Before highway A1 was built, it took a long time to drive from the north of Portugal to Lisbon. To make the trip easier to endure, our parents liked to stop at a small roadside restaurant in Pombal called Manjar do Marquês. As soon as we sat down, we were served a delicious tomato rice with a choice of accompaniments, such as codfish cakes, veal milanese, or fried hake.
After a long hiatus, we recently returned to Manjar do Marquês. We entered the restaurant’s new premises just off highway A1 with some trepidation. What if the food is not as wonderful as we remember it? Would we destroy our childhood memories? Luckily, some things never change: the tomato rice is as appetizing as ever.
We asked the owner, Maria Graça, what makes her rice taste so good. She smiled and answered: “My husband really wanted to have a restaurant. I worked for the phone company and had no cooking experience. But I was very much in love with him, so I quit my job to become a cook. My food was different because everything I did, I did with love. And that continues to be true.”
Today Maria Graça is 84 years old and still works 10 hours a day at the restaurant. Could her hearty tomato rice be the key to longevity? It’s worth stopping by Manjar do Marquês to find out.
Manjar do Marquês is located on Estada Nacional 1 (IC2), Pombal, 170 km north of Lisbon, tel. 236-218-818. Click here for the restaurant’s website.