“Back in 1993, if you would have told me that I was going to live more than 20 years in Brussels, I wouldn’t have believed you”. That’s how my conversation started with Albano Figueiredo, owner of Café Portugal.
During the 70s and 80s, the Commune of Saint Gilles welcomed a huge wave of Portuguese citizens. Most of them were running away from the colonial war between Portugal and its former colonies. Step by step, the Portuguese community moved to Ixelles. It’s not an accident that the Ixelles Commune decided to welcome the statue of Fernando Pessoa, a famous Portuguese poet, in Place Flagey.
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Albano comes from the North of Portugal – a city named Viseu. Back in 1993, he was approached by a friend who was already established in the Belgian capital, challenging him to move to Brussels. “It was an act of courage because I had no idea what I would find in Brussels. At the time, I didn’t even speak French or Dutch”. It was in the Avenue de la Courronne that he found his treasure: a Portuguese café located in a famous intersection where another lusitanian jewel is located: Patisserie Garcia.
À première vue, Café Portugal seems to be a standard café but it’s much more than that. It’s a full time restaurant gathering the Portuguese community, Belgians and expatriates from all over the world. “We are a family business. My wife and I work full-time here but also my boys, Claudio and Rafael, decided to join us in this adventure.” explains Albano. “Every day we try to bring the flavours of Portugal to Brussels. As an example, every Sunday we cook traditional dishes such as cozido à portuguesa or leitão à bairrada”.
On Sundays, Portuguese expats can really experience home at Café Portugal. That is, in the end, what Albano’s clients are searching for. Some remain until the afternoon when the football games start. Albano will tell you that everyone is welcomed but, in reality, it’s more convenient if you support Benfica football team. “Well yes, I am a Benfica supporter. I don’t hide it. Since 1999 I’m gathering Benfica supporters here in my restaurant. At the time, we had a small group named EuroBenfica.”
Back in 2013, Albano received maybe one of the best gifts ever: the visit of the Vice-President of Sport Lisbon e Benfica. That year the team was in the same poll group as the Belgian team Anderlecht. That was a key moment. The Lisbon team decided to open the House of Benfica in Brussels. Café Portugal was the chosen location.
Next to Café Portugal, the House of Benfica is organising several activities in order to promote the team and also to welcome its supporters. This year the team won, once again, the championship and Brussels was part of the celebrations thanks to Café Portugal.
The Portuguese community in Brussels celebrating Sport Lisboa e Benfica championship victory 🎉🍾
Publiée par Brussels Express sur Samedi 13 mai 2017
It was also in Café Portugal that a brilliant idea was born: to create a festival dedicated to the Portuguese gastronomy entitled “The Best of Portugal”. “In 2013, together with my friends Duarte Mira, Head of the Portuguese Confederation of Farmers in Brussels, and Nuno Melo, a Portuguese Member of the European Parliament, we decided to launch this initiative. We are bring together wine, cheese, ham, olive oil producers from Portugal and so much more. It’s without any doubt the most important Portuguese promotional event in Brussels”.
Last summer, The Best of Portugal managed to welcome around 40 000 visitors throughout two days. It’s indeed one of the biggest open air festivals in Brussels (maybe only Eat Brussels has better figures).
The Café Portugal is definitely more than a restaurant. It is the House of Portugal in Brussels.
Good to Know:
Address: 106, Avenue de la Couronne – 1050 – Brussels
Telephone: 02 649 41 19