Design sightings in Portugal: 2) Cervejaria Trindade

April 17, 2009

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Continuing the series of good designs noticed in Lisbon (after the Santos Design District yesterday), is the Cervejaria Trindade, essentially a beer hall in a convent. From Frommer’s guide:

Cervejaria Trindade is a combination German beer hall and Portuguese tavern. In operation since 1836, it’s the oldest tavern in Lisbon, owned by the brewers of Sagres beer. It was built on the foundations of the 13th-century Convento dos Frades Tinos, which was destroyed by the 1755 earthquake. Surrounded by walls tiled with Portuguese scenes, you can order tasty little steaks and heaps of crisp french-fried potatoes. Many Portuguese diners prefer the bife na frigideira (steak with mustard sauce and a fried egg, served in a clay frying pan). But the tavern also features shellfish; the house specialties are ameijoas (clams) à Trindade and giant prawns. For dessert, try a slice of queijo da serra (cheese from the mountains) and coffee. (link)

The food was awesome, although it’s worth warning that they describe as “light” a steak sauce that consists entirely of beer and butter.

The place is also known for its azulejos (traditional Portugues decorative tiles), pictured below.

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The decoration, service and generally expected trappings are up there with the best. However, what sets it apart from other places with equal amounts of character and history to tell is its menu, a big leather bound book with oodles of character. It’s a great example of supporting a brand with excellent design in a usually neglected place.

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Want a steak, why not order the:

Rump Steak A La Trindade – From the parts of the rump cut with mastery and art by Brother Butcher, comes this intensely flavourful tender steak. (emphasis mine)

The copywriting’s nod to Brother Butcher, the choice of paper, the script font and dropped cap which nods to old monastic tradition of illustrated manuscripts all help to bring the restaurant’s history back to the fore.

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The seafood menu brings to mind medieval bestiaries.

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And my favourite touch, the illustrations which separate each section of the menu.

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The reason this is interesting is that the menu is often delegated to an almost utilitarian function in even the finest restaurants, forgetting that a good meal is as much about the overall experience and story the place tells as the food (a contentious statement for the foodies amongst you, I’m sure).

The Cervejaria goes out of its way to remind you of its history in a lighthearted way, which works particularly well in a place that wants to appeal to tourists who delight in this kind of cheesy/authentic storytelling. A different, more subtle approach might suit a restaurant with an equally interesting story but a less populist angle (even the most fine food focused restaurants may have an unusual story to tell).

What matters is using every channel available to get the story across. A good design should wear its personality on its sleeve so people can better understand what makes it tick and how it get there. This is what allows people relate to it, make an emotional connection and perhaps identify themselves in it.

One of the highest achievements of a design is for people to feel that they are expressing a part of themselves by using it.

More pictures after the break.

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One Response to “Design sightings in Portugal: 2) Cervejaria Trindade”


  1. […] last two posts (about the Cervejaria Trindade and Museu Colecção Berardo) were about how the most utilitarian objects need not pass unnoticed. […]


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