Sunday, 17 July 2011

Porto - The Yeatman Hotel

The historic Portuguese city of Porto – or the anglicised Oporto as it’s sometimes known – will always have a place in the hearts of the British. If it weren’t for this city, just what would we drink with our stilton?

The World Heritage destination which is the home of Port wine now has a new ambassador in the form of The Yeatman hotel: an unparalleled €40 million homage to the city, and the drink which has made it what it is.

Although the enormous creation offers Porto an appropriately proud centrepiece, and has been billed the best hotel not only in Porto, but Portugal as a whole, it’s hard to think of a more quintessentially English destination beyond Britain’s shores. It’s owned by the Fladgate Partnership, the company behind the Croft, Fonseca and Taylor’s Port and wine brands, who are as undeniably British as they come. From its commanding cliff side position across the Douro estuary, the hotel watches over Porto like a colonial Big Brother, serving afternoon teas and gin & tonics from lavishly made up rooms named in honour of greats including Winston Churchill.

A grand design in every way, The Yeatman boasts grounds of over two and a half hectares, containing within it an award-winning restaurant that’s one of the best in the area; a spa based around wine; and artefact-lined corridors which become a museum of Port.

This is in addition to eighty two individually themed rooms, each one sponsored by and decorated in the style of a specific vineyard or wine brand. English glamour merges with modern architecture and local iconography to create a unique form of luxury which makes the hotel as much of a destination and landmark in its own right as a base for exploring the city.


The Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa is a lesson in the fact that wine can be incorporated into everything, and draws on the high levels of polyphenols present in the grape skins and seeds as a nourishing product. Spa treatments available at The Yeatman include a Cabernet Scrub making use of grapes, honey and brown sugar, which is rubbed over the skin; a Merlot wrap, which is a purifying treatment based on being cocooned in grape skins; and a red wine bath, which is exactly as it sounds, and appropriately made from an old wine barrel.

Wine & Dine
If you still happen to think that wine is better drunk than submerged in, you won’t be disappointed by the hotel’s vaulted wine cellar. Filled with wood aged and vintage Ports alongside an extensive selection of Portuguese wines, it boasts some of the raraest and hardest to find varieties in the country. Tours of the cellar are available, and highly recommended – if only just to experience the magnificent spectacle of one of the world’s largest wine collections.

Every Thursday, The Yeatman puts on a wine dinner hosted by one of the producers who sponsor a room in the hotel. Tastings, talks and specially paired food have made these as popular with locals and nationals as those staying, which seems important if the hotel is going to successfully blend into the community which it represents to the world.

The hotel’s restaurant, named simply The Yeatman Restaurant, is equally ambitious as the rest of the project. Chef Ricardo Costa has been drafted in from the Relais & Châteaux Casa da Calçada hotel in Amarante, 40 miles from Porto, where he gained a Michelin star. There’s no pretending that The Yeatman team aren’t pushing for the same.

Dishes that merge modern cooking and adventurous pairings - chocolate and cauliflower, anyone? - with an appreciation for simply good ingredients are a highlight along with homemade breads, a peppery local olive oil and an impressive Portuguese cheese selection. The hotel lives up to its reputation in the wine stakes, with a 1,500 strong list focusing on Portugal but offering varieties from around the world, starting at very reasonable price points. The stunning view over the Douro of the landmark two-tiered Dom Luis bridge designed by Eiffel is another draw, but not one that’s unique to the restaurant. The Yeatman’s cliff-side position handily allows almost every single room to get in on the visionary act.


Staying at The Yeatman, it would be easy never to leave the vast hotel complex, but that would be ignoring the city which the hotel is celebrating. The enchanting city centre, a short walk away over that famous bridge, preserves a rich assortment of extraordinary architecture. The Cathedral, Clérigos Tower and sweeping staircases of Livaria Lello bookshop are justifiably highlighted in most guides, but a short walk around will reward you with your own gems, such as the painstaking blue and white mosaics that modestly line the walls of São Bento railway station.

Strike action that would make even TfL blush made actually taking a train less simple than it should have been on our visit, but a ride into the Douro Valley, the heart of Portuguese winemaking, is worth the effort for the scenic views alone. If you’re able to stop off at a Quinta (winery) or two for a tasting and tour, all the better.

Porto’s new international airport makes getting there easy, with direct flights by British Airways, EasyJet, Iberia and Ryan Air departing several times daily from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stanstead. The hotel is a short taxi journey from the airport, or close to Vila Nova de Gaia train station, which also connects to Lisbon via a high-speed rail service.

The Yeatman offers a nightly rate from €305 based on two sharing a double room on a B&B basis, including use of the swimming pools and VAT. All rooms offer a complete luxury experience, with river views and balconies plus access to all the hotel’s facilities. Seasonal price fluctuations occur, and out of season discounts can be had.

Rui Paula is a Portuguse celebrity chef. In restaurants DOP in Porto and DOC in nearby Douro, he’s an advocate of classical dishes and local ingredients, which he prepares using modern techniques and presentation. Dishes include a sumptuous octopus served in a pool of olive oil, evocatively named “Octopus in the Style of the Olive Press”. We tried a 6 course tasting menu priced at €65 without wine, which was intricate enough to be worth the price. We were the only table mildly amused by the background music which included Oasis and Amy Winehouse.

FOOD FIND - Cafe Majestic 
We have a feeling this place is more for tourists than locals, but still it’s a must-see. Majestic in its architecture, sculptures and domed roof as well as in its name, it comes complete with a tinkling piano and a history dating back to 1921. Try the local speciality of ovos moles, custard-y dumplings, with a coffee for a very European afternoon.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Actually we also had our vacation on that hotel last year and it is really worth it. I will never forget the happy moments with my friends there. I will also refer this site about porto hotels so that you can read more information about this hotel, just Click Here!