Since I was last at one of Portugal’s top and best-run hotels, Corinthia Hotel Lisbon, a new chef has taken over at the exciting Erva, ‘herbs’, restaurant, Artur Gomes. He is such a passionate culinarian, and he is producing fabulous food. Before, this had been yet another Mediterranean restaurant, with old-fashioned décor. Now it is a stunning looks-outside space, Erva (herbs), with herb pots on plain tables, and brick walls adorned with living green plants hung in metal pails. There is a glass-fronted ageing cabinet for Portuguese beef and lamb, and a Josper grill in the open kitchen, which actually more like ‘in the restaurant’ than a kitchen that happens to be open to the dining space.
Do as the cognocenti do. Start with a flaming cocktail, Casa da Avó, based on your grandmother’s soup cauldron (pine needles underneath are lit, as flames, and the ‘cauldron’ holds Zacapa 25 rum, Bulleit Bourbon, and the whole is topped with caramelized hazelnut). Go on to tapas, say magnificent bacalhau, salted cod, tempura, with garlic mayo and unagui, a reduction of soy sauce. Also on the table was a magnificent shoulder of baby lamb, with a side of white bean purée, plus Quinta das Bágeiras olive oil, both cow’s and white sheep’s butters, and Gleba breads. The glass of Casa Cadaval 2015 Trincadeira Preta enhanced the whole.
With a live DJ in one corner, a whole-wall window and door fronting on busy Avda Columbano Bordalo Pinheiro, and, inside, a veritable horticultural show of living greenery, it is not surprising this 90-seat dining-drinking venue is popular with locals as well as those staying in the 518-room hotel.
New luxury to the people who stay at Corinthia Lisbon, and to locals, is eating and drinking that is comfortable and fun. Other than in the few months of Lisbon winter, the 500-plus guests having breakfast can eat outside in a garden terrace. The indoor buffet is supplemented by 3 outside stations, all vehicles, but stationary. A pale pistachio VW camper (pictured above), just as one’s grandparents used for annual holidays, is the egg-cooking station. A taupe Citroen delivery van, as still seen on the streets of Montmartre, dispenses hot pastries. A cream bicycle-van holds ice-cream from local celebrity ice company Artisani. Add to this, later in the day, Soul, an outdoor lounge with decorative water features and three outline-only wood cabanas (pictured below). While the live musician of the day, perhaps a percussion with a single indented metal drum, plays, you can even ask one of the mixologists to design a Martini specially for you.
Many hotels have their own magazines but this hotel’s Explore stands out. It is overseen by GM Roderick Micallef, and its contents do exactly as its name implies. It encourages you to explore, outside and in. Throughout this May, for instance, there are concerts every Sunday at the Museu Calouste Gulbenkian, 14 minutes’ walk from the hotel. Any day, take a walking tour, Museu Nacional de História Natural e de Ciénca via Embaixada Concept Store, Jardim do Principe Real, Cevicheria, Pavilhão Chinés to Miradour de S Pedro de Alcántara. Alternatively, walk eight minutes to Lisbon zoo (get privilege tickets from the concierge). Within the hotel itself, look for paintings by Porto-based Susana Bravo, Corinthia Lisboa’s artist in residence. And read about some of the hotel’s sustainability initiatives: the laundry, for instance, uses natural gas, which uses only 50% of the energy that steam requires.
Although the business-mix of those staying here switches from summer’s mainly-leisure to winter’s higher-corporate and groups, the hotel’s source markets, and their new-luxury wants, are pretty consistent (they want everything under one roof). Lisbon Corinthia has the city’s biggest conference facilities, plus second biggest wellness in Europe. Fortunately I was here long enough to be able to do justice to the spa, which has 13 treatment rooms, plus a sizeable indoor pool and really good Technogym, 24/7 as all luxury hotels should have.
Any really great hotel can answer, and solve, whatever hiccup you as a traveller might have. After spa-ing, especially, you might need your hair done, and here is a first class salon, run by Lisbon’s top hairdresser, Marina Cruz. I am sure if I had needed clothes repaired, someone would have done it, quickly. I had a 5.30 a.m. departure and my breakfast, with hot eggs, came at five o’clock, on the dot. What really amazed me, however, was when I had an issue with Skype which needed resolving. No problem, someone can come in 40 minutes. Sure enough, 40 minutes later, two highly knowledgeable guys, in beach gear and flip-flops, arrived – Diogo Ferrera and Ricardo Pais had, indeed, been on the beach that Sunday, but they were honestly and charmingly pleased to help. This is more than a hotel, it’s a highly desirable way of life.
Lead image: Corinthia Lisbon | Presidential Suite – Bedroom