Some argue that vegetarian restaurants will never be very popular in Lisbon, but Alice, 32, has managed to do precisely the opposite: her restaurant, The Food Temple is a 5 star rated by Happy Cow - TripAdvisor of healthy restaurants. Lisboners and travelers all around the world get lost in Mouraria to be able to find an amazing healthy feast of flavours for the taste buds.
When she arrived in Lisbon in the summer of 2011, Alice had not opted for vegetarianism, or the vegan lifestyle. She came with one goal in mind: to open her own restaurant, along with a friend.
"I was born in Vancouver, Canada, I worked in several restaurants and at the age of 24 I moved to Australia. After a few years I decided I wanted to move to Europe, to live in a country with plenty of sunshine, and Spain was in my mind". Until a visit to a tarot expert made her change her mind. "She advised me to come to Portugal because the energy of the country matched with my energy. It was the only explanation."
Alice began to research and wrote a list of what she wanted to find the next country where she would live, "a European country, very sunny, with a relaxed atmosphere and that would allow me to have a connection with food. Portugal attaches great importance to the way of food, they are grown here, they are not imported. And that's very important to me."
The summer of 2011 was passed discovering Lisbon with her best friend, looking for the ideal place to open "a Chinese dumpling restaurant. Until everything changed when my friend could no longer stay in Lisbon. It made no sense to continue with a project that was designed by the two of us, and I ended up designing my own project."
And that’s how The Food Temple was born, one of the best vegan / vegetarian restaurants in town. It was in Lisbon that Alice felt the click that made her change the food and lifestyle habits. "Already in Australia I was becoming much more aware of environmental issues related to food until the day that, for health and ethical reasons, I stopped eating meat. When I became vegan I felt that my body has changed, I had found the balance."
Before going 100% vegan, Alice tried almost everything of Portuguese cuisine, "except snails because I think it’s a little strange (laughs)." One of her Portuguese dishes of choice is the traditional peas with eggs, which sometimes shows up in The Food Temple menu as a vegan version (no eggs) and sometimes vegan sausages. "The menu changes often, we like to try new things. We like to present tasty and creative meals, to express ourselves through food."
The reputation is such that the restaurant is much sought after by foreign foodies, going through the deep Mouraria with a map in hand in search of Alice's restaurant. And why Mouraria? "It was the first neighbourhood where I lived in Lisbon and when I found this space it was love at first sight. It is not always easy to find it, but the neighbours already know us and sometimes they tell customers how to find the restaurant.”
Over the next few years, Alice would like to do consulting projects for other restaurants to include on the menu at least one vegan dish. "Even if it’s not a vegetarian restaurant, it still can have an option on the menu with a vegetarian dish, besides the classic omelette. I would love to change that and prove that veg-based food does not have to be boring and tasteless. It can bevery tasty." And hopefully there vegetarians won't have to choose a rice and potatoes dish from the menu whenever they go for dinner with non-veggies friends, for lack of choice.