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Lisbon restaurant scam

Just back from Lisbon which we loved but beware of charming waiters who talk you into their restaurant with reasonably priced menus, but then they talk you into ordering mixed plates of meat or fish. These items will not be on the menu just shown to you and you will be charged lots of money, for example, 2 drinks and 1 mixed plate of meat between two, costs 120 euro! My advice is to check Tripadvisor for reviews before eating in a restaurant and ALWAYS ask the price if not on the menu.

Posted by
6539 posts

There is no shame in asking for the price of something before diving in. You were royally ripped off, considering how inexpensive meals are in Portugal. Most honest, down-to-earth places don't employ aggressive tactics to get customers to spend more if they prefer to order items off a written menu. What kind of exotic meat did you get? I would think this kind of price corresponds to expensive fish priced by weight.

Posted by
8293 posts

So, what exactly was the scam? You ordered some food recommended by Mr Charming, did not ask the cost, and you were "charged lots of money". No kidding. It happens everywhere, in my country and yours.

Posted by
7204 posts

And why do you not mention the name of the restaurant here so as to prevent others from falling prey?

Posted by
31219 posts

Thanks for the warning. I may be in Portugal this year, and it's always a good reminder to hear stories like this.

I tend to avoid restaurants that have touts on the street trying to drag passers-by into their establishments, and prefer smaller places with a more "friendly" demeanor and no high-pressure tactics.

Posted by
3580 posts

I remember that street in Lisbon. For about two blocks there are many restaurants and the majority have men outside trying to get tourists to stop and eat there. If you stick with the menu at least you will know the price of the food. As I recall, in Portugal if they bring bread and you eat it there will be a bread charge.

Posted by
8889 posts

It is quite common to post a "menu of the day" outside a restaurant as well as the à la carte menu (anywhere, not just in Portugal). This is often written large on a blackboard. When you are given the menu, what appears first is all the à la carte items. The menu of the day is a separate piece of paper (it changes every day), which may be hiding in the back of the menu.
This is not a scam, the "menu of the day" is wherever it was left, and may even have fallen out and you have to ask for it.

Question: If you went to a restaurant in your home town, and were offered something not on the menu, would you ask the price?

Posted by
1529 posts

We had the same experience in the same area that Swan is talking about. We were traveling with a different tour company and the guide actually talked with the maitre d, about what we wanted and came in with us and had a beer. However, the guide left before we got our bill. If he had stayed, I don't think we would have had that problem. We just paid it and chalked it up to our own stupidity. But, that was the only place in Lisbon we had a problem. We ate at the waterfront with no problem and a place in Bario Alto that was great as well. I think we were lulled a little bit because when we're in Athens, there is a similar area of restaurants right near the Acropolis Museum and we had a great experience.

Posted by
3 posts

The restaurant is called Portugal no Prato. Read all of the Tripadviser reviews. This does not happen in my country to my knowledge as the authorities would prevent it from re-occuring. It is most definitely a scam.

Posted by
4981 posts

Just so others are fully aware, another part of the story that is often the case is that even if a price is listed, it is usually a per unit price, per kilo or 100 grams, and the eventual total often surprises the diner. Certainly always ask the price, and if a unit cost, ask them to go weigh your choice and let you know what the cost would be. The other place some get caught up is the price being a per person cost, and in some cases, like with Paella, the minimum order is for two, so if one person orders, the cost is double.

Posted by
3 posts

I know now after reading TripAdvisor reviews on this particular restaurant that it is most definitely a scam. I'm just advising to be careful. I'm aware of the normal practice in Portugal around price per kg, charging a nominal extra for bread, pates etc left on the table if you eat them. This particular restaurant charges excessively, so it IS a scam.

Posted by
16817 posts

Nice of Patty to give the benefit of the doubt to the "helpful" efforts of her tour guide, but it seems likely he may have communicated a "money is no object" attitude to the maître d' or presented a bit of a road block to your initiative to confirm the price of what he ordered.

Posted by
1498 posts

Best advice comes from the place where I stay, never been dissapointed. I like to stay in BnB’s and small hotels and they know as locals where the good places are, good value for the money. Don’t care much about Tripadvisor reviewers as they come from everywhere and recommend places that often attracts tourists.

I have worked for a few months in the past south of Lisbon and visited with my collegues little family restaurants, nice honoust people, good atmosphere and good food, perfect!

Posted by
7315 posts

A similar thing happened on that restaurant street in Brussels, but in this case the waiter said that the only menu posted outside was unavailable in the evening. Then take the sign down or write "seulement a midi". We were all (native) French speakers--us, waiter-- so no language problem reading or speaking. We got up to leave, at which point the waiter said we could have what was posted outside. Too late. We left. Trust had been broken. It's easy to ask and take action when you speak the language, but it sure can be confusing when you don't. Only two other customers in the place, a couple of Americans.

Posted by
1498 posts

I know those streets in Brussels, Antwerp and Bruges too.

If a waiter is waiting (what’s in a name) outside the restaurant is most of the time a bad sign, with a bit of luck there are exceptions. It’s about the money and not so much about service. Charm is just skin deep, look more carefully to their body language, if having the slightest doubt skip the place. These kinds of restaurants are mostly located near tourist hotspots, best to avoid like the plague and look a bit further and pay a bit more.

Posted by
2353 posts

I have started using my phone to Google the restaurant and reading the reviews before ever entering. Found some nice surprises and walked (or ran) away from a few. Wish I'd done it with one particular restaurant in Venice!

Posted by
518 posts

"...A similar thing happened on that restaurant street in Brussels, but in this case the waiter said that the only menu posted outside was unavailable in the evening."

I've eaten on that street too and was intimidated by all the touts that stand outside, but we'd already decided to go to the big restaurant there, called Chez Leon. Yeah, it's a big loud chain type restaurant but there were no touts, menus were clear, and portions were fair, so all in all, I considered it a fairly good meal. I believe it's mentioned in RS guide too (or maybe it was LP).

"I tend to avoid restaurants that have touts on the street trying to drag passers-by into their establishments"

Agree, I mean, if a restaurant really was good enough to stand on it's own based on food and service, this sort of aggressive in-your-face advertising wouldn't be necessary. On Columbus street in San Francisco North Beach (the Italian district), there are restaurants like this too.

Posted by
11929 posts

Christi---which restaurant in Venice? We spend quite a bit of time there and mostly cook for ourselves, but I like to keep a mental list of places not to go.

We had a bad experience in Rome---our first ever time being overcharged. It could have been avoided had we checked reviews first, as it turns out almost everyone gets overcharged there.