Belcanto: petiscos (Portuguese tapas), great cocktails and loud music, a format that 4 years later he extended to Oporto.

In 2015 he is only seemingly calm, as in 2016 he opens the most spectacular of his restaurants, called Bairro do Avillez. A small door on Rua Nova da Trindade leads to a three-fold world over 1000 square metres wide, with one hundred cooks and waiters walking up and down: as soon as you go inside, there’s Taberna, which offers simple product-based cuisine, and very high-quality cheese and charcuterie that you can take away. In the next room, there’s Patéo, a patio where they serve marvellous seafood (taste the Carabineros prawns and you’ll be satisfied for a lifetime) and then, after an unremarkable little door, there’s Beco, the most original of all. It’s a gourmet cabaret in a Twenties’ style, under vaulted arches, with a large mural artwork by the counter dedicated to Dita von Teese. Singers and comedians perform on the stage while they serve a surprise tasting menu, similar to the one at Belcanto.

Avillez is a theorist of diversification: «People have an increasing desire to enjoy different experiences and have fun. They don’t want just food. It would be a mistake to say that fine dining is over; it simply will represent more and more just one of the many options available». Sounds like Ferran Adrià - indeed he was a point of reference in the very early training of this young man – who together with his brother Albertcreated a similar neighbourhood-project in Barcelona (elBarri). For sure, it’s impressive to see such a polished version of Chiado: once a very poor nook, it now offers endless opportunities to have fun, especially foodwise.

But there’s still much more to say about Avillez’s colonies: one year ago he opened Cantina Zé Avillezin Campo das Cebolas: two rooms and a terrace overlooking the garden, where he serves traditional Portuguese cuisine. And he’s soon to open another place with a double soul: the simple counter at Rei da China and the more ambitious Casa dos Prazeres, serving South-East Asian food, in partnership with volcanic Argentinian Estanislao Carenzo. All this next to Pita, two windows dedicated to the famous Greek bread, with Middle Eastern seasonings …

Is it over? Not at all. Early in 2009 he opened his first establishment abroad, restaurant Tasca, inside the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Dubai, on Jumeira Beach. Having said all this, it’s impressive that it’s José Avillezhimself who takes care of the creativity of each dish: «It’s what keeps me alive», he lightens up, «my reason for being, together with my family, of course». 

Has participated in

Identità Milano


by

Gabriele Zanatta

born in Milan, 1973, freelance journalist, he's been working as a co-author and coordinator of Identità Golose World restaurant guidebook since the first edition (2007), he is a contributor for several magazines and teaches Cuisine global trends into several institutes. twitter @gabrielezanatt