The pigs, they said, are fed on acorns and must weigh no more than 5kg when killed. They are then basted in vinegar, red wine, onions, salt, garlic and pepper before being suspended (the key to a crispy skin) on thick metal poles in a very hot oven and roasted for an hour-and-a-half. Suckling pig is eaten as simply as it is cooked. Ours came with thin, home-cooked crisps and green salad, all washed down with sparkling red wine made from Baga, the local grape variety of the Bairrada region.
Portugal Travel Guide Gallery Photos
Portugal Travel Guide
The restaurant was vast, the interior inconsequential -1 sat facing an incongruous combination of prints of 19th-century.
English hunting scenes and a huge TV set but the food was fantastic. As we left, Veronica Arnold commented that this had been the best pork she had eaten in 30 years.
We played pontoon that night to forget the early start for the long journey to the town of Herdade do Esporao the next morning. There we tasted a range of olive oils and sampled wine made by Australian winemaker David Baverstock, who has lived in Portugal for the past 15 years and is advising Cliff Richard on his new vineyard in the Algarve.
Then it was on to Lisbon for our final supper. It began over glasses of new-wave Portuguese white wine in the Enoteca-Charafiz do Vinho, perhaps the world's most stunning wine bar. Constructed from huge stones that were originally part of the city's aqueduct system, the building served until the 1960s as a series of shower rooms for the neighbourhood. Where their predecessors used to bathe, today's stylish young Portuguese meet, eat and drink.
Our group enjoyed its last taste of the new, fashionable side of Portuguese cooking in, most incongruously, one of the capital's oldest restaurants, Pap' Acorda, where young Joacquim Figueiredo has been in charge of the kitchens for the past two years. Figueiredo trained in France and has returned to woo his countrymen away from strong flavours and towards softer, more Mediterranean ingredients.
By lam, at the end of a long day's eating, and just before a last card game was to begin, two chefs, two restaurateurs and a discerning sommelier from Britain had been convinced that Portuguese cooking could and should travel as easily as its more famous port wine. O