Rated the 20th best restaurant in Sal with a 4 out of 5 star reviews on Tripadvisor, you would expect a top notch joint. But alas, you will be disappointed.
Owned and operated by the same proprietor as Palm Beach on the east side of the pier which boasts arrogant management and disappointing slow service, Cretcheu’s cuisine does not warrant the premium high prices. Their website may lure you to discover Italian Seafood Art, inviting the diner to prepare for a taste of flavours, but the reality is lackadaisical service and poor food is likely to be encountered.
The five course menu is internationally translated into Italian, Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, Polish and Dutch if I recall. Courses are of Starters, First Course, Salads, Second Course and Desserts. The wine menu is small and uncomplicated, offering new and old world options and of course my favourite Chã do Fogo. The first thing you will notice is the high prices on both menus.
But hey, that’s what you expect from a top notch restaurant, Michelin quality or prime location for a special meal. Yes?
Our favourite restaurant on the island still has to be Barracuda. Price of a bottle of Chã is 2,000CVE. Second favourite restaurant is Ches Pastis. Price of a bottle of Chã is 1,850CVE. Our third favourite restaurant is the Morabezza Beach Club. Price of a bottle of Chã is 2,200CVE. Zum Fisherman, price of a bottle of Chã is 2,200CVE. The price of a bottle of Chã at Cretcheu is a whopping 2,900CVE, so that gives you some insight as to how expensive Cretcheu is.
But hey, that’s what you expect from a top notch restaurant, Michelin quality or prime location for a special meal. Yes?
We first dined at Cretcheu in December 2015, not long after it opened. I recall an opulent extravaganza of lobster dishes presented with fireworks, inviting you to purchase a bottle of expensive bubbly. I remember the waiting staff being slow, disoriented with service cockup, one after another. Dishes not only arriving at different times, but in the wrong order. No, not the fact that orders were taken incorrectly but diners were receiving orders and courses from different tables. You could liken the scene to Faulty Towers or Gordon Ramsey’s Restaurants From Hell!
We had already eaten at the Barracuda, Chez Pastis and Morabeza Beach Club this trip, so we thought a family Christmas Day lunch with advertised sea views at Cretcheu would be a delightful. We thought service would be better after two years. The website made making a table reservation a breeze a few days prior and we were welcomed with a table for four, to the rear of the restaurant with fantastic sea and pier views.
Menus were given and after a short while, orders taken. The first problem was that we didn’t want a full five course meal, so the adults chose two courses and the children one each. A bottle of the expensive Chã Fogo Branco and a bottle each of fizzy and still water with a bottle of Coke to boot. We could see Raffael on the beach, so I ordered a Club Sandwich to take away to give to him later. All was good in the world.
Drinks arrived promptly and 10 minutes later, the first courses for the adults. The promised bread cover for the table never arrived however and was asked for again.
Here’s the twist. I wouldn’t eat lobster on the island as I know they do not come from waters around Sal. I know there are lobsters around the archipelago but with the quantities I guess Cretcheu may use, I have to perceive the lobster would not be fresh, but delivered frozen. Not only would I not pay exorbitant prices for frozen lobster anywhere in the world, I would worry about temperature control of freezers here in case of power outage, of which there had been three in the past week. That, alongside I fancied something different to local caught fish or bruschetta, I opted for the vegetarian lasagne as a tick in my ‘Five A Day’ book.
The lasagne was piping hot. Well, on the outside and so much so, it was obviously microwaved. Biting into a carrot inside, the al dente texture was not perfect cooking, but because it was still fucking frozen! Complete with ice crystals FFS. I called the waitress over and she took it away immediately. My wife was still staring inquisitively at her tomato and Mozzarella starter that the menu cites is accompanied by anchovies. But there were none. It was the anchovies that she fancied and it was if she was given a wrong dish? We didn’t complain as we know that island supply continuity can be problematic. Within a blistering fast speed, a new vegetation lasagne arrived. Too quick for my liking and nervously I cut inside to a less than tepid warm dish. Obviously microwaved at a lower power, but not long enough. At the equivalent of £11.00 Sterling for a reheated mush, I discarded this second lasagne and poured another glass of Chã.
The take away Club Sandwich was served, so my wife took the take away Club Sandwich over to Raffael who was most appreciative, wishing her a Merry Christmas as he was igniting his own BBQ grill on the beach with his friends.
Main courses arrived next. Two portions of half a grilled chicken with BBQ sauce, fries and salad, the plated Club Sandwich for my daughter and one mixed grilled fish dish for my wife. The Club Sandwich looked OK, the grilled fish dish looked OK but the grilled chicken looked more like a boiled chunk of leg. The skin looked soggy and grey in colour with the flesh pink in areas. It was seasoned with rosemary and there was no BBQ sauce but a disgusting seafood style sauce tartar with small diced gherkin. This was not what was presented on the menu. The salad was presented in some sort of puffed pastry bowl and the fries were limp and lacked crisp fried crunch and colour. The fries were obviously frozen, but it was if they too had been microwaved rather than fried. My son and I tucked in, hungry I ate the fries and salad and a few mouthfuls of the chicken white meat. I left everything that was pink and grey, trying to flavour the white meat with the hideous sauce tartar. My son did pretty much the same, filling his empty stomach with the the second half of the Club Sandwich that my daughter offered to him, Price of chicken dish was the equivalent of £15.00 Sterling.
My wife was nibbling at her mixed grill platter consisting of a on the bone whole fish, some kind of octopus or squid and two whole and headed prawns. She ate the fish, leaving the prawns as when she tried to shell, fountains of water gushed out with the normal firm flesh disintegrating at her fingertips. Again, obviously imported frozen prawns and definitely not the best quality prawns we ate the night prior at Ches Pastis and their Christmas Eve menu.
Time to vote with out feet and leave. No desserts or coffee for us. But as we were finishing the last drops of Chã, we were amused by another English couple on our next table. That table too was reserved when we arrived. They had ordered while we were eating and had just been served their main course. The lady ordered Tuna and what arrived was Serra. After making the point to the waitress that the wrong dish was presented, the waitress offered to exchange. Like me, knowing that food wastage here should be frowned upon as there will be eagerly waiting mouths and hungry stomachs elsewhere on the island, she decided to keep the Serra, making the point that the wrong dish was served. It certainly was not a translation issue at the table as the waitress spoke extremely good English.
Cutting into the fish, the lady was annoyed and again beckoned the waitress. Guess what? The Serra was not cooked through!
Chugging back the last drop of Chã, I smiled and opened a conversation with the lady and husband. Coincidentally, they have an apartment at the same area as us at Praia Antonio Souza. That cemented our neighbourly relationship and discussions quickly traversed around how long they and we had been coming to the island, best restaurants and the quality of food served at Cretcheu. Her comment being, previously one of her favourites, that Cretcheu has dropped vastly in her opinion as had eaten there many times before.
You cannot pay at the table, having instead to pay at the cashier near the front door. Apologies were extended again for the lasagne and the price was deducted from the bill. Knowing she spoke perfect English or otherwise I wouldn’t have entertained further comment but smiling, I explained to her the poor chicken and fish main courses too. Pointing out to the beach where the fisherman’s BBQ was at full gusto, I told the lady that I would have a better quality and cooked chicken with Raffael and his mates. In closing I said I hoped my comments would be escalated to the management as positive critique for improvement as Cretcheu is a perfect location for sure, but their culinary skills are more to be desired.
We’ll see. They have my name, email address and phone number from the online booking system and I guess I will be invited to leave a review.
Now, if you want really good chicken, visit Kai’s and for the finest seafood, visit Barracuda or Zum Fisherman. For Gourmet dining, visit Herbert at Chez Pastis and for the best Brazilian steaks, it’s got to be Americos. I’d recommend Americo’s too for lobster or Odjo d’Agua where you’ll see them live in the tank. For a relaxed lunch, pop into the Morabeza Beach Club.
Email from booking system now received for review. Thus:
Disgusting. First lasagne served piping hot on the outside and frozen ice on the inside. Obviously microwaved at too high power. Replacement tepid all over. Obviously microwaved on lower power but not long enough. Sent that back too. Grilled BBQ Chicken looked as if it were boiled. Skin was grey with rosemary and flesh was half pink. Again tepid warm. Was served with fish sauce tartar than BBQ. Chips were soggy. Again, assume microwaved from frozen. Disgusting and left it. My wife’s starter served missing advertised anchovies. Her prawns spewed water and disintegrated when shelled. She left them too. Lady on next table ordered Tuna and received Serra. This was the second time of shit and expensive food at this place. Avoid like the plague. Your wallet and digestive system are at risk. I kid you not! The Chã is 50% more expensive than other places to boot. Very expensive. Christmas lunch was thus ruined. Can’t see how Tripadvisor gives a 4 out of 5 star review. Will never eat here again. Everything frozen and microwaved to reheat. Excellent location but shit cuisine. No comparison to Chez Pastis on Christmas Eve or Barracuda for lunch on Boxing Day. Email just received wanting a review. So here it is. This is the worst restaurant I have eaten at in 10 years visiting Sal. I felt more comfortable for food hygiene when it was a pizza restaurant with cockroaches running around.
Obviously expecting a comment in reply, some three days later, nothing. I decided to email both Cretcheu and ResDiary for a comment as I wanted to ensure my review appeared on their website. Well, after a flurry of responses from various customer service representatives at ResDiary, it transpires that my review was blocked via their profanity filter due to the “shit” word being written. To overcome that objection, I asked whether I could edit my review. Unfortunately not. The representative at ResDiary went on to explain that their system is quite simple and will not allow me or they to edit the review. That seems quite crazy and I asked if the issue could be escalated to their technical team as I wanted the review to appear on their website, explaining that I felt it was unfair that my review was on hold due to a profanity filter.
The debacle continued and some seven days later, I receive an email from Cretcheu. Replying to them and ResDiary, I submitted the review, editing and replacing the “shit” word for something less antagonistic. I explained that I thought they both were in some sort of collusion to only promote positive reviews. From there on, the silence is deafening.
Since writing this review and posting on social media, I have half a dozen British and Italian Ex-Pats in Santa Maria who empathise with my bad experience. They have stated the same and explained the problem that the food is cooked at a remote kitchen and warmed up in the Cretcheu restaurant. You’ll find the kitchen on the opposite side of the road to the Barracuda Tours office and funny little kitchen staff in black chef wear and funny hats walking with food between the two establishments. I also have one friend who came to Sal earlier in 2017 and ate at Cretcheu on their first night. Upon reading my comments they commented that they were appalled with the place and too.
You’re paying a lot of money for a premium dining view on the beach, but honestly, the food is disgusting and we will never eat there again.