One of my most memorable experiences and wonderful opportunities of 2017 was a trip to explore the Centre of Portugal. Organised by Sandra and Victor, the brains behind Porto based tourism company SimplyB, we were given the chance to experience not only Porto in the northwest but many of the lesser known (but in no way less beautiful) cities along the way.
Lisbon was our meeting point. I flew from Granada and was met by some of the SimplyB team who took us to the Dolce CampoReal which was about a 30-minute drive from the airport. The grounds were beautiful. The hotel is surrounded by the Archeira Mountains, vineyards and golf courses. A place of tranquillity, yet really well located for visiting the city.
We were warmly welcomed and check-in was swift. The receptionist told us where to find everything and encouraged a trip to the spa and indoor pool. My flight arrived quite late so I knew I wouldn’t have time, but others who arrived earlier said the facilities were great. On the way to the room, I passed a few members of staff and each one smiled, something I love to see! Such a simple yet powerful gesture.
The bedroom; with exceptional attention to detail. It was spotless, cosy, spacious, modern and unbelievably quiet; with all the amenities one needs and many more (and yes, fast WiFi). A plate of cookies and pastries and a glass of port were a lovely welcoming touch, and a separate bath and shower are always wonderful. As is having a coffee machine all to myself, robes, slippers and something hotels never seem to stock in the bathroom; conditioner! I’d move in if they offered. No probs.
After a little post-travel freshening up, we headed down to the bar (through the nice lobby above) to get to know each other and have a pre-dinner drink. The hotel decor is elegant but contemporary, a very relaxing space.
We were led to the restaurant (Grande Escolha, one of three restaurants at the hotel) which is chic and modern complete with open kitchen. The tables were dotted with baskets with a lovely little selection of freshly baked bread (one kind was even stuffed with chorizo. I know. Amazing.) olives, butter beans, vinegar, butters and 9 Sentido (which can be purchased in the lobby along with other Portuguese delights) an incredible award-winning olive oil from the region. I didn’t end up trying any of the butter or other bits; all my bread was drowned in that amazing olive oil.
I was delighted to sit beside Miguel (Dolce Camporeal’s food & beverage director) and Patricía, the hotel’s marketing manager. Both have such a good working relationship, which seems to be apparent throughout the whole team; like a family. They are a credit to the hotel and can tell you everything you need to know. Miguel mentioned how the chef, Rui Fernandes uses the best of local produce but with his own twist on the traditional way a dish is created.
We started with a little amuse bouche and straight away I could see what Miguel was referring to. Beautifully presented melon and ham; delicate pearls of melon and strips of Portuguese presunto. Fresh, light and colourful. We were then served a glass of crisp rosé, Cerejeiras (from Lisbon of course, keeping with local produce).
Our first course was warm creamy goat’s cheese served with local rocha pears served in various textures. Pear stewed with wine and cinnamon, thin pear crisp and a delicate sorbet.Such a clever dish. More amazing colours and flavours and delicious with the Cerejeiras. Miguel and Patricía told me that Rocha pears are a very popular Portuguese export as they preserve well for quite some time in cold conditions.
Chef Rui Fernandes and his team plating up.
Dish two; tuna takaki with sesame, served on a bed of creamy rice with seaweed. The tuna was perfectly seared as it was melt in the mouth with the natural citrus flavour only good quality fresh tuna possesses, which went so well with the contrasts of the soy sauce and creamy rice. The presentation was excellent. Any dish that offers you a little of the main event on the side of the plate is a winner in my books.
This dish was paired with another local wine; a crisp glass of Adega Mãe chardonnay. This meal was fast coming one of my top three of the entire year.
The next course was mouth watering lamb tenderloin with vegetables (spot the chanterelles, my favourite!) sautéed potatoes and a little mint sauce. I barely noticed the mint sauce, which is just how I like it, let the delicious meat do the talking, I say.
I was so impressed by the lamb, I couldn’t stop talking about it! Miguel and Patricia said that was high praise from someone from Ireland but it really was outstanding; I never had lamb like it before. It was served with a glass of Fonte das Moças, a regional red. One of the grapes in this wine is Syrah, which Sandra pointed out creates a drier wine, with is excellent with a greasy meat like lamb.
Our final course was ‘disconcerting chocolate’, all the good stuff on one plate, and top marks for presentation. Chocolate curls, ice cream, honeycomb and a chocolate brownie. Dreams = reality.
Dessert was paired with a glass of Quinta de São Francisco, a dry fruity dessert wine which was really special. We were spoiled with that one, it’s quite rare. All the wines paired with each course were chosen by the head waiter and sommelier, Adão. Such a pleasant guy; so informative and attentive. The whole team really gel and work well together and really genuinely enjoy looking after their guests.
We finished a spectacular evening back at the bar for coffee, and Miguel talked us through a few Portuguese brandies (aguardiente) and naturally, we were encouraged to try a few. Some were very smooth, some would put hairs on your chest they were so strong! But I enjoyed the different aromas and flavours. By now every box was ticked, including the nightcap.
Something I definitely judge a hotel by is their breakfast. There’s nothing quite like a full buffet with variety and delights at every corner. Nothing gives me a bigger thrill.
Judging by the outstanding service and focus on all the little details at Dolce CampoReal, I knew there would be a pretty impressive spread waiting. I went downstairs to the floor below the restaurant from the previous evening, passing the beautiful wine cellar. I was greeted by the lovely Maria, let her know my room number and took a look at everything on offer. Fruit, cheeses, meats, smoked salmon, cereals, yoghurts, breads, pastries, juices, cava; a selection of hot foods including *squeal* pancakes with maple syrup and chocolate sauce on the side, just begging to be smothered all over everything. I went left, then right, then turned in a circle. I had no idea where to start.
I sat facing the view above with a modest amount of food (I left the pastries for seconds) and chatted a little to Maria, such a lovely person and credit to the hotel. I had gotten myself a coffee from the machine but it wasn’t quite strong enough so she came back with an espresso for me – again, so happy to help. Now that really was the start of something, let me tell you. Portuguese coffee became a fast favourite, a pure love affair on this trip. The first I tried was at Dolce and my love never wavered. Thankfully the others on the FAMTour were all coffee addicts too, so we had plenty of coffee breaks each day wherever we went. The companionship we formed over our love of caffeine is a beautiful thing.
Where I was sitting eating breakfast overlooks the outdoor pool, so I went out onto the balcony to take in some fresh air and finish my (heavenly) coffee. Although a little overcast that day, the views were great. It really is a peaceful little spot to escape from it all.
During my stay at Dolce CampoReal Lisboa I was suitably impressed. I know confidently that they are a brand I can count on for an extremely comfortable and unforgettable stay. I haven’t had a hotel experience this good with so much attention to detail in a long time, and this recent trip was my very first time in Portugal (I know, crazy) so I was naturally very enthusiastic and the introduction couldn’t be more perfect. The hotel is perfect for business and leisure, family breaks, spa breaks, apartment bookings, timeshare and from my visit to Grande Escolha, a truly gastronomic experience.
For more information visit their website or contact the hotel on +351 261 960 900 or email@example.com.
Dolce CampoReal Lisboa amenities include:
- 151 hotel rooms (deluxe rooms, superior, premium, duplex and suites. Connecting rooms for families also available.)
- 40 villas and apartments
- 23 meeting rooms
- 3 restaurants, 2 bars
- 18 hole golf course, tennis court
- 24-hour fitness centre
- 2 outdoor pools, 1 indoor
- Mandalay Wellness & Spa, 7 treatment rooms (jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, Turkish bath, tea rooms, beauty salon
- Kid’s Club
- Wine tours and local activities available
Disclosure: I was a recent guest at Dolce CampoReal Lisboa. As always, all opinions are my own.
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