Condé Nast Johansens x Sartorialee: Lisbon in the springtime
Conde Nast Johansens Inspirations
Lisbon in the springtime
Men’s style blogger Lee Osborne spends a long weekend in Lisbon, touring under the radar wine estates and checking out the best places to eat, drink and shop – part of a springtime break cocooned in the wonderfully opulent Santiago de Alfama Boutique Hotel.
Lisbon | Alfama
Strolling across to the wonderfully evocative Miradouro da Graça terrace is just one of innumerable privileges of staying at Santiago de Alfama Boutique Hotel in Lisbon. The bijoux property, owned by the delightful Manuel and Heleen da Silva, is perched upon Alfama, the city’s most-elevated quarter. It’s also in the vicinity of the wonderfully iconic no.28 tram which appears to defy gravity on an hourly basis, snaking Teflon-like figures of eight in its rattling ascent to the ancient summit of Castelo São Jorge. In walking terms, everything is downhill from Alfama and Übers are cheap enough to save your legs on the return leg wherever you go.
I hadn’t been to Lisbon in over 10 years. Everyone had warned me how much it had changed and not to be overly expectant. Alas, I am always one to keep an open mind about such things and make my own assumptions, and I am delighted to report that I’m every bit as enamored with the place as I was when I first visited. Who wouldn’t be? As a Brit emerging from arguably the longest winter on record, the light alone is life-changing. And who cares if you are the only one sitting having breakfast al fresco in a Breton top and shorts (of the tailored, high-waisted Ghurka style of course) in mid-March? The breakfasts at Audrey’s, the hotel’s charming bistro named after the Da Silva’s daughter, which stretches out onto the neighbouring street, certainly set you up for the day. I rarely swayed from one of three interpretations of eggs benedict on the menu, accompanied by vibrant and zingy fresh fruit of the day and glasses of galão, Portugal’s answer to café latte. There’s even effervescent champagne for those in need of a pickup.
The aforementioned light is legendary here. A phenomenon known locally as ‘A Luz de Lisboa’, it’s an alignment of innumerable factors: the city is encompassed by seven hills which collectively form a vast natural amphitheatre that both gathers and reflects light. Open-ended at the point where it meets the Tagus estuary, it acts as an enormous mirror which further reflects the light. Since early times, Lisbon’s architects have had a great propensity for favouring hues of colour which both attract and reflect the city’s rays. Most buildings are crafted from either white limestone or Portuguese Lioz limestone, known for their inherent qualities of reflection, and subsequently painted in shades of sandy yellow, blushing pink or rich ochre – collectively ricocheting the light around the hills. Then there’s the city’s abundance of sunshine hours. Lisbon boasts 3,023 hours of sunshine per year, nearly 2/3rds more than London’s paltry 1,481.
I often imagine Lisbon as a European version of San Francisco – the ocean, cable cars, cool street art and hip converted warehouses, similarly vertiginous streets and a Golden Gate Bridge of its very own in the Ponte 25 de Abril – built by the same construction company that actually built the original Bay Bridge between San Francisco and Oakland. My time here was a combination of ventures into town on foot, with the aim of upping my daily step count across the cobbles – combined with a fabulous assortment of day trips that would introduce me to the pleasures of the wineries of Lisbon and Peninsula de Setúbal, which as a big lover of Portuguese wine – had somehow eluded me until now.
Santiago de AlfaMALE
From the moment you sashay through the expansive sliding doors of Santiago de Alfama Boutique Hotel, you are transfixed by the attention to detail which prevails throughout the property. From its inviting entrance hall, complete with plush blue sofa and plumped cushions angled at forty-five degree trajectories, to the arrangements of fragrant fresh flower bouquets set against colour pops of contemporary art and decadent furnishings – brainchild of owner Heleen. The reception is a haven of calm where nothing is ever too much trouble. A beautifully curated selection of gifts, namely Claus Portuguese soaps and fragrances encased in funky retro wrapping, are available, and at check-in, the hotel even arms guests with its very own hand-picked selection of local attractions booklet, which is a nice touch. My room, a spacious sanctum of white, floors tastefully tiled with monochromatic azulejo, overlooked an inner courtyard of calm. The mini bar was stocked with test tube style vestiges of wine and snacks for midnight feasting. Despite being a married father of two, it really felt like my own AlfaMALE bachelor pad in Lisbon.
Lisbon | Príncipe Real
To ease myself in ‘gently’ on day one, I made my way from Alfama down to Praça dos Restauradores, one of the city’s great public squares where Avenida da Liberdade meets Rossio, also home to the great red and cream edifice that’s the Condés Cinema, now a Hard Rock Café. I’d read about a fabulous shopping experience called Embaixada (Embaixada Concept Store, Praça do Príncipe Real 26, 1250-184 Lisboa) and walked the same steep incline the number 25 tram takes up to the ultra-chic quarter of Príncipe Real. It’s about a 20-minute power climb, but I’d done my research and reassured myself there was concept shopping, wagyu steak and glass of red to reward me at the top. Embaixada is simply magnificent, shopping with genuine wow factor: rather like a Portuguese version of a Moroccan Riad with the domes and minarets of Brighton Pavillion thrown in for good measure – the Ribeiro da Cunha palace has opened its doors to a number of conceptual stores that feature lesser-spotted brands that you won’t find in larger retailers. Spread across two floors that look every bit as though they’ve been furnished by House & Garden, it is a beautifully curated showcase of products. Of the menswear brands on offer, Jak, (https://www.jakshoes.com/) who offer some of the best value all-leather and suede sneakers on the market – no surprise given Portugal’s shoemaking excellence, together with their rather wonderful sister brand Officina (https://www.officinalisboa.com/collections/men) who offer smarter oxfords and beautiful laced Derby boots, were my pick of the bunch. While there is a fabulous Gin Lovers & LESS Restaurant, boasting a list of 60+ gins, wines and cocktails, with food pairings by chef Fernando Semedo, on this occasion I opted for Atalho Real, a fab find for meat aficionados: a steakhouse in a former butchery just to the rear of Embaixada where my aforementioned lunchtime prize awaited – coming in under 30 euros including a half bottle of local wine.
Lisbon | Chiado
It was time to walk off the wagyu and head off to my next destination, the chic neighbourhood of Chiado, 15-minutes away. Sapataria do Carmo (Largo do Carmo 26, 1200-092 Lisboa), one of the most beautiful shoe stores I’ve had the pleasure to set foot in, was founded in 1904 and still retains much of its old world charm. From its strikingly rendered wrought iron art deco sign to its 1920s interior fittings – men’s shoes one side, women’s the other, with mirrored cupboards and drawers disguised as retro shoe boxes regimentally arranged above. As ready-to-wear men’s shoes go, it doesn’t get much better than this: entirely Made in Portugal with all the classics represented, most coming in under the €200 mark – the tan-coloured Norwegian split-toe Derbies and navy monk straps were my personal showstoppers. There was just enough time on the way back to stop by the Duque Brewpub (Calçada do Duque 51, 1200-156 Lisboa), one of the city’s storied microbreweries in the Bairro Alto, to taste its fab Palestation IPA, surrounded by a hipster crowd of moustachioed gents and cool Dr. Martens-clad chicas.
Lisbon wine – Mafra | Colares
As one of the oldest regions in Portugal, the Lisbon wine region is a fertile area which has produced a robust selection of both red and white varietals since Roman times. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my congenial and most gracious host Manuel for introducing me to the oenological delights this region represents. Knowing my love of the grape, he made it his personal mission to acquaint me with as many wineries as we could feasibly fit in to my 4-day itinerary. No sooner had I finished breakfast on day two than Manuel was rolling down the top of his iridescent yellow VW Beetle convertible and gesturing over for me to join him in the passenger seat. With the Beetle’s distinctive rattle reverberating around the winding alleyways and wind blowing through our hair, we headed in a north-easterly direction out of Lisbon to our first port of call:
Quinta de Sant’Ana (https://www.quintadesantana.com/) in the village of Gradil, near Mafra. The estate, dominated by a beautiful palm-fringed manor house painted in gallant egg yolk yellow and cream, was once in the hands of German aristocracy. In 1969 Baron Gustav von Fürstenberg and his wife Paula raised their seven children in this small piece of paradise, until the 1974 revolution in Portugal changed their destiny and they returned to Germany. Fortuitously, the Quinta was saved by a loyal family friend, Joaquim Val Morais. James Frost, an expat Brit who had married one of the Barons’ daughters, walked us around vineyards just coming into bud, interspersed with yellow mustard flowers against a vivid blue sky. James followed up by offering us a tasting of the estate’s wines, presented by his colleague Ann – a native of Poland who’s lived on the Iberian peninsula for most of her adult life – which we enjoyed in the sun together with delicious canapés outside the winery’s small shop. A beautiful German-influenced and, quite unexpected for this neck of the woods, Riesling was my stand out wine – pale citrus yellow with green tinges, great minerality with a long and persistent finish and great acidity – followed by two more cooler-climate varieties Sauvignon Blanc and Alvarinho which were equally as impressive. The 2017 Tinto was my pick of the reds: deliciously elegant, juicy and plummy with a nice density of pure berry fruits and ever so slightly picant.
We bid farewell to our fabulous hosts and headed south-west towards Sintra, and our next winery Casal Sta Maria in the sub region of Colares, renowned for being the most westerly vineyard in Europe. As we traversed the back doubles of the winelands putting the world to rights, I confessed to Manuel that, given my love for all things Portuguese, that I had an inner yearning to eventually master the language – considered to be one of the most difficult for us Brits to master. He leant an enthusiastic ear to my attempts to pronounce a whole procession of village names that we passed through, only to break it to me that they were far too parochial to be of any benefit. Before we knew it, we were driving through the princely gates of Casal Sta Maria (R. Principal 18, 2705-177 Colares, Portugal, +351 21 929 2117) with our host Nicholas von Bruemmer, son of another Baron, this time a Swiss one, Bodo von Bruemmer in hot pursuit in a golf buggy. After almost a decade in Zürich at the helm of one of the largest family offices in Europe, he felt compelled to continue his grandfather’s great legacy at the ocean-facing property, with a mission to produce wines of great character as well as returning the great house and gardens to their former glory. In 2017 he moved to Colares with his Spanish wife, Myriam Abascal, and two children, Nicholasito and Maximiliano. Nicholas gave us a short tour of the gardens, including the hidden gem of Casal Sta Maria itself, a beautiful 18th-century tile-covered fountain house, before inviting us in to his sumptuous abode for lunch. We began with a fabulous Malvasia de Colares, created out of a terroir rich in salty Atlantic air, warm sun and sandy soils. This white grape variety is grown in quite a unique way, in deep sandy trenches although the roots themselves are planted in clay below the layers of sand. We then sampled the 2018 Sauvignon Blanc and concluded with an enchanting late harvest dessert wine, Colheita Tardia 2016, chock-a-block with peach and apricot notes – made exclusively from the French grape variety Petit Manseng.
Azeitão | Setúbal | Comporta
Another day dawned, another winery beckoned. This time the compass was pointed due south necessitating an extraordinary road trip across the awe-inspiring Vasco da Gama bridge – the second longest in Europe at a mesmerizing 12.3 kilometres long. The journey skirted the fringes of the Parque Natural da Arrábida, affording fabulous drone-like views of the sandy promontory and turquoise waters of Península de Troia along the way. We were headed to the art-installation rich winery of Bacalhôa in the village of Azeitão. In 1998 control of the company was purchased by José Berardo, one of the most successful contemporary art collectors in Portugal, who in 1998 entered into a partnership agreement with the Lafitte Rothschild group (of Bordeaux fame). A selection of Berardo’s vast collection of treasures and discoveries from a lifetime of circumnavigating the globe are on display inside the winery under headings such as ‘Out of Africa’ – as well as a proliferation of sculptures dotted around the gardens.
Of the wines on offer during the post-tour tasting, the white Alvarinho from the Vinho Regional de Lisboa appellation and the super sweet Bacalhôa Moscatel de Setúbal were the standouts. From here, it was a beautifully scenic journey even further south to Comporta, Portugal’s answer to The Hamptons. Lunch had been arranged at the chi-chi seafood restaurant Sal (Praia do Pêgo 7570-783, Carvalhal), on Pêgo beach, flanked by Atlantic rollers, sand dunes and rice fields in an area of outstanding natural beauty where indigenous wild horses roam freely. Madonna, Christian Louboutin and Philippe Starck all have homes nearby. Catch of the day at Sal was chunky white sea bass, grilled to perfection and served alongside a glass of Adega da Herdade da Comporta white wine – crisp and elegant with notes oozing lemon and tropical fruits.
Seeing that it was my last night in town, I suggested to Manuel that, in order to try and repay him for his kindness (it impossible, of course) he should join me in checking out another microbrewery, this time in the former warehouse district of Marvila. I’d heard great things emanating out of Dos Coivos, an independent, family-owned brewery producing distinctive craft beers, so we headed to their tap room to see what all the fuss was about – and we were not disappointed. A flight of beers (5x ⅓ pints) landed on the bar for us to test the water so-to-speak, brimming with delicious renditions of Indian Pale Ale, most notably the Rye IPA which we both agreed was our favourite. This was accompanied with slices of pizza and meat platters, served by an Englishman from Sheffield speaking perfect Portuguese – ‘See’ said Manuel “there’s hope for you yet”. I bid farewell, promising to return one fine day.
What to wear for a springtime break in Lisbon
- Mr. P Ribbed Cotton half-zip sweater, £210, mrporter.com
- Anderson & Sheppard Navy and red cotton mosaic neckerchief, £65, therake.com
- Rubinacci Blue cotton denim ruby jeans, £215, therake.com
- George Cleverley Brown suede Sean II loafers, £525, therake.com
- Rowing Blazers, black and blue check waxed cotton jacket, £815, therake.com
- Thule Revolve Wide-body Carry On Spinner suitcase, £379, thule.com
- Adriano Meneghetti Dark brown leather Navajo bracelet, £90, therake.com
- Rubinacci Manny Ghurka shorts, €280, mariorubinacci.net
- Jak Atom All white sneakers, £130, jakshoes.com