The unrequested appetizers in Portugal

Old Apr 28th, 2016, 02:34 PM
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The unrequested appetizers in Portugal

In planning our two-week September trip to Portugal, I've come across numerous mentions on the internet of the practice of restaurants to automatically serve plates of cheese/bread/olives and other goodies that have not been ordered. Many times, unsuspecting tourist diners assume these are complimentary, only to learn upon receiving the bill that they are not, and that they can sometimes actually be pricier than an entrée.

There have been conflicting recommendations and suggestions on how to handle this, ranging from sending them back to the kitchen: eating them and then refusing to pay for them on the bill (one website I found labels the practice illegal); or just going along and paying for them without question.

Can those with experience in this area provide some guidance? I do not wish to get into a confrontation with a waitperson or owner over a few Euros, but also don't like the feeling of being taken advantage of. Apparently, the practice is widespread.

Thanks.
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 02:43 PM
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That happens some in Spain, also. I would never eat them and refuse to pay for them. Locals know they cost, so just being a tourist, it probably isn't fair to do that, although I know their intentions are not really benign.

My issue is I really do not even want them or like that stuff, the last thing I want to do is eat olives before dinner (or crackers, which is what they have served in Spain -- olives and these little crackers). I never eat appetizers, in fact, even at home, I don't really believe in the concept when it is just finger food. So I also hate to see food wasted and I wonder what they do when they put those on your table and you don't eat them.

ANyway, in my case, I absolutely do not even want them, it isn't an issue of not wanting to pay for them, so I generally head them off at the pass (just like I do in the US when waiters start putting things on my table I don't want, even though in the US they are usually free)--as soon as they start to put them on the table, I say, no thank you, I do not want those, please take them away. You have to be quick, though. In Spain, they were not more expensive than an entree, though (not sure what you mean by that--do you mean an entree in terms of what the word really means, which is an appetizer you order from the menu?--well, they only cost a couple euro in Spain where I've been but they were not elaborate.)

The only places I've had to do that, I did speak the local language, also (Spanish).
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 02:52 PM
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Thanks Christina. You are saying to just refuse it as soon as it is brought over, and they will take it back? By saying "more expensive than an entrée", I'm saying that these appetizers cost more than your main dinner plate. Read somewhere that they may charge as much as 4 - 6 Euro per person .. .we will be 4 people, and don't care to spend 24 Euro for something we didn't ask for.
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 03:08 PM
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When we travelled for a month in Portugl we never had an issues with the entradas. As I recall it was often bread and sometimes various types of seafood pate and olives. Unlike Christina we enjoyed a small snack with our apéritifs. Generally they were a few euros and never did we encounter any that were 4-6 euros pp. If we didnt want them, we just politely motioned for them to be taken back - it wasnt any big deal. We don't speak Portugese so we did a sort of sign language to take them back. If you speak Portugese it might be even easier!
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 03:09 PM
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Yes, you refuse them when they bring it to your table. I never had any problem doing so.
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 03:49 PM
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I've seen Locals doing the same, with a polite wave of the hand, and they were promptly removed.
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 04:11 PM
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Just say no when they appear, and they will disappear. Honestly, there is no reason to make a big deal out of this.

Eating them and refusing to pay would be theft.
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 04:59 PM
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Thanks all. I never had any intention of eating them and refusing to pay, was just reporting one of a number of reactions I found online.

I'll just take everyone's advice that it's no big deal, and "just say no" if we don't want them.
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 05:21 PM
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Personally, I enjoy a sliced cheese with bread before the meal but that's a question of personal preference.
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Old Apr 28th, 2016, 08:56 PM
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Some appetizers are really not to miss, like the slices of cheese in Alentejo, or some slices of ham. Like Lobo Mau said, it's a question of personal preference.

As a local, I can tell you the following: although these things are brought without you asking, the price is inside the menu.

You can send them back immediately or later. Don't feel rush. Sometimes the waiter brings something I'm not sure my husband wants or not (while he is washing hands) so we send back next time the waiter comes (it is ok to point and make the wave with the hand, as mentioned above).

Check the bill: sometimes we send appetizers back and they are charged "by mistake". Just advise the waiter you did not ask for those items and you did not eat them.

In some places it can easyly be 4 to 6 euros per person, or even more. I use to go to a nice and cheap restaurant (30 euros a dinner for two) and the first thing they bring to table is bread and a grilled sausage per person. Then they bring pate, butter, olives, cheese, ham, and shrimps. This can cost a lot.

It is not an attempt of extorsion (although sometimes that is what I feel), it's just the way it is.

Personally, I don't like this practice. But it occurs in almost every restaurant.
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 05:16 AM
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HelenaFatima - Thanks so much for your very helpful information. We sometimes really enjoy the foods described ... olives, cheese, shrimp, bread and butter, etc. If we are in the mood and they look good, we'll eat them and happily pay whatever it is. I just didn't want to feel pressured to take them if we don't care to, and you've explained that we don't have to.
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 06:38 AM
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Even if you don't send appetizers back, the waiter understands that you don't want those and take them back as soon as the principal meal arrives. And you will not be charged (unless "by mistake", as I said before...). The problem is... well, the problem is temptation. Sometimes I don't mind paying for the appetizers, sometimes they look so (sooooooo) good I can hardly resist... but then the meal arrives and my stomach says "ok, I'm full. Now I just want a little piece of this" - "this" being the main reason I went to one or other particular restaurant! (altough I allways ask for a leftover bag if it is justifies by the quality/quantity of food).
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 11:16 AM
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Are the appetizers 4-5 euros each? or the total of several of them? I can see where it could add up of they are individually priced.
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 02:35 PM
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I agree with thursdaysd- no reason to make a big deal out of this issue. We spent 2 weeks in Portugal last spring and never had a problem. Some folks seem to get all worked up over this custom - but need to remember that different countries have different customs. It isn't that they are trying to rip tourists off! The waiters had no problem with our politely asking that unwanted items be removed- some things brought to the table we liked (olives) and some we didn't (fish pate in little pre sealed tubs). The olives we'd keep,and the pate we'd ask to be removed. Easy!
It's not like refusing to pay the coperto in Italy ("bread charge") which would be non-negotiable!
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 03:04 PM
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>

That would be more than enough for my dinner! Forget about ordering from the menu! Yum!
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 03:16 PM
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They are usually delicious. And restaurants in Portugal are less expensive than in many other places. Even eating the unordered appetizers, I never noticed our bill being anything that would raise my eyebrows.
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 06:48 PM
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My theory is that there are itinerant olive dispensers who wander all over Portugal and Spain. After a while I felt like if I sat down on a bench someone would put a plate of olives next to me.

We don;t care for them and when they were brought over we would just wave them away.

In a couple of nicer restaurants there were actual little amuse bouche (tiny shreds of ham or bits of tomato and ? on bread rounds), and those we kept and ate. If you're having a pleasant dinner what difference does a few euros make?
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 07:22 PM
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"My theory is that there are itinerant olive dispensers who wander all over Portugal and Spain."


I knew there was a reason I liked traveling in these places.
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 07:48 PM
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We enjoyed the olives and bread appetizers. I considered it part of the 'experience' of dining in Spain and Portugal. It was never more than a couple euros. Certainly nothing to worry about compared to the cost of the entire trip.
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Old Apr 29th, 2016, 07:50 PM
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I think if you know about it in advance, then you are well prepared. We ate them when they were appetizing and we looked good - and at other places simply said "non, obrigado" - in the more touristy places I was skeptical as I suspect they put the same dishes out over and over again. In the nicer places some of the appetizers were the best part of the meal - very innovative (one particular place in Evora was amazing and known for their appetizers). Just do what you feel. Sometimes we decided to eat the bread and butter as we were hungry...others, we chose not to.
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