Visiting Alentejo for the first time from the Algarve, our overall verdict is good – not brilliant, not upscale – and it has one major drawback: the owners allow smoking, even addictive smoking, largely by locals who seem to take delight in infusing the restaurant’s good food with tobacco smoke. Yuck! I understand Portuguese law allows smoking inside restaurants when there is an extractor. (Rather retro compared with the rest of the European Union.) I do not know what equipment O Fialho has. Whatever, the experience for nonsmoking diners is not good. When I asked the waiters why they allowed smoking, they simply shrugged their shoulders and said that there was nothing they could do. Much more effective was my waving my linen napkin furiously as our dining neighbours were puffing away: they eventually moved away. This technique, however, had absolutely no effect on another smoker two tables away, who managed to get through six cigarettes during the course of her meal.
O Fialho’s staff is highly professional and excellent, right from the friendly greeting on arrival. We followed the advice from previous reviewers (for which many thanks) and sent some of the hors d’oeuvres back, leaving us to gorge on the wonderfully tender octopus, fresh mushrooms, and creamy sheep cheese. Following another reviewer, we also ordered the EA tinto at €15, which was excellent (Nice legs.) I followed with the pork cheeks in red wine sauce and my wife had the wild boar. Both were very good, rather than excellent. Again, following a previous reviewer, I had the trad encharcada de mourao. I guess it’s an acquired taste; it did not do much for me. My wife had the chocolate hazelnut desert, which was of the distinctly manufactured type.
My verdict on this restaurant, then, is only a 5-6/10, despite the best efforts of the staff and chef. with a €76 bill, I am not impressed by the standards of the various awarding bodies whose medals are displayed in abundance round the restaurant. Every year, we visit (Portuguese) Madeira where the standard is higher.
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