Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Breakfast @ Lobby Bistro, Sheraton Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal

During my recent visit to Lisbon, I stayed at the Sheraton Lisboa.  My platinum status gave me access to either the lackluster executive lounge breakfast, or, the Lobby Bistro buffet.

The Lobby Bistro buffet had ... everything, but, there was nothing that was actually very good.  Very few items were labelled.  It was better than the lounge though.

The Setting

The Lobby Bistro is located adjacent to the lobby, as you might guess from the name, on the ground floor.
Large Dining Area.
The dining area is large, full of assorted tables, mostly for 4, and open to the lobby area.  Its loud and busy.
Table Setting.
Tables are pre-set with coffee cups and sugar, place mats, silverware, and cloth napkins.  Once seated, coffee was offered, and a carafe brought to the table.  Amusingly, my carafe actually only contained one mug worth of coffee.  Why bring a carafe?

I had regular coffee, it was fine.


Food is all buffet style, on the back side of the room, two sides that are back to back, so the area gets *very* crowded.  It took a few days before I was able to catch a lull in people so I could take photos.

Hot Buffet

One side was a hot buffet.  The buffet had offering no matter what style of cuisine you prefer:
Jams, Honey, Nutella, Gluten-Free Baked Goods, Toppings.
The first area had a couple gluten-free baked goods, mini jars of jam/honey/nutella, plus some random toppings: tofu, poached eggs (cold?), soy sauce, nuts, raisins, and dried apricots.  I don't entirely understand this layout, to be honest. 

I liked the peach marmalade, and may or may not have just taken a tiny spoon and eaten a jar full.  Don't judge.  It was a mini jar.

I eventually tried a poached egg, because I grew *very* sick of this lackluster buffet that never changed, and I knew I should have some protein.  The yolk was decently runny, but, like the cooked eggs, it had a flavor I just didn't like.  Something about Portuguese eggs?  Also, um, cold eggs?  I tried to think of it like a hard boiled egg, which I'd eat cold, but it still just didn't quite work for me.
Miso Soup, Rice, Spring Rolls.
Next came miso soup, plain steamed white rice, spring rolls.

Ojan got the spring rolls one morning, and I tried a bite.  Do not recommend.  Incredibly soggy.

Asian station: check.
Several days in, I noticed that before the buffet was actually a side station, with curries and samosas.  I think it was likely there the whole time, and I just missed it the first days?

The veggies were spiced but overcooked and soggy.  Sigh, buffets.

The curry sauce was a rich coconut milk sauce with decent flavor, but, it was literally just sauce.  There was nothing in it.  It had a thick film on top, that I uh, actually liked as it added texture, but, yeah, just sauce.

Indian offerings?  Check.
Scrambled Eggs, Bacon, Sausage.
Next came the hot foods, starting with the classics: scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage.

The sausages were tiny little things, and a strange redish color inside, and kinda mealy.  I still tried one, since sometimes I just love sausages.  I did not like this.

American basics? Check.
Rosti Potatoes, Baked Beans, Roasted Tomatoes, Mushrooms.
Then came the more traditional British breakfast sides: mushrooms, rosti potatoes, roasted tomatoes, and baked beans.

British needs?  Check.
And finally, pancakes.  Next to the pancakes was ... maple syrup and some other kind of thick syrup, like molasses.

I tried the pancakes, they were what you'd expect.  Thin, not fluffy, not very good.  The syrups were sweet and fine.

Hot breakfast carbs? Check.

Continental Buffet

Going down the other side was the cold continental selections:
Fruit, Yogurt, Muesli.
Slices fruit and fruit salad, which I avoided due to the melon.  Plain yogurt and bircher muesli.

The yogurt was plain, natural yogurt.  Not particularly thick or creamy, tangy.  Meh.

Healthy stuffs? Check.
Yes muesli!

This was ok muesli.  It was loaded with shredded apple (too much in my opinion), and uh, chunks of banana?  I don't think I've ever had banana in muesli before.  But the mushy texture wasn't entirely wrong with the soft muesli.

There were also some nuts and seeds.

The base was very yogurty, thin, tart.

It was decent muesli.  I wished I had some stewed fruit or something to add to it though, only stewed prunes were available, not really my first choice.  One day, I mixed in Nutella, and that was pretty tasty.
Yogurt, Cereal, Milk, Prunes.
Next came cereals: corn flakes, bran sticks, and chocolate.  Only regular milk.  Next to that was assorted Activa packaged yogurts, drinkable Dannon yogurts, and boxes of individual flavored soy milks.

The chocolate cereal was ok, and good when I grew sick of the crappy pastries and still wanted something sweet.

Continental basics?  Check.
Chocolate Soy Milk.
The juice boxes of individual soy milk were kinda cute.  I guess if you wanted soy milk for your cereal, you could take a plain one and dump it in?

I grabbed a chocolate one to enjoy after a workout, but, the chocolate flavor was kinda chalky, and I wasn't really a fan.

The vanilla was just sweet soy milk, which I enjoyed with cereal, but otherwise wasn't particularly interesting.

The strawberry I did enjoy though, good soy flavor, sweet strawberry flavor.
Cheese, Charcuterie, Smoked Salmon.
Next came the cheeses and charcuterie.  Assorted sliced deli meats, seemingly beef and pork products, sliced hard cheeses, tomato and mozzarella salad, a soft cheese, and smoked salmon with capers and onions.

The tomato and mozzarella looked awful, the tomatoes incredibly under-ripe.

I tried the soft cheese, and haven't really had anything like it before.  It was incredibly flavorless.

I also tried a few of the meats, including one that looks like mortadella, but, it wasn't very flavorful either.  Meh.

European continental breakfast? Check.
Caviar, Blinis, Salad, Lettuce, Salsa.
Next came the station that everyone always notes in reviews: caviar.

The top tier had lemons, blini, capers, red onions, and cream cheese, with a tiny bit of caviar.  Champagne was available on the side as well.

Below the caviar station was mixed greens, tomatoes, salsa, salt, and some herb?  #random

I tried the blini and caviar, because I felt like I *should*.  But, really, a cold mini pancake and mediocre caviar just isn't that exciting.

Fancypants breakfast? Check.


And finally, the usual highlight for me, baked goods and pastries.
Zomg, what a spread.  There were actually a few items labelled here: the scones and the croissants.  That's it.  Lols.  The items here were the same daily, although their position changed.  The only item that did change was that the "some kind of quickbread/cake" that changed variety daily.

Top tier, left to right: some kind of cake/quickbread (changed daily), chocolate croissants, Pão de Deus, custard filled pretzels, soft rolls shaped like croissants, apple strudel, soft rolls shaped like torpedos.

Under the riser: Scones, lemon muffins.
Middle: Glazed donuts, chocolate glazed donuts.
Basket of Croissants.

Front row: Sugar donut holes, more custard pretzel shaped things, more coconut topped rolls.

Although this spread was extensive, none of it was any good. And believe me, I tried it all.


Some of these items were not actually sweet pastries, and were instead just breads.  Deceiving! 
Wheat Roll - Not a Croissant.
I grabbed this, thinking it was a hearty whole wheat croissant.  I forget where it was, but somewhere during one of my travels I had a really good wheat croissant.

This was not a croissant.  It was a wheat roll, just, shaped like a croissant.  It was fairly stale, hard, dry, boring bread.  Certainly not croissant dough.  Doh.
Soft Roll (Torpedo).
Soft rolls, that looked like they might be Portuguese sweet rolls, given their shiny exterior and the fact that well, we were in Lisbon.  No other reason I would grab something so plain looking.

They weren't sweet, instead, just, more dry bread.  Not sure why they were in this section and not the regular bread section?
Soft Roll - Not a Croissant.
A few days into the trip, I decided to try the other croissant-like item.  Like the soft torpedo shaped roll, I hoped it would be Portuguese sweet bread.  And I think it was supposed to be, it just wasn't good.  Like all the other baked goods, it was dry, stale, and not actually sweet.  Meh.
Eventually, I tried the item labelled "scone".

It looked like it might be savory, cheese or herb perhaps, but it was just plain.

It was a hard style, not crumbly, and had no flavor at all.

Since there was no clotted cream or anything to go with it, very dry, very plain, very boring.
Chocolate Bread.
The "some kind of cake" slot in the buffet changed daily, sometimes with things like pound cakes, sometimes with quick breads.  Out of novelty more than anything else, I tried it most days.

I thought this would be a molasses-like quickbread, but, it turned out to be chocolate bread.  It wasn't awful, although, pretty dry.

I think it might have been decent toasted with some peanut butter or nutella on it?  I grabbed it to go to eat later, so that wasn't an option for me.
Banana-ish Bread.
Another day it was this cake looking thing, that I think was banana bread, as it had two slices of hard banana on top.  The texture of this was strange, the taste was strange, and it didn't taste like banana bread, but, I have no idea what else it could have been.

Another day it was dry and crumbly, more cake like than bread like, and had bits of I think dried fruit it in it?  That also wasn't good.
Chocolate Orange Bread.
Another day, chocolate orange bread.  Very dry.  Not rich chocolate flavor.  Meh to orange.
Lemon Muffin.
There was only one variety of muffin, unlabeled, but it sure looked like a corn muffin to me.  Corn muffins are my favorite, particularly when slathered in butter or jam.

This had a crispy top, which I love.  It was fairly moist inside.  But ... it was not a corn muffin.  It was lemon!  I dislike lemon things, and obviously wouldn't get another.

Sweet Pastries

Custard filled pretzel shaped things.
The first day we were in Lisbon, Ojan went to breakfast before me, and came back raving about the "pretzel shaped things that aren't pretzel bread but are stuffed with custard".   He loved them enough to grab an extra "for the road".   I obviously had to get one.

And, uh, yeah, not for me.  It was a crispy croissant like dough braided into a pretzel, which sounds good, except the dough wasn't buttery nor flaky and was spongy.  And I didn't like the eggy flavor from the custard.  I certainly didn't want a second one, let alone the rest of my first one.
Pão de Deus.
Speaking of not knowing what it was, the item that looked the best to me was the round buns, topped with something crunchy, and powdered sugar.  They turned out to be topped with sweet coconut.

The rolls themselves were dry and flavorless.  I ate the crunchy topping off, but it wasn't actually particularly good, basically just like a macaroon on top, and I wouldn't get one again.  I looked these up later, and found out that they were most likely Pão de Deus, and should have been delicious (and I later did get a great version, from a real bakery).  Let's just say, this hotel was not known for the quality of the baked goods.
Chocolate Croissant.
The chocolate croissant drew me in due to the large amount of chocolate I could see spilling out of both ends.  Unfortunately, the chocolate was the only redeeming quality to this croissant.

The croissant dough was not buttery and flaky, it was kinda stale and spongy.

The chocolate wasn't even that good, but, at least it was chocolate, and there was a decent amount of melted chocolate inside.  I wouldn't get another.
Apple Danish.
The apple danish was the last pastry I tried, as I don't tend to like apple danishes, even when they are good.  It had a lattice pattern on top, and a filling that actually seemed to be more like custard than apple goo actually, although it had a couple tiny chunks of apple too.

The pasty wasn't very good, although it was a little more buttery than some of the others, it still wasn't flaky, it was kinda spongy, and it just wasn't a fresh quality item.

Somehow, it did end up being one of my favorites, but, this is not a strong endorsement, as I wouldn't get another.


And ... donuts!
Chocolate Glazed Donut.
This ... wasn't awful.  In a very specific way.

The chocolate coating was thick and like a shell.  Inside was a very plain cake-like donut.  It wasn't fresh.  But, it reminded me exactly of those little chocolate covered donuts I used to get at the convenience store when I was a kid, except that it was full sized (you know what I'm talking about, mini chocolate frosted donuts by Hostess or Entenmann's ...).

So, was it a good donut?  Probably not.  Did I eat the entire, full size, thing in about 2 bites?  You betcha.  Such nostalgia.

Once I gave up on the other pastries, I tried another.  And ... yeah, ok, these weren't magical.  Not very fresh, but at least I liked the chocolate shell.
Glazed Donut.
Finally, I decided to try the other donut, just a glazed donut.

It too wasn't very fresh tasting, was kinda spongy, and without the chocolate shell, there were no redeeming qualities to it.

Breads, Butter.
Then came the bread station, with rolls, sliced breads, and other breads to slice yourself.

There were three types of butter products, and a toaster.

I tried the fluffy wheat bread that I needed to slice myself, as it looked really good, and everyone was getting it, but it was pretty dry and boring, like all the baked goods.

Carbs? Check.

Egg Station

Ah yes, the section that always sets apart a buffet. People who don't travel a ton and eat at breakfast buffets all the time always go nuts over egg stations.  Yup, they had one here, but, it was pretty confusing.
Egg Station.
The egg station was tucked away on the side.  No signage, and some days, the chef wasn't even near it.  It got *very* low usage most days, because no one ever knew it was there.  I was staying at the hotel with a group of at least 20 people, most of whom mentioned they didn't realize they could order eggs until their last day there.

I saw it, but I don't like eggs (or at least, boring breakfast eggs, I like eggs *in* my baked goods of course).

But, I know I need protein, so, eventually I ordered eggs from the made-to-order egg station.  I asked the egg chef for a fried egg over medium.  I waited around the buffet for it to be done, and at one point he asked where I was sitting. I pointed him at my table.  I heard the chef tell a server that my eggs were ready to bring to my table, and then he walked away from the egg station.  She ignored him.  My eggs were sitting there getting cold.

I hovered around a bit more, wanting my eggs hot.  I went back to my table, thinking they wouldn't bring them until I was seated.  Eggs still getting cold.

I went back up to the buffet.  The server came to ask me what I'd like for eggs.  I told her I had already ordered eggs, pointed at the now very cold eggs, and said I thought those were mine.  She said no, something about her colleague.  I ordered again from her.  She wrote my order on a notepad, and then went to track down the egg chef who had left his post.  He exchanged some harsh words, and pointed her at the eggs sitting there.  She exchanged more harsh words.  I have no idea what was going on.

Eventually she came over to me with the egg, the same one that had been sitting there this whole time.  "Is this yours?", she asked.  I told her I thought so?  So she brought it to my table, cold.

I have no idea what went on there, if I did something wrong, or what.

A few days later, I tried again, because there was a line forming at the egg station.  This time, the egg chef (different person) stayed posted at the station, making orders, handing them over to the person who ordered them when they were ready.  This made more sense.

Fried Egg, Over Medium.
On the plus side, I did actually get a fried egg basically over medium, which is kinda rare to get right.

It was pretty oily, as you can see.  The yolk was brilliant yellow, which excited me since I love a nice custardy yolk, but, sadly, it wasn't very good.  It had a strange flavor that I didn't enjoy.
Egg White Omelet, "small", mushrooms, onions, "cheese".
My final day, I decided to get an omelet, egg whites, since I wasn't really liking the flavor of yolks.  I asked for it small.  I asked for mushrooms, onions, and cheese.  The chef repeated all these things back to me.

Then she added a cup of oil (I might be exaggerating slightly, but not much) to the nonstick pan, and added a teaspoon of mushrooms and a teaspoon of onions, and then tons of egg white mix.

I walked away to get other food, assuming she'd add the cheese in later on when it made sense.

I came back to claim my omelet.  She served it directly onto my plate, nicely rolled up.  It was a large omelet, but, whatever.

The egg white was fine, firm, pretty much what I'd expect.

But, it was basically just all egg whites.  Well, egg whites and oil.  The tiny, tiny amount of veggies was negligible.  When I picked out some onions, they were tender, sweet onions, but, they were totally lost in the omelet.  The mushrooms were even more lost.  And the cheese?  It never happened.

So, yeah.   Very, very oily, way too few fillings, no cheese.


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