On Chard’s main street, nestled amid the museum, pharmacy, and take-out establishments, is the buzzing heart of the city’s Portuguese community.
Previously located at a different address in town, Restaurant Saraiva has moved to its current home in recent years, having opened almost ten years ago.
Restaurant manager Joao Saraiva opened the Portuguese restaurant after working for years at Oscar Mayer with his wife.
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The restaurant now attracts Portuguese expats from Bridgwater, Taunton and Yeovil, as well as those living in Chard itself.
However, customers are almost divided between those who are Portuguese and those from the UK, with the full English breakfast on the menu being particularly appealing to Brits.
Mr Saraiva’s son, also known as Joao Saraiva, said many locals frequent the restaurant to sample the dishes they tried while on vacation in Portugal’s sunniest climates.
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The restaurant menu is full of traditional dishes and Mr Saraiva said that if you ask 10 people what their favorite is, you will get 10 different responses, but he recommended the Portuguese stew, which is a “suitable traditional Portuguese dish”.
Saraiva’s is also a meeting point for the Portuguese community of Chard, where people can drop by and know they will find friends without having to organize an official meeting.
Mr Saraiva said: “It is quite nice to have a place where you can still eat Portuguese food and it is part of the culture to go for a coffee after a meal, even if you are not going out. for a meal, to have a drink quietly and to see people.
Saraiva’s is divided into a cafe, restaurant and mini-market section, the latter stocking products imported from Portugal, Brazil and Africa.
While Mr Saraiva said Brexit and the truck driver shortage left a few missing items on the shelves, the restaurant has largely avoided the worst of the supply chain crisis.
Mr Saraiva said, “It’s a mini-market, so the products are quite specific. I think if it was a real supermarket we would probably be struggling.
“It hasn’t had a big impact for us, at least so far. It might get harder in the future and be a bit more complicated.
However, Brexit had an impact on community numbers, as did the closure of the Oscar Mayer Chard factory.
At the end of last year, Oscar Mayer announced his departure from Somerset and the closure of his two sites, with the loss of 860 jobs.
The company said it was moving elsewhere in the UK because it was too expensive to modernize buildings.
Mr Saraiva said that “a large part” of Chard’s Portuguese community was working at the factory sites and that the closure, combined with Brexit, led many people to decide to return home to Portugal.
He noted that some have also chosen to relocate elsewhere in the UK in search of other jobs, despite the food company ‘doing everything’ to try to help workers find other jobs.
He said: “It was a bit shocking because we hear rumors that it has been shutting down for five years, but it never came to this.
“It was a little upsetting and shocking for some, especially those who have been there the longest, but I think people are slowly recovering from it and adjusting, finding different jobs, different options.”
While Mr Saraiva typically returns to Portugal once a year, the pandemic has proven too ‘complicated’ for a visit.
He said: “I think as soon as things start to get back to normal people will start over, especially around the summer.
“It’s nice to get out of the routine a bit and recharge the batteries.
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