Nearly every region of Portugal has a variety in shapes and
sizes when it comes to restaurants. It can be a lowly
"Tasca" (Tavern), a "Casa de Pasto"
(a set three-course Tavern meal), a "Cervejaria"
(Beerhouse with food), a "Restaurante" (offering
a choice of dishes), a "Marisqueira"
(specialising in fish and shellfish), or a "Churrasqueira"
(spit or grilled food). It is not unusual for some small
cafés to serve a "prato do dia" (dish of
the day). Depending on location and style, prices are very
reasonable when equated with other European countries and
the servings are normally plentiful! Choosing the place is
sometimes confusing until you acquire local knowledge. You
may see smart businessmen eating in what appears to be a
scruffy "Tasca". They are there for the
quality of the food, the price and the friendliness of the
owners - and not just for the décor!
Hours of Eating
Generally speaking, lunch is eaten between 12.00 and 14.00
hours. Dinner is from about 19.30 to 23.00 hours. However,
it is not uncommon to see a small group of people arriving
for lunch at 14.30 hours, as they know the owners and what
they are going to eat. In the cities in smarter restaurants
it is advisable to make a prior reservation.
In the tourist areas it is usual to see restaurants offering
a "ementa turística" that is a three-course
meal served with a drink and all at a lower price than from
the menu. Also, in tourist areas you will find that the menu
has been translated into more than one other language. As
soon as you have taken your seats it is normal in Portugal
to be served with bread, olives and often some assorted
appetizers for which you are charged. You may pay for what
you eat but often it is also used as a form of cover charge.
There is a good reason for these items to be placed in front
of you. In all Portuguese restaurant be prepared to wait.
The chef will all start cooking after your order is placed
and normally only using fresh food.
Vegetarians are not particularly well catered for although
there are in major areas a limited number of specialized
restaurants. However, as the vegetables grown in Portugal
can be excellent we recommend some careful directions to
the chef may produce very satisfying results.
Wines and Other Drinks
The grapes in Portugal produces some very satisfying wines
and especially in the case of the red. White wine is also
bottled in quantity and is very palatable but their grapes
do not generally produce any spectacular results. After
eating it is a must to sample the two most famous Portuguese
fortified wines and known throughout the world, Port and
Madeira. It is normally quite safe to order the
"vinho da casa" (house-wine) to accompany
your meal however, please remember that it can be
fresh country wine and although good, not necessarily
pleasing to your personal palette.
Portugal is an ideal holiday location for families with
children. In restaurants the childrens misbehaviour
may be completely accepted as the Portuguese love children
to the point of spoiling them! Often the menu will indicate
half-portions or a childs plate, and if not, reduced
amounts and prices can be normally requested.
Smoking is normally generally accepted in all eating
establishments. Recently there has been a Act published
in their Parliament to introduce no smoking zones. If you
see the sign "proibido fumar" (no smoking) you
will this means "No Smoking" - and please respect
this sign as heavy fines can be incurred.
One of the main problems in Portuguese restaurants is
obtaining and paying the bill. The attitude of every
waiter seems to be that once you have eaten you should
sit and digest your food! Remember this is a Latin country
and the pleasure of eating is taken seriously! A suitable
remedy for too long a delay maybe to stand up as though
you are leaving.
Somewhere in the greyness of distant times a tip was
used as a reward for good service. When tipping at the
table the Portuguese tend to leave either nothing or 5%
as a reward. It is generally expected for a foreign
tourist to leave 10%. There is no law stating what
percentage you should use as a tip. When tipping, bear in
mind that today the sum of € 1.00 does not buy very much
and good service helps to make the meal. Your meal price
includes Tax so request a "Factura"
(Bill), as many restaurants may wish to pocket this money
that you will be paying as an slice of extra profit!