Two hours after landing in Oporto, we’re hot on the trail of two essentials: sardines and octopus.

Oh—and wine! Well, that’s not too hard to find around these parts. Nor are the first two.

Oporto's Abadia: good, typical local fare, Tim Pawsey photo

Down a narrow side street, not far from our hotel, in the centre of the old town, we discover capacious, two-tiered Abadia, where the food is typically Portuguese: fresh, very local and uncomplicated—and served in abundant portions.

Small sardines or Joaquinsinhos (the big ones are now out of season) are flash-fried and very fresh, served simply with salad of lettuce and tomatoes. We wash them down with Borges Vinho Branco, its clean citrus and mineral cutting the richness of the sardines.

'Spoon tender' octopus, Tim Pawsey photo

However, the real treat of the evening is the octopus, that comes with fried green peppers, onions and roasted skin-on small potatoes with garbanzo beans (Pulvo a Lagareiro). We watch as the waiter cuts them into manageable sized pieces… With a spoon!

The flesh (which has been made tender by alternating in boiling and cold water) is mild tasting and very fresh. But, even more surprising, the red beans and rice with it comes with this are absolutely delicious.

We sip on full-bodied Dao Casa de Santar 07—and congratulate ourselves on our lucky find.

Portugal is off to a good start!