In our early days in the Algarve, along with friends, we visited the Piri Piri*, a typically Portuguese restaurant in Quarteira. We mistakenly thought it was a comedy club cum restaurant, firstly by the words over the door, mentioning ‘comida tradicional’** and then by the laughable service from the waiters. I’ll give the waiters their due though, they were obviously playing up for the customers and were quite entertaining, until…but more of that later.
As soon as we sat down we were served pea soup, without being asked. Pea soup with lots of garlic. Pea soup with enough garlic to frighten off Dracula himself! (Funnily enough, garlic is also thought to keep mosquitos at bay. That could be true, as we didn’t see any in the restaurant. Or within a two mile radius.)
Our drinks and main meal orders were taken and delivered with much gusto and clowning around (the waiters, not us!) accompanied with lots of pats on our backs as they passed our table. I wasn’t sure whether they were trying to be friendly, or to make us burp! Getting desserts was a visual exercise – we had to go to look at the cabinet under the counter and choose our dessert. Our choice was then slammed on the counter and a spoon thrown in, with the instruction to serve ourselves. Platinum service? More like comedy gold!
The food was good (apart from the garlic soup) and overall it was a good experience. Very reasonably priced, including a house wine. (We were even allowed to choose the colour!)
The evening was spoiled for our friend though, when she ripped her new trousers on a nail sticking out on her chair. Our complaint was met with the Portuguese equivalent of “Oh dear” (at least we think it was!) and the waiter replaced the chair with another. But then left the damaged chair out, waiting for another, unsuspecting customer. Eventually, at our friend’s suggestion, they put a note on the chair!
The waiter made light of the torn trousers*** (possibly still ‘in performance role’?) but with no real acknowledgement of liability or of offering any recompense. What do we have to do for a free beer we wondered!
At this stage I should say that on the whole, Portuguese people are lovely, friendly, helpful and considerate and that bad service is not the norm. However, say something challenging to them, or complain about their service and faces seem to glaze over, their shutters come down and the doors are closed for business. All metaphorically speaking of course.
Venture into the world of public service bureaucracy and bad service can reach a whole new level! Woe betide anyone who fails to speak Portuguese! I did try, but failed miserably, when attempting to make a Doctor’s appointment at the local Centro de Saude (health centre). First I was told I wasn’t registered (even though I’d had previous appointments) so had to go to Loulé to register. Off I trooped to register in Loulé. There I was told I couldn’t see a Doctor and that I had to return to my local health centre. On returning to the local health centre, armed with a more competent Portuguese speaker (Her Outdoors), I was able to make an appointment.
Undeterred by such appalling service and bureaucracy, we recently embarked on a venture with the Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes (IMT – Driver and vehicle registration) to import a UK registered motorbike. So far, after two trips to the Alfândega and the IMT, several hours on the computer and a number of phone calls, we are still working on it. More of this in a future blog, when we have hopefully completed the venture and recovered from the trauma.
* Other restaurants are available in Quarteira, including our favourite, Tin Tin! We also like Zip Zip in Paderne, and the Bang Bang near Boliqueime. All so good, they named them twice!
**‘comida típica portuguesa’ – traditional Portuguese food’. Easy to think it was a comedy club/restaurant, considering our very basic Portuguese (much improved, but we are still learning!) The copious amount of wine we consumed might also have been a factor!
***The offended trousers were invisibly repaired at an expense far in excess of the cost of the meal. They have subsequently been passed on to a charity shop and were last sighted heading into Nando’s Portuguese restaurant in Cambridge.