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Review of Monte do Casal - CLOSED

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Monte do Casal
Restaurant details
Reviewed September 24, 2013 via mobile

Had a great meal and good sized portions too. Nice atmosphere and friendly service. Girlfriend loved the desserts and good wine selection too! Thanks!

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Carlosward
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Reviewed June 21, 2011

Along with my husband and family (party of 8), we decided to visit Portugal to celebrate a special Birthday, much consideration and thought went into choosing the location and villa. As soon as our holiday to Estoi was confirmed I extensively researched a suitable venue for my husband’s Birthday lunch. Many of our party had travelled extensively and experienced a huge selection of award winning food and wine so I was delighted to read the services on offer when I found the Monte do Casal in the Small Luxury Hotels of the World guide and having used the guide previously and never been disappointed with the recommendations, I felt this distinguished endorsement would ensure that Monte do Casal would be the calibre of venue our party was looking for.

My 1st request to book a table for lunch was made to the Monte do Casal on 22nd August 2010, over 9 months in advance of our lunch date. I also remained in regular communication to request a Birthday cake and table that would best suit our party, my last communication with Monte do Casal to confirm all plans was made days before our arrival for lunch.

On the day of my husband’s lunch at Monte do Casal, the pre booked Taxi Company who had been arranged to collect us, experienced issues with staff and as a consequence, the drivers had some trouble locating us. The moment this issue arose we tried to contact Monte do Casal to explain we may be running a little late, despite repeated attempts to make contact to no avail, we were left with no option but to leave a message and set off on our journey.

On arrival at Monte do Casal we were 35 minutes late for our pre booked lunch and I immediately went to reception to apologise and confirm that our message regarding our delay had been received. I was promptly told “your too late - kitchen is closed”, when I explained the importance of the occasion and the months of forwarding planning that had brought us to the day, I was told there was nothing they could do to assist us. I explained that, had we known this to be the case when we tried to call we could have saved much expense in taxis not to mentioned the obvious shock and disappointment we were experiencing, I was told by the (extremely rude and abrupt) receptionist “I was having my lunch, I am allowed a lunch break aren’t I?”. Amid this exchange I was also trying to communicate to the party to not let the taxis leave as we would have certainly been stranded, one of our party was in a wheelchair and at that point my priorities were for my family and friends. I asked the reception the question that, had we arrived on time, given that we would have drinks and then time to select our meal, how this would have been possible if the kitchen closed at 2.30pm, I was told had this been the case, “we would have HAD to keep the kitchen open”. This added complete insult, and my last desperate appeal to this rude receptionist was to reiterate that this booking has been made 9 months in advance for a very special occasion, I knew that our party were looking forward to the Degustation lunch with wine tasting and also using the spa facilities and collectively would certainly have spent in excess of 1500 Euros and given that the staff were still available I could not believe how short sited and unaccommodating the staff were being.

I fully accept that we were late, which was out of our control, but the treatment and dismissal we received on the day was shocking for a hotel of its apparent calibre. This could so easily have completely ruined our day had it not been for the taxi driver suggesting a restaurant that he could kindly ask to stay open on our behalf. On hearing our dilemma that restaurant happily said they would await our arrival, we were greeted with warmth and professionalism, the staff could not have done more to make our meal special, providing a Birthday cake and giving up their time to ensure what could have been a disaster, ended as a wonderful example of GOOD customer.

On returning from Portugal a few days ago, I was further horrified to see that I had not received any email of apology, a common courtesy I would have expected.

I will be contacting Small Luxury Hotels of the World to express my views and I will return to Estoi in the future but NEVER to Monte do Casal.

    • Service
6  Thank 186262Sharon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed September 10, 2010

I have thought long and hard about whether or not to write this review. I have come to the conclusion that that it is the right thing to do because I would like to think that management monitor TripAdvisor and think they would be interested to hear of the experience we had at Monte do Casal's restaurant on Monday 6 September.

I have visited Monte do Casal many times before and have always felt that the place has got better and better each visit. This visit was a disappointment and I am confused as to why.

The bad vibes began before I even arrived: it took me more than 45 minutes to get through on the telephone. There is an answering machine facility, but all I wanted to do was book a table for dinner. I eventually got through to somebody who made the reservation for me.

On arrival, I could see that the landscaping had been completed and the grounds are truly looking amazing now: when you come back to a place time and time again, it's nice to see how things change and the garden is now much more mature than it previously was. I believe that the grounds here are something special and make for an exquisite and tranquil setting to have dinner.

Things started to go downhill after we arrived at the bar. Menus were distributed and food orders taken, but we were not seated until 9pm (we arrived at 7:30). There is a difference between a 'well paced' service and a, bluntly, 'slow' service -it was the latter tonight that would set the tone.

The amouse bouche was excellent. This was followed by my asparagus starter. I have never been so underwhelmed in my life. There were five pieces of asparagus -perfectly cooked -and a glazing, and when I say a glazing, I don't mean a layer, I mean a modicum, of hollendaise sauce. I initially thought that they had totally forgotten about the hollendaise -but no -it was clearly rationed!

The main course was also poor. However, the main thing that let Monte do Casal down was the service. I couldn't believe it -the service is normally top notch -truly. There was no sign of anyone being in charge -normally the maitre d' is very visible and involved in the service. I did not spot anyone who was obviously in charge. Equally, the managing owner is quite often present, he was absent. I fear that with both the owner and a suitable restaurant manager absent, the staff were uncoordinated which led to massive delays.

The wine situation was laughable -wine was poured and then put in an ice bucket behind a pillar. Wine was never refilled. I have no problem refilling my own wine/water, but if they are going to keep the wine to be served by the staff, they should at least proactively check for empty glasses. Sadly, this did not happen.

We went through to the bar area for drinks after dinner. There was a guy standing behind the bar who was fixated with what looked like a stock list. He was examining his bar very closely for the full 30 minutes we were there. At no time were we actually offered a drink. We had told the waiting staff in the restaurant we were going to the bar, and they had agreed to bring our wine bottle and ice bucket through. In the end, I went back to the table (still hadn't been cleared) and carried it through to the bar area myself, along with the three wine glasses -it took two trips, and no one stopped to offer assistance or even apologised for the fact that I had to do this.

The area where we had been sitting before dinner had not been cleared away -there had been four tables occupied in the bar prior to dinner -and there were now four dirty tables in the bar, over an hour later.

The male toilets had an unpleasent odour. I also noticed that the hand towels with the distinctive 'M' logo on them are no longer a feature -I assume that this is a cost-saving measure due to the current economic situation.

We then asked for the bill -this did not come and in the end, I had to walk to the restaurant and stand and watch the waiter print the bill for me.

I'm sorry to be so negative and that this appears to be a rant/OTT. Trust me when I say that the experience this time was an absolute contrast to normal Monte do Casal standards and I really really hope that this was just a one night 'blip' caused by staff shortages or some other incident (power failure etc) that I was not aware of. Monte do Casal has clearly enjoyed massive investment. The grounds are spectacular; the menu is excellent; there is a fine choice of wines. I could forgive the poor food, I cannot forgive the absolutely abysmal level of service. Truly truly poor. It was inattentive and very cold -the service is normally warm and friendly. It felt as if the staff were on some sort of 'work to rule' and they looked unhappy.

I will return next time I am in Portugal, as I cannot believe that the place has been allowed to nose dive so dramatically. The place has such potential and I fell in love with it the first time I visited -I think it must have been about 5 years ago now.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
3  Thank travelfan199
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
ManagerMDC, Owner at Monte do Casal, responded to this reviewResponded September 21, 2010

When I read the review I was, quite frankly, shocked.

We deliver consistently good food and good service and I am grateful for the writer to point this out and to mention that each time he visited Monte do Casal, the ‘place got better and better’.

I have investigated the matter and I have come to the conclusion that on this evening we did not get it right. In fact, he has every right to question what happened that evening and why the service particularly was so poor. One and half hours to wait until being shown the table..No wine service. Inattentive staff. Having to take your own wine and glasses into the bar after asking the waiter and after that still being ignored! And at the end, have to insist on the waiter to give the bill. Yes, an absolutely abysmal level of service and I am ashamed it could have happened in my hotel.

Why did it happen? Well, it should never happen but the hotel and restaurant business is basically about the individuals that make up the team, their personalities and the interaction within the team. One of the restaurant team was leaving as his contract was finished and he decided that evening he was not going to carry out his work professionally. The Restaurant Manager and myself were not on that evening and his actions were completely unexpected. The second Maitre d´ covering for the Restaurant Manager did not deal with the situation as well as he might. Two nights later, Wednesday 1 4th September, was his last night and I was eating in the restaurant. That night his service was 1st class. In a people orientated business, the unexpected can occasionally happened anywhere and at anytime. He no longer works at Monte do Casal.

As I said, I am ashamed this could have happened in my hotel and I would like to sincerely apologise to Mr Morgan. I will look forward to welcoming Mr Morgan back to Monte do Casal when he returns to Portugal and I will do my very best, with my team, to provide a memorable evening for him and his party.

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