A year or so ago we went to a brilliant Italian restaurant in a seaside town near Portimão, in the Algarve. The staff were efficient and friendly, the pasta was perfect, the sauce delicious and the desserts outstanding! Even the decor and ambience were welcoming, so we vowed to return next time we were in the area.
We returned today, as promised, and the restaurant was empty. Strange, because many of the other places we’d passed on the way were busy. I should have gone with my gut instinct and kept on walking. However, as we hovered on the threshold of indecision a friendly waitress spotted us peering in the door, and came to welcome us. We smiled, walked in and chose a table.
We confirmed the dishes were homemade and not mass-produced frozen plastic food, asked several other questions about our choice from the menu and placed our food order along with a request for two glasses of wine. The waitress assured us at €1.25 a glass this was cheaper than buying a half bottle of wine.
Mr. Piglet’s lasagna arrived, smothered in a cream sauce and it looked sort of OK. However, when he cut through the pasta his “lasagna” was a solid lump of about 10 sheets of congealed lasagna sheets with no Bolognese meat sauce between. I wanted to complain, but he was hungry so ate it. How I’d wished in hindsight I’d photographed his meal for the complaints book (Livro de Reclamações).
My pasta dish was no better. It was meant to be salmon with penne pasta in a creamy sauce. I confirmed all this with the waitress. When it arrived it was spaghetti not penne, instead of the white creamy sauce I was expecting the sauce was a tasteless clear watery liquid. To my cook’s eye it looked like they’d opened up a tin of chopped tomatoes, added some finely chopped onions added some cubes of salmon tossed in spaghetti and decorated with a sprinkling of parsley. I groaned when I saw the spaghetti and said the menu stated penne. The waitress disagreed, but took the food away to be re served with penne. (We secretly checked the menu again – it stated penne in three languages)
Mr Piglet and I looked at each other in disbelief.
By the time Mr Piglet had finished his offering my meal arrived, with penne pasta. Oh my goodness it tasted as disgusting as it looked. Sorry no photograph. Hungry, I picked out the salmon and some of the chewy undercooked pasta – I know “al dente” is fashionable but this was like chewing on elastic bands. (Not that I’m in the habit of chewing on elastic bands you understand) However, I felt I couldn’t complain again otherwise the waitress would have me wearing the meal, not eating it!
I smiled and tried to see the funny side of the situation as I thanked God I’d not organised the girls’ lunch at this restaurant next month. Can you imagine I would be the focus of fourteen angry ladies like a swarm of angry wasps trapped in a coffee jar.
The work shift changed and a new waitress came over and smiled.
“Is everything OK with your meal?” She asked politely.
“No, actually this is the worst pasta dish I’ve ever had and it’s nothing more than a pile of tasteless slop!” I replied tersely.
I think she was quite taken aback as I then launched into a further tirade about how we’d been there before and we’d had a beautiful meal and this was…blah blah de blah blah blah etc, and my husband’s meal was also dire and the chef should be ashamed of himself!
The chef should be sacked!
Lucky for her I was not accompanied by 13 fellow wasps because Mr. Piglet sat there as shocked as she was by my response.
Well, what was I meant to do, smile sweetly through gritted teeth? Sometimes you have to take a stand on such matters.
The waitress disappeared (ran for cover) but returned a few minutes later with the news I would not be charged for my meal. This sounded good in theory, but when I checked the bill she’d doubled the price of the wine, and the price of the green side salad which consisted of a few lettuce leaves, half of tomato and a couple of slices of red cabbage, was exorbitant! She claimed that was the price and that was that! We were not in a position to argue the point as the previous waitress had left.
I wanted to stand my ground, but sometimes you lose the will to live and just vote with your feet.
“Hope to see you again soon?” She said as we were leaving.
“I don’t think so” Mr Piglet and I replied in unison
On the way home I kicked myself for not filling in the complaints book and checking the pricing of the wine and salad against the menu. I hate being ripped off.
OK, Piglet rant over! As Nancy says “Ah… that’s better!”