Monday, October 05, 2009
Taking a Chance in Lisbon
Mr. MarathonMum and I got to go away to Lisbon for a "dirty weekend" (as they say here, and I have to say, I do love that expression). The weather was sunny and hot, the people were nice and the legendary custard tarts at Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, were, quite simply, one of the best things I ever ate.
It was our last night there and we wanted to have a really special meal. Our less than impressive hotel, which came with our British Airways package deal, recommended a local restaurant. Mr. MarathonMum was skeptical, but I told him we should try it. It was late, I was tired, and I didn't want to spend my night tromping around the streets of Lisbon looking for a restaurant.
But Mr. MarathonMum was right: the restaurant was awful. I think it's safe to say that if the menus are laminated and you're not in Denny's or a diner, it won't be a good dining experience. So for the first time in our life, we made our apologies to the waiter and told him we wouldn't be eating there after all, and walked out.
On the way to Disaster Dining, we passed a pretty unassuming restaurant that proudly displayed its fresh meat and fish in its front window. It looked promising, so we decided to go there, after rejecting two other restaurants on looks alone on the way there.
It was the best decision we've made this year. Although they didn't speak much English, they spoke enough. Not only were the menus not laminated, I'm not sure they had menus at all-- instead the waiter just told us what was fresh and good for the day and then they grilled it for us.
This restaurant would probably never make the cut for a guidebook. (Though I was amazed to find it on the Interweb.) It was truly a local restaurant for local people, and the food was delicious. It was one of the best meals we've had all year.
Almost 10 years ago, I went to Rome with my friend. I remember walking about 30 minutes to get to a restaurant that was recommended in our guidebook, and I distinctly remember saying to her, "It's possible that we're passing loads of restaurants that would be just as good. We're slaves to the book!"
I know that travelling can be daunting and sometimes difficult. It's just easier to rely on the words and advice of people who have been to the cities before to figure out where to go, but especially where to eat. But as our experience in Lisbon shows, sometimes taking a chance can be the best decision of all.