We skip Lisbon’s famed Belem pastel de nata and tinned sardines and head along the coast to eat spectacular seafood and sleep in sleek, contemporary rooms at The Oitavos, a five-star hotel just outside the hip Portuguese resort of Cascais.
This large, minimalist hotel might look a little stark on first appearances but those clean lines serve a useful purpose, letting attention focus instead on its ocean-coloured interiors, stunning artwork and floor-to-ceiling glass that frames a protected landscape of sand dunes and wild coastline.
Even the cooks have a view in their open kitchen. In the main restaurant, Ipsylon, chef Cyril Devilliers works directly with three fishermen to source fish for his inspired dishes; scallops come in a creamy, foamy broth with crunchy sweet walnuts, fish rice is a show-stopping affair with clams, baby clams, mussels, barracuda, belt fish and sea bream cooked in lobster bisque, fish stock, clam water, fresh tomato and coriander, and a serve-yourself cataplana raises this Portugese classic to sophisticated new heights; the turbot, sole and stone bass of this bouillabaisse are cooked for hours in the pot with tomatoes, onion, green and red pepper, white wine, olive oil and garlic, to create a rich, flavourful dish that makes the most of some twenty-two varieties of herbs grown in The Oitavos gardens.
If you fancy a lighter meal, the hotel’s sushi chef gives local fish an Asian twist with homemade ponzo and teriyaki sauces in a dedicated sushi and sashimi bar. Either way, save room for a light coconut soufflé with pineapple and vanilla or the pastry chef’s instagram-friendly chocolate ball dessert, which magically unfurls like a flower.
Drinks are also taken seriously at The Oitavos – start your meal with a complex Vertice sparkling wine from the Douro Valley, or bask in the aquamarine surroundings with iris-infused Magellan gin, juniper berries, fresh orange and lime. The gin offering is impressive, and friendly, informative staff ensure that the botanicals in each drink shine through with ‘best-serve’ tonics and garnishes.
Devilliers takes breakfast as seriously as the rest of the day, deliciously light levain and fresh cream waffles adding to a buffet of fresh fruits, local hams, cheeses, and smoked salmon. If you still have space for lunch, head to the hotel’s relaxed clubhouse restaurant, Verbasco, to enjoy a sea view and a range of tapas – think poached eggs with cepes, girolles and shitake mushrooms cooked into a stew with veal stock, cream and parmesan; grilled Cascais octopus ‘lagareiro style’, finished under the grill with plenty of olive oil and parsley, and cuttlefish ink linguine with clams, cherry tomatoes and shrimp.
With all this on site, it might take a while to venture out but it’s well worth it to get a deeper flavour of the area. Drive half an hour along the coast to Praia da Adraga beach, for instance, and you’ll be rewarded with hopping-fresh fish and shellfish at Restaurante da Adraga, a fourth-generation, family-run business. Pots of fresh cottage cheese, Moura olive oil and sardine paste are served on paper tablecloths with baskets of fresh bread before simple grilled fish or steamed clams in garlic and olive oil. Go at sunset and order a glass of Douro Valley white then sit back, pour a jug of melted butter over giant butterflied tiger prawns and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect beachside dinner.
Double rooms at The Oitavos start from €155, b&b (theoitavos.com). TAP Portugal flies directly from London Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester to Lisbon 6 times a week, prices start at £121 return including all taxes and surcharges. For further information, visit www.flytap.com or call 0345 601 0932.
Written by Alex Crossley
First published November 2015