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Monday May 19, 2014

How to avoid rip-off restaurants in Mallorca

An expat living in Mallorca posted on Facebook about her dire experience at a touristy restaurant on the island. Aside from the jaw dropping price of her dismal sounding meal, I was shocked at how rude the staff had proven to be when she dared to complain that her steak was as tough as old boots. Apparently other clients rose from their seats to protest at the surly and aggressive treatment she received.

And just the other day a group of tourists told me how they had been completely ripped off at a local restaurant where they were shown nice plump fish at their table by a beaming waiter and stung for €50 per head for each one when the bill came. Of course they should have asked the price before ordering but sometimes people are trusting on holiday and never imagine that culinary sharks occasionally stalk kitchens. It’s the same with ‘fresh’ fish on menus that is priced by weight or simply has no cost stated. Avoid like the plague unless you check the exact cost first or alternatively have bulging wallets.

It always saddens me that while countless hard working restaurateurs in Majorca strive to maintain high standards and do their utmost for customers, a few unscrupulous cowboys set up shop and give the local industry a bad name. There are of course many ways to sniff out a rogue restaurant before stepping foot in the place and unsuspecting holidaymakers should follow a few simple rules. Indeed when I first arrived on the island I would ask a Mallorcan friend – a former chef and foodie – for advice about certain restaurants in my valley until I was able to suss out for myself the most reliable in the pack. She offered me some excellent tips as follows:

- Always head for those restaurants – the simpler and more authentic looking the better – where you see an abundance of locals dining.

- Avoid fancy touristy restaurants on the sea front if you’re on a budget. They will often be charging for the idyllic views.

- Should a waiter try to lure you into a restaurant from the street while doggedly pushing a menu under your nose, turn tail rapidly. It smacks of desperation.

- If a menu isn’t available at the door or on tables, it’s likely that the prices will be exorbitant. Of course it could just be that it’s so authentic that a menu del día is offered verbally to you by the waiter. If no English is spoken make sure that prices per dish are written down for you prior to ordering.

-On the fish front, beware restaurants that show exotic displays of ‘fresh’ fish on ice and then disappear to the kitchen where you can’t see it being prepared. This is tricky to police but some devious owners swap the fresh catch for older specimens behind closed doors. Always ask locals or reliable hotel staff for advice about best fish emporiums.

- It’s wise to enquire about cover charges for items such as bread, olives and alioli mayonnaise if not on menu.

- Make sure bottled water is not overinflated in price and if wine is recommended ask for the cost before ordering.

- Study your bill to ensure that no random items have been added and only leave a tip if service isn’t already included. In Mallorca it rarely is, actually.

Most restaurants in Mallorca are wonderful and offer good value for money, particularly at lunchtime, but to avoid making an expensive mistake, seek advice from guide books, customer feedback websites and via the best way of all, boca a boca, word of mouth.

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