I'm back with another Small is Beautiful feature! If you didn't catch my first two SIB posts, this project was born out of a desire to document and share some of the amazing independent businesses and creative projects near and dear to my heart.
This week, I'm featuring one of my favorite Lisbon restaurants: Agua Pela Barba. I first admired the work of chef João Magalhães Correia (above right) via Instagram. When I finally made it in to the restaurant last year, I was thrilled that his food tastes 100% as amazing at it looks. João's ability to coax subtle flavors and textures out of seafood makes him one of my favorite Lisbon chefs. He and owner, João Alves (above left) have created a space that is casual, welcoming and one of the finest seafood restaurants in the city. If you find yourself in Lisbon, Agua Pela Barba most definitely needs to be on your list!
An interview with João Magalhães Correia, chef at Agua Pela Barba in Lisbon.
Mad lib time! People could describe your business as Fisherman's shack meets contemporary food.
What is your background?
I grew up in Lisbon, where I first got into cooking because my mom was, to be honest, a really bad cook. The fact that I started living on my own very early also obliged me to cook for myself at a young age. I'd always wanted to do something creative and I loved doing manual tasks. This is why I decided to drop out of law school and follow my passion by attending cooking school. Traveling is one of the things that helped me grow as a cook the most. While working in Milan I noticed the amazing respect and passion Italians have for food and for their national products. This inspired me to go back to Lisbon to try and make people as enthusiastic about local Portugese products.
How/when did you get the idea for your current venture?
About 2 years ago I noticed that Lisbon lacked a good quality modern fish restaurant that was affordable and not too pretentious or fancy.
On a scale of one to shitting-your-pants, how nervous were you about starting your business?
Pissing-your-pants scared, which I guess is just below shitting-your-pants. There is a lot of competition in Lisbon and even though I knew the concept was good, I was also aware of the fact that this does not guarantee success.
What's the greatest challenge with your business?
It used to be getting people interested in the concept. Nowadays the biggest challenge is to maintain people's interest.
What do you love most about your business? What brings you the most joy?
I get the most joy out of people's satisfaction. People who spend their money and end up having a great night with food they loved, being able to see to that, that's what I love most about this business.
What's on your bedside table (be honest)?
My phone and a Meditation book.
Secret hobby and/or obsession?
Mezcal. It's not that secret though.
If you could get in a time machine, zoom back into the past and give yourself one piece of advice before starting your business, what would it be?
Always take time to rest, a rested head thinks more clearly.
What other local business/project do you think is Small and Beautiful?
For my personal booze fix I like to go to this place called A Tabacaria. It's a small bar in Rua São Paulo with an antique interior and good quality drinks, including a very nice Mezcal. The skilled bartender and chilled crowd make it a great place for me to have a drink after work. In the afternoon I like to visit my friend Inês who owns a mobile cocktailstand called MEXE currently placed in Martim Moniz. She makes deliciously fresh and original cocktails that are perfect for these sunny Lisbon days.