Corrugated City

Monday 20 August 2007


We were invited for lunch yesterday to one of Valpo's best known restaurants. Portofino is regularly visited by local celebrities and the beautiful people.

Portofino is pretty expensive by Chilean standards, around 8000-12,000 pesos for a main course but the food more than makes up for it. I had the Reineta alla Pancetta (Reineta with bacon and prawns) and our lunch companions had a conger eel dish, ceviche and one of the pastas, all excellent.

The view from the restaurant is spectacular, taking in the entire bay of Valparaiso. I highly recommend the place for the food and the view.

On the other hand, the service was appalling, to put it mildly. I've done a stint in a fancy hotel/restaurant in France and know what good service is and how to give it. The clowns in Portofino had obviously been trained by monkeys of little intelligence- that's if they received any training at all. One minute we had 4 waiters buzzing around, knocking into us and generally being very annoying and very intrusive and the next minute-when we actually wanted something-they were nowhere to be seen. I had to ask the same waiter four times to bring me some more bread. When he finally did bring me some, he neglected to offer any to the other 3 people around the table. Another waiter needed 3 reminders to bring a couple of soft drinks. And then, when the bill was due, they become all friendly and charming, offering free digestifs. No dice. Crap service=crap tip.

I'm perfectly happy to put up with poor service in a small, cheap or family run restaurant. But when a place styles itself as the place to eat in Valpo then they've got to get everything right. And that includes training the staff. The problem is that in Chile (as in England until just a few short years ago), restaurants can't be bothered to spend the time or money teaching their staff how to wait tables. In Argentina, being a waiter is seen as a worthy and dignified profession. It's the same in France as well. And it shows-waiters know what they're doing. In Chile that's not the case and so it's all too common to spend a fortune on a meal out and get rubbish service.

Rant over.

If you don't mind thoroughly annoying waiters then the food in Portofino is excellent.


Anonymous said...

What other similarities do you see with England?

(Okay, England is changing it's food ways), but I have this vague, hard-to-explain impression that the two countries share a lot in common. Maybe it's because I met a Chilean volcanologist who was helping out with a field study my uncle was leading in England's lake district. And Chile has a lake district. Or maybe it's the classism. Maybe it's a small, island country. (Chile is essentially an Island, water on one side, desert, Andes, Antarctica).

Obviously the similarities to Spain are striking, but as a Brit do you see specific similarities to Chile?

Matt said...

That's an interesting question and something i've been asked a few times by Chileans desperate to hear that Chile resembles England...I'll have a think about the various responses i've given over the years and write a post in the next couple of days about the subject.

In the meantime, if you haven't already read Pinochet in Piccadilly by Andrew Beckett i highly recommend it. It's a fantastically written book explaining in detail the historical ties between Britain and Chile and linking them brilliantly to the Pinochet years. It's such an easy read you can finish it in a couple of days.