Meet Susana Barcelos

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How a rooster catches a fish: Meet Susana Barcelos

My fish adventures began when Susana Barcelos (my favorite fishmonger) opened her store, Peixaria-Estoril-Mar, a block away from my house.  Susana introduced me to Portuguese fish and gave me lovely cooking tips. This interview is translated from Portuguese, and is edited for clarity.

Interview with Susana

Where were you born?

I was born in Florianópolis , Santa Catarina in Brazil. I have lived in Portugal for nineteen years.

What made you come to Portugal, and why did you stay?

I came to Portugal because I wanted to get to know new cultures. Living in Portugal was a way to visit other places in Europe. I chose Portugal because of the similar language which would make communication easy for me and because of one of Portugal’s famous cultural symbols (icons) the Galo de Barcelos. My last name is Barcelos and I loved the legend around the famous rooster. (You can read the legend at the end of the interview!)

What made you want to work with fish? Do you have a special connection with the ocean or fishing?

I was born on an island where my family, among Fishermen and women, ate seafood. The ocean takes care of my nutritional needs, provides for a sport and gives me spiritual peace.

Photo by Marguerite Beaty

Photo by Marguerite Beaty

Who inspired you to enter this business?

I have worked in the restaurant business for 15 years and always in the seafood area. The pandemic forced my family and I to restructure our projects. My family has a house in the Peniche area, where we spent two months in isolation due to lockdown. We spent the time brainstorming what to do next and shared ideas with friends and acquaintances who were connected to the fishing and seafood industry.

When did you open your seafood store, Peixaria Estoril-Mar?

We opened it on 24th of September, 2020.

What did you do before you opened Peixaria Estoril-Mar?

I have a degree in Business Management and I was trained in traditional cooking. I was responsible for two restaurants in the historical part of Lisbon.

What is your day-to-day like? 

The seafood store is a family project. My husband goes to different fish auctions to buy freshly caught fish every morning. Almost all our fish comes from Peniche. I start my days very early with a good walk near the ocean and then I go to the store to organize our display with the fresh fish, organise daily orders and our in-store products.

How do you choose the fish that you are going to sell?

Fish depends on what the ocean offers. The climate is a factor. But the actual choice is fundamental. Quality of fish and seafood has to be the best. We buy according to what the fishing boats bring and according to what is seasonally available. For example, sardines are seasonal fish.

In the ‘old’ days, here and in many other countries the fishing industry was connected to women. Some fished, but they were known as fishmongers. The business changed drastically due to its industrialization.

Where do women fishmongers fit in with post-industrialization fishing?

The industrialization has changed the artisanal aspect of the fishing business and sales, and we have lost many traditions because of it. Many women are born and grow up in this milieu, some develop businesses in a natural way, others adapt and take advantage of the opportunities.

Do you and your family eat a lot of fish at home? Have you always eaten fish or is this something new?

We have always created our meals around seafood and fish. My children love fish; it’s part of their healthy nutritional habits.

What are your plans? More stores? More semi-prepared dishes? A cookbook?

Ideas flow and we have many plans. Maybe a store next to this one, a place that will offer good seafood snacks and dishes. Who knows what the future will bring.

Peixaria Estoril-Mar by Marguerite

Peixaria Estoril-Mar by Marguerite

You always give me great cooking tips when I come by. Who inspired you in the kitchen? Who was your muse?

My mother! But my family are my most important and loyal tasters who inspire me to want to do better. I’m also always inspired by books that I read.

What tips would you give to a woman who wants to open a seafood store?

It’s essential to know how to handle fish, know all the fish varieties, and always think about quality. Understand and know how to cook each type of fish and offer cooking tips to your clients, they love tips.

What’s your favourite fish to eat, and how do you like to cook it?

Pregado (European flatfish), grilled.

Favorite side dishes?

Esparregado de feijão verde (Portuguese green bean dish), batatas torneadas com flor de sal (sliced and stirred fried potato with sea salt), and tomato and fresh coriander salad.

Fish Broth

One of the best recipes Susana shared with me was for fish broth which had a lot more flavor than mine. I love to stop by her store when no one is there and chat with her. Her stories are always interesting, and her cooking tips are always delicious. I value her tenacity throughout the pandemic and look forward to continuing to support her business. Her fresh fish is superior in quality, and I’m glad we can take advantage of the ocean’s proximity.

Photo by Marguerite Beaty

Photo by Marguerite Beaty

Where to find Susana’s fish store online: Peixaria Estoril-Mar on Facebook

Peixaria Estoril-Mar on Instagram

Address: R. Comandante Gourinho, 9 Estoril


Photo by Marguerite Beaty Barcelos Rooster

Photo by Marguerite Beaty Barcelos Rooster

The Barcelos Rooster Story

The Barcelos rooster’s legend starts with the theft of a silver piece at a landowner’s party. The landowner accused one of his guests of the theft, and the court found him guilty. There was a lot of evidence against him, but the accused maintained his innocence. The magistrate gave him a chance to prove his innocence, and he noticed a cock in a basket. He told the magistrate that if the cock crowed, it would prove his innocence. The cock crowed, so the magistrate let him go.

This legend has many versions. Another version states that the ordeal was over a murder, not a theft. Legends are like that! So many interpretations, but always interesting and fun. Some links to learn more:

The Rooster from Barcelos

Portugal’s Iconic Symbol

More posts by Marguerite

Tips for Fish Burgers and Fish Eggs by Marguerite Beaty

Main Photo by Marguerite Beaty

Marguerite Beaty, Blogger, Photographer & Artist

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One Response

  1. This lady shut down her restaurant Lisboa Ha Mesa during the pandemic and didn’t pay any of her employees a penny because she "didn’t make enough money." Yet she opens a peixaria 6 months later leaving her many employees and their families to fend for themselves. Pathetic excuse of a human being. She should be ashamed.

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