For many years we'd wanted to stay and eat in a Parador as the food is always put forward as one of their big selling points.
So having finally made it to one we were greatly underwhelmed by the dining experience. I'm writing this about dinner on our first night of 3 at Santo Estevo, and we have already decided that for the next 2 nights we will have sandwiches or snacks in the cafeteria rather than waste money on the restaurant (there is nowhere local to go for food as the hotel is in the middle of nowhere - and that is not a negative thing as it is a very beautiful hotel in an even more beautiful nowhere).
On arriving at the restaurant, which is an impressive space, we were greeted and had our reservation checked - Ok so far. The staff member who showed us to our table indicated to us to walk ahead of her. I gestured for her to lead but she declined.
So we were walking down this long floor space with her behind us, and constantly looking back to see if we should stop or keep going. That immediately made us feel a bit uncomfortable.
Next issue was when the waiter asked us for our wine choice. I told him the kind of wine we wanted (dry white) and asked him to recommend a wine. He recommended two - the two most expensive on the list. That's not how it's done in a good restaurant - the etiquette is to recommend options in different price ranges so that the customer can choose something to fit their budget and not feel like they are being pressured to buy the most expensive.
After the wine ordering came the bread basket and an amuse bouche. The waiter put them down on our table and then looked at the table next to us, picked them up and gave then to that table then went and got another set for us. Ok, they had sat down before us, but we both were going to get them, so having put them on our table he should have left them there and then gone and got another set for them.
He also did not tell us what the amuse bouche were, he just put them on the table and walked away.
Staff uniforms are traditional white shirt, black jacket or waistcoat with tje or bow- tie, and black trousers - but are rather scruffy and it would be nice if the waiters polished their shoes. As it is, they would have looked smarter in white t-shirts and trainers on their feet.
If a place presents itself as a luxury restaurant then having a nice room (as they do) is not enough. The way the staff dress and serve all goes to creating the experience and atmosphere of the place.
The waiter also kept addressing my wife as 'lady' rather than 'madam', which I know is a language issue, but staff should be trained in how to address customers correctly given that such a high proportion of the clients are English-speaking.
So those were the service issues.
As for the food. Well, all I can say is that is OK but without any WOW-factor. It was competent but average cooking. We've been in Spain for most 2 weeks now and have had some outstanding food at great prices, ranging from small cafes to upmarket restaurants, and this was not only the most expensive but also the most uninspiring meal so far. It looks good when it comes to the table - if only it lived up to the presentation!
The summary then is: service that is not really up to standard for a luxury hotel restaurant, and food that is not up to standard for the price being charged and quite honestly is not up to standard compared to everyday offerings in the region's eating places.
Fingers crossed for a great cafeteria sandwich tonight!
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