Our weekend in Cascais on the Portuguese coast is a double quest; Mrs Smith is on the prowl for the perfect room, Mr Smith is seeking the ideal surf beach. So when we walk into Farol Design Hotel and note the view straight through to the sea, mile-wide smiles appear on our faces. For reasons too humdrum to be hinted at, we arrived worn out, irritable and craving a spot of tranquillity. Farol Design Hotel has ticked two out of three of our boxes before we’ve even taken our shoes off.
Perched on an outcrop of rock a few feet from the Atlantic Ocean, Farol’s contemporary style is the fruit of an unusual marriage: that of a traditional 19th-century Portuguese villa and a Corbusieresque extension, built to encase a slick restaurant and additional rooms. The blend of old and new is a triumph. The exterior that greeted us is white and minimalist; the interior is sleek and wood-panelled. The result is a stylish box of tricks, in which you don’t know what to expect next.
Of the hotel’s 34 bedrooms, ten are the creation of esteemed Portuguese fashion designers, such as Ana Salazar and José Antonio Tenente, hence its Design Hotel mantle. We’re excited to see what the USP of our room will be. We are spoilt with a big, blue view – 180 degrees of ocean – and although there’s no balcony, we don’t miss one, since what we do have is simply stunning: a superior mix of vintage chic and modern finish.
We’ve been booked into a suite, and we can’t help but wonder if that’s why we’ve struck gold in terms of our accommodation. As a life-long addict to all things interior-design, I have to find out what individual wonders the other bedrooms contain. I swiftly befriend a chambermaid, and Mr Smith and I get our noses around a few doors.
Our investigations reveal one space blessed with a great big bath that you could simply tumble into straight from bed – perfect for a karma-sutric weekend. Next, room 204: ‘a cross between Boogie Nights and an African safari?’ I suggest to my partner in boudoir voyeurism. ‘Now there’s a film I’d pay to see,’ says he. I peek into another dwelling, this time a blanched-out abode with floor-to-ceiling white curtains. Just as we’re feeling that the vibe here is more sanatorium than sexy sleepover, the drapes open and the need for such minimalism becomes clear. The focus is the stupendous view. (If you are a vistaholic, make sure you ask for one of the west-facing rooms, which all have wonderful panoramas over the Atlantic.)
The design savvy at Farol extends to its grounds, which are very Café del Mar. Daybeds shrouded in muslin are positioned superbly for watching the surf breaking on the rocks and the ships slowly disappearing over the horizon – a perfect retreat from the Ibiza-style pool area, where girls bobbing about in teeny bikinis hold Mr Smith’s interest. The thoughtfully designed set of private spaces means I’m able to drag him off for a more secluded, less distracted sunbathe. We colonise a grassy knoll, with beanbags crying out to be settled on for sunset, and the ubiquitous soundtrack of blissed-out beats making the perfect accompaniment.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Portuguese gastronomy. Firstly there were those delicious custard tarts from my local patisserie in London, but then I’d also heard horror stories of unidentifiable green soups and oily stews. Luckily we discover that the hotel’s restaurant, Rosa Maria, is doing wonders for its country’s international reputation. Serving up high-quality southern European dishes, and doffing its cap to national favourites, the kitchen executes everything with modern-minded finesse.
Side-stepping any what-to-have quandaries, we jump on the adventurous menu desgustación. We’re not quite courageous enough to try the Gorgonzola ice cream, but we do manage to indulge in a 20-year-old tawny port, and a cigar for señor, in the easy chairs in the opulent red library-style bar.
There is no shortage of daytime distractions to be had around the hotel. After a pretty ten-minute stroll along the seafront, we find ourselves right in the centre of Cascais. It’s a pretty, chocolate-box town that gets cooling sea breezes – no wonder Portugal’s royal family liked to retreat here from the capital during the sweltering summer months. It remains just as popular today with couples and families from Lisbon, eager for a good dose of sea air. The promenade is the ideal place to spend a few hours ambling and building up an appetite for some spicy piri-piri chicken and grilled squid on the seafront.
We still had one mission left to accomplish: our search for the perfect surf. After quizzing a few locals, we seek out Bar do Guincho, the Portuguese equivalent of a lido. A few euros gets us a good parking space and a beach a lot less crowded than many others; we shell out a smidgen more, and get an umbrella and wind-blocker thrown into the bargain. The breeze is stiff and, within seconds, Mr Smith disappears. He’s seen the sign for kite-surfing. Still, I have a secret weapon. As soon as I feel that it’s time to return to our chic retreat all I have to do is dangle that room key. Even the waves can’t compete with a splash in the hydro-massage tub, big enough for two, awaiting us back at Farol.
Anonymously reviewed by Mr & Mrs Smith
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