I don’t suppose it’s my magnetic personality playing havoc with the key cards at the Four Seasons, but I do find myself locked out of my room a couple of times. No problem, reception simply gives me a bundle of cards to provide for any number of eventualities and, of course, it doesn’t happen again.
I have a spacious room on the 10th floor, with large balcony, overlooking the park and there’s a small bottle of port, fruit and fresh flowers to welcome me.
Add a king sized bed, large sofa, a marble bathroom with Bvlgari toiletries and you can imagine the kind of luxury on offer. You get both a walk-in shower and a bath, and the tub fills so quickly that there’s danger of causing a flood if you don’t pay attention. In the room, I particularly like the USB sockets for charging phones and laptops which meant I don’t have to rummage in my case looking for an adapter. Oh and there’s the personal espresso machine which gives me a fix of coffee, morning and night.
The hotel was built in the late 1950’s when the Portuguese dictatorship decided to show the world that it too could offer first class hospitality. The richest ten families were encouraged to invest in this symbol of national pride and it opened in 1959, as the Hotel Ritz, seven years after the start of construction. Designed to be a showcase of Portuguese materials and craftsmanship, the walls are lined with specially commissioned artworks, including tapestries, sculptures and paintings, and an iPhone app will guide you round the best of them.
Locals still call it the Ritz Hotel, but it was taken over by the Four Seasons group in 1997 and entirely refurbished. It’s not much more than a large concrete box on the outside, but the inside is designed to impress with huge crystal chandeliers, marble floors and gilded furniture. Huge flower displays prevent it feeling like some massive art gallery and the corridors that connect the 282 rooms are wide enough to accommodate two cars driving in different directions.
The spa features four treatment rooms plus sauna, and of course there’s an indoor 18m pool, with views over the Hotel gardens and Eduardo VII Park. And, after those early morning lengths, sit at the poolside spa café featuring and enjoy the all-day health conscious menu and herbal infusions. And if swimming doesn’t appeal there’s a rooftop running track, as well as all the usual fitness facilities including a Pilates studio and cardio machines.
The Varanda restaurant doesn’t have a Michelin star but it feels like it should. Chef Pascal Meynard is from France and works with the best fish and meat that Portugal has to offer. It’s classic French cuisine with a creative Portuguese touch. Fish is very much in evidence – there’s an amuse bouche of tuna tartare on a squid ink rice cracker, plus a tasty marinated oyster on a seaweed bed.
The appetiser features tender chunks of octopus from the Algarve and it’s followed by pan seared scallops with a ginger lemon confit. Main course is seabass marinated in lemon and myrtle fillet of seabass, topped with clams and sea asparagus. The big surprise is the dessert. It seems to be a whole lemon, but in fact is Sudachi cream, coloured and shaped to deceive, on penny royal granita.
If you don’t fancy dining at this level, then, both at lunch and dinner, a sushi chef prepares dishes in front of you in the bar area. Since the sea is so close, then the fish is as fresh as it can ever be, and ranks as some of the best I’ve eaten.
I enjoy my stay at the Four Seasons, and the attention to detail is outstanding.
Apparently they employ around 850 staff, roughly three for each room, and it shows. Two people stand at the entrance as you come in and there’s even someone to press the lift button. My only complaint? It’s a bit of a hike to the old town, but the metro is nearby and after all the excellent food, a bit of exercise doesn’t hurt.
TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE FOUR SEASONS HOTEL RITZ
Rua Rodrigo da Fonseca, 88, Lisbon 1099-039, Portugal
Tel. 351 (21) 381-1400
Fax. 351 (21) 383-1783
A night in a Superior Room costs from €525 for single occupancy and €610 for double occupancy.