A master class in sophisticated luxury and warm hospitality.
In a world where uber modern hotels compete for attention, this elegant 27 room hotel dating from 1642 makes it abundantly apparent why classic style never gets old. Two canons flank the front entrance, alluding to the property’s original role as a defence fortress. Inside, arched stone walls and polished tile floors are flooded with natural light from the central courtyard. Unabashed luxury is the recurring theme: a grand staircase draped with an intricately woven rug divides two large statues of ethereal women clutching candles; credenzas from a range of bygone eras decorate corners; heavy wooden doors mark the entrance to rooms decked with faux Gothic ceilings. The result, rather than being a pastiche is an unabashed exuberance for the antique.
The historic decor plays out most amusingly inside the double room with its deep red velvet armchairs, silk pillows in shades of burnt orange and sage green, and Portuguese Talavera tile in the bathroom. Arches and stone columns that surround the room’s small balcony provide a linear architectural contrast to the dramatic beaches of Cascais stretching for kilometres below. The sound of crashing waves is a comforting, lulling soundtrack for sleep.
As a Relais & Châteaux property, food is an integral part of the experience. The hotel’s Michelin star restaurant is perched atop a cliff above the Atlantic Ocean. Sweeping panoramic views from the massive dining room windows act as backdrop for the seafood centric menu. Stellar service carried out by a small army of waiters, including Rui, Doru and Miguel, is polite, and engaging, each an expert in his own area.
Chef Miguel Rocha Vieira’s tasting menu begins with ‘bar snacks’ including: fried mackerel, small crescent shaped pastries with Cataplan flavours (tomato, pepper, coriander), and an entirely edible mussel (with a shell made from seaweed) served with a delicate white wine sauce. Throughout the meal unusual but exciting dishes appear: a white plate splattered with shocking black cuttlefish ink served with an elegant filet of red mullet and a whisper of bergamot; John Dory gently steamed with green and purple artichoke and a bowl of roe with tomatoes; dessert is a delightful taste of the Algarve combining carob, orange flower ice cream and almond biscuit. The entire meal is a mix of theatre, trompe l’oeil, art and flavour. A superb and extensive wine list, allows the impressive knowledge of the waitstaff to shine and makes for intriguing sips like the fragrant Morgado de Santa Catharina, once used as perfume by royalty or the Casa Ferreirinha Callabriga from Douro, a rich, weighty contender to France’s red wine supremacy.
Whether sipping drinks from the peacock mosaic bar as the sun kisses Guincho beach or snapping photos in front of the yellow plastered exterior walls, or laughing with staff at the restaurant, the ultimate aim of the hotel is to make you smile – and at every turn, it sure does.
Figueira do Guincho, 2750-642 Cascais, Portugal;
This original hotel article first appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of City Style and Living Magazine