Let’s get one thing straight here folks, restaurants exist for one thing and one thing only: food. Not for fancy cheffing, not for owner egos, just food, glorious food. However, by the end of the meal at Azeit’alhos e tomate (which translates as “Olive oil with garlic and tomato”, yes, really) we were begging for the bill. Come and gather round the fire, all you young restaurateurs, and let me tell you all a story of how not to run a business. Or how to do it awkwardly.
It didn’t start out that bad though. We got a bottle of the house wine (which was okay), there was some cheese, there was some bread. Yes, okay, the space is awkward and way too small, we sat right next to the door and the view is not too splendid either, looking out over a not too picturesque apartment entrance (and actually part of it) but hey, it was a Friday evening in Lisbon. There’s worse things than that, we thought. Oh, blessed are the naïve! Forgive them Lord, they do not know what they ordered.
Next came a plate of Portuguese sausage and then a whole loaf of bread filled with a mixture of cheese, mayonnaise and bacon, baked in the oven, labelled as “sapateira alentejana” (Alentejo crab). Not bad, but a bit gimmicky and awkward in a restaurant-context and without a salad, it was very much on the heavy side. Plus, a whole loaf of bread is just too big for two people to contemplate, so either they throw every loaf away or re-use it. Either way, that ain’t right!
Then it got real weird real fast. Up next: a plate of overcooked rice with shredded pieces of overcooked chicken and on top baked bacon and chouriço. No vegetable or anything that would taste of anything else but rice and meat in sight. Then: quail. Two birds on a plate with oil drizzled on top. Nothing. Else. No salad, rice, potatoes, no vegetables (remember vegetables?). The two quails were dead as an old dormouse: if there ever was any flavour or juicy texture, they had cooked it right out of it. And that was the end of whatever the main course might have been. Finally came a very lonely slice of chocolate cake which was sickly sweet like Nutella, but worse. Inside it was overly gooey and outside dry as sandpaper.
The restaurant was all about giving people an authentic taste of the Alentejo, but in our not so humble opinion, if people in the Alentejo seriously ate like this everyday, I’m sure most inhabitants would not make it to retirement. Since we got in with a “Let’s bonus” coupon, the menu was more or less fixed, but nobody managed to keep us posted on what was still coming. It was all on the rough side. Nobody even asked us whether we were ready for the dessert or not.
Judging by the comments on the Facebook page of the restaurant, each and every one of the clients there all bask in the glow of not only the food but also of owner “senhor Ricardo”. We were in his radiating company and it nearly burned both of our skins, but it might also have been due to the excessive meat and acute liver failure from all of the fat we digested in the five course meal. Ricardo fluttered from table to table and when he graced us with his presence, we suggested that the meal was on the heavy side and that we were not used to eating so much meat. Ricardo answered wisely that “it is good to change, isn’t it?” and went to another table that did appreciate his art.
I know, one can argue about food, but what is there to say about a meal that was so unbalanced, so bland and so not well prepared? Though the service was adequate and I’m sure people were trying their best, the food and the overall experience was an unmitigated disaster. Upon closer inspection, we discovered that one (yes, one) oven was their only kitchen equipment, so we presume that they probably have a kitchen somewhere else and warm up the food in the restaurant itself. It did explain a lot.
So yes, if you’re looking for a restaurant that will give you unbalanced, unhealthy, weird food, in a small, uncomfortable room with an owner whose ego takes up most of the little space, by all means, go there. For anyone sensible: don’t. Things you could do with your time instead: pick an apple from a tree, look a child in the eyes, enjoy the smell of freshly baked bread in the morning. Life’s too short to eat bad food, even in the company of “senhor Ricardo”. (Nout Van Den Neste)
Opening hours: Tuesday – Sunday: 9:00-1:00
Address: Rua Saraiva de Carvalho, 107A, 1250-242 Lisbon, Portugal
Phone number: 967 703 451