Having visited many hotels in many countries, I must award The Oitavos just outside Lisbon with a gold star for having the widest corridors I have ever seen, with easily enough space to drive a car through.
In fact, at a recent auto promotion event, that’s exactly what happened, with organizers making full use of the hotel’s extensive ground-floor open plan. ‘Sheer size’ is a phrase that’s particularly applicable to this Y-shaped property designed by architect and decorator, José Anahory, on the scenic Estoril coast. Located twenty minutes outside the Portuguese capital near Cascais, it boasts not only an Arthur Hills-designed championship golf course encompassing both umbrella pine forest and sand dunes but also an equestrian center, a heliport, a 10-treatment-room holistic spa (using organic Voya products) with sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi, seawater indoor and outdoor swimming pools, eight tennis courts and a health and racquet club – all on the vast Champalimaud-owned Quinta da Marinha estate (four family members still work there).
This 5-star hotel, reached along a broad, curved driveway, is ultra-modern in design, its gleaming glass and steel exterior shining like a clean-cut diamond in the mid-day sun. “Sheer size” also applies to its 142 rooms, including 16 deluxe suites, all featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies, with a minimalist décor in shades of gray and white giving the impression of more space than they already generously provide.
A not-to-be-missed experience during a stay here – but book early just in case – is dinner at the Chef’s Table inside the spacious kitchen located a few steps from the reception desk. To say it was a highlight of our few nights there would be an understatement, the quality of both food and service from chef Sebastian Fratye, pastry chef Joaquim de Sousa, mixologist Eduardo Alexandre and the rest of the team far exceeding our expectations. The experience accounted for more than three hours of utter culinary and mixology delight, capped by the magic of a chocolate dessert that blooms like a flower right before your eyes (see for yourself here).
It may not be overly exaggerated to view such an experience as akin to that of a classical concert – sizzling pans, knives on cutting boards and bubbling pots weaving their melodies to produce a culinary crescendo – with the listener enjoying the benefit of ‘tasting the music’ afterwards. Extending the metaphor, an overture of black eyed bean salad with dried tuna and a sprinkling of red pepper and red onion swerved as a prelude to greater things to come, the salty tuna complementing the earthy, full-bodied beans. A second starter of sweetbreads and crawfish in a tarragon and Muscatel sauce was a fine example of how almost anything can be combined if knowledge and skill is aplenty. Then came the soft, mellow tones of scallop, lightly kissed on a hot pan flavored with butter, garlic, coriander, mustard and lemon confit – a well-performed adagio. Then the climactic finale – 40-day matured Portuguese Black Angus steak accompanied by an aromatic Douro red wine from Vila Regia, which Nuno Antunes, the F&B manager, said emerged from the vineyards the Champalimaud family own in northern Portugal. Then the encore – a dark chocolate dessert that literary opened its petals before us as the chef delicately dripped his sweet, creamy sauce over it.
If you don’t manage to snag a box seat at the “concert,” try one of the other dining outlets. The Ipsylon, the hotel’s signature restaurant, has a glass surround permitting guests to witness behind-the-scenes goings-on. The others include the Atlantic Pool Bar, offering casual indoor and outdoor seating; Les Herbes, with a terrace surrounded by a garden of aromatic herbs and a tea lounge; Verbasco Restaurant & Bar at the clubhouse; and sushi at the Japanese Bar.
Closely competing in the highlights stakes was a full-body massage that my companion and I enjoyed in an intimate couples’ suite – a most relaxing experience after a tiring day of travel. Using eucalyptus oils – Portugal has an abundance of such trees – therapists Vanessa Bernardo and Catarina Goncalves said the treatment is offered year-round, outside during warm days among the sand dunes.
In addition to its other activities, the hotel also hosts outdoor music concerts throughout the summer and a range of other events, including wine tastings.
Fancy staying in the middle of a golf course? The Oitavos rents a hundred square meter villa, the Forte, complete with private swimming pool, sundeck and personal butler service. In terms of business, it also offers comprehensive facilities for conferences, its main meeting room accommodating up to 300 people, with several smaller rooms also available. It also caters to personal events such as weddings, having seating space in its main ballroom for around five hundred guests.
If you’re fond of fine food, diverse sports, relaxing massages, picturesque coastal scenery and nearby city nightlife, The Oitiavos may be just what you’re looking for.