The signs above the two shop doors still indicate: one side for bacalhau, the other for dairy/delicatessen. Only shops classified as manteigarias were allowed to sell butter and dairy products, and in Lisbon there were only about twenty of them when this shop opened in the 19th century. Before it stocked butter and dairy products, the site was home to an abattoir for goats that served the former market on nearby Praça da Figueira. The shop was extended in the 1930s to the size it is today: with a part selling salt cod on one side and a fine grocery store on the other specialising in regional products and delicacies, in particular wines, hams, sausages, cheeses and dried fruits. One hallmark of Manteigaria Silva is the quality of its products and excellence of service.
The concept is simply to offer a unique array of the best Portuguese food and drink in the Baixa district. As far as salt cod is concerned, the shopper can dare to try salt cod from Iceland, which many say uses curing processes that make it tastier than that which has become most popular in Portugal, salt cod from neighbouring Norway. On the walls above the dried fish there are newspaper cuttings that remind one of singular episodes in the history of the shop, such as Christmas 1977, when salt cod was scarce everywhere, as following the revolution of 1974, imports had declined considerably. As there was little fish to be bought anywhere, people queued outside on the street in the hope that they would be able to maintain up their festive traditions. Salt cod was rationed – to one fish per customer. There was even a policeman on guard to keep things orderly. Make no mistake about it – for many Portuguese, salt cod was then, and still is today, an indispensable necessity.
Bacalhau (salt cod); sausages and cold meats; hams; cheeses and wines