“It has a taste of the quays, with no water in sight, this place.”
This is how José Cardoso Pires describes the British Bar in his book, Livro de Bordo. The author had his table of choice in the pub, in between the two doors. On the doors, the two letters “B” that serve has handles separate, allowing the visitor to enter a living compendium of mariner tales and stories from other port cities, so many that they may not even exist beyond our desire. Port bars are the first refuge of seafaring men, where they drown their sorrows in wine and celebrate the firmness of the earth beneath their feet. The streets behind the pub abound in sleepless and lawless nightlife, and stories of illicit deeds that would never find their way into tourist guide books, unless in reference to the colour red, but can be heard in almost any city. Thus was Cais do Sodré, but it was also so much more.
It was also the offices of shipping agents, many of them managed by British citizens; it was the Anglo-American Bookshop, the English Bar, the Bar Americano, which is now under the same management as the British Bar. The British Bar opened in 1919, but before that the premises was home to the Taverna Inglesa. This was where the foreign communities in Lisbon would meet, although the British Bar always strived for balanced conviviality between domestic and international customers. That is one of the things that characterises the good atmosphere in the bar, perhaps with the exception of evenings with sports competitions, when one or another nationality may monopolise the space. Other good reasons to go in are liquid in nature: the wide range of foreign (Belgian, Dutch, German, Czech, etc.) and Portuguese beers; a number of food options (a cheeseboard and a daily lunch) and three drinks that one can only find there, as they are produced in-house: the ginger beer, which is light and ideal for a balmy summer evening; the “Alto Douro”; and the house liqueur, with the flavour of tangerines. Another attraction is the famous clock whose hands go backwards – a gift from a Danish patron who was particularly fond of the place.
Drinks and snacks