Tuesday, 22 July 2008

19.07.08: Out to Paladar and Sao Nicolau Cafetaria

Our second nite we thought we'd treat ourselves to what was billed as a premier Lisbon dining experience, and priced accordingly.

We sat outside in the mercifully cool breeze near a funky mural, ready to ease into a three-course meal with wine. I was especially looking fwd to some feta cheesecake with port wine sauce at the end...

...but it took half an hour just to get a glimpse of a wine list, let alone a menu. After about an hour, we had the olive-studded cream cheese and bread pictured above unceremoniously flung at us. The wine arrived 45 minutes after we ordered it.

Around that time our idiot waiter brought out two garlic-potato soups, when only He'd ordered one. The kicker? No spoon. After 20 more soup-cooling minutes, He went in to ask for one!

Well, We're not going to lie to you. We were mightily pissed off. We watched other people who'd sat down after us being served. We also suspected the waiter simply forgot we ordered dinner. He'd tried to offload the wrong mains on us 1 hr 20 mins into the whole debacle, and maybe thought we said we didn't order food when we corrected him? In any case, he just stopped coming near us, and no one else did, either.

At that point, She decreed that if we hit the bottom of the vinho bottle and still no food had arrived, we were going to a do a runner. The vinho drained away...two full hours had passed!...and still no food. So we legged it.

Hungry and disgruntled (but gleeful, it must be owned, at our escape), we made our way to the little outdoor caff and pasteleria a block or so from our accommodation, where we immediately received menus and gratefully ordered a slight variation on the theme from the night before. He ordered the grilled sardines...

...while she chose grilled golden bass.

SHE SAYS: I felt something was wrong the minute we sat down at Paladar, but I really wanted to try the food; it sounded fab and had such a glowing review in the Wallpaper guide.

We didn't even see our waiter for the last 40 minutes of our stay, but the last time we did he was delivering a nice big plate of salmon to someone who'd arrived half an hour after us. Grr! I doubt they discovered we'd hoofed it for at least 20 minutes. The cream cheese thingy they brought us was nothing special, Philly with olive bits mixed in, though I was happy to have any kind of sustenance at first!

My grilled bass was clean-tasting and nicely charred. I didn't bother much this the veg - the curiously flat green beans were stone cold, and the potatoes and carrot, though blamelessly boiled and still warm, were not inviting.

HE SAYS: I tried my best to hang on in there with a good and forgiving attitude towards the first place. I continued to make excuses for them for their complete lack of service of any kind until after the soup arrived sans eating implement.

The spoon incident was the turning point for me. Having to go in and ask for cutlery is not my idea of fine dining. Once I had the necessary tool to sample said soup I was mighty underwhelmed, again not a good example of the kind of culinary quality you'd expect from a place that is seen by Wallpaper as "the place to eat if you only had one meal in Lisbon". Bollocks, I say.

The next place was a tad on the tourist side but still we got served and had our food in under 45 mins. My sardines this night were a lot bigger. With a very light seasoning of just salt and olive oil, these fish were perfectly grilled and fresh-tasting. We did have to ask three times for the bill and eventually I had to go in and plead to pay and go. So it seems the Portuguese are pretty laid- back, on the verge of horizontal. I can dig that up to a point, or around 2.5 hrs. Whichever comes first.

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