Heading for the Algarve is always a pleasure. Usually I’d start my trip in Tavira or Faro, but I’d been missing the charming and captivating town of Vila Real de Santo António that faces out over a sparkling marina. On the town’s elegant avenue one finds the wonderful Grand House Algarve, writes Andrew Forbes (The Luxury Editor).
Grand House Algarve is an exquisitely restored Grand Dame; a historic hotel that first opened in the roaring 20s. Now a century later Grand House combines the elegance of a bygone era with contemporary style and facilities. There are lots of different spaces for different moods, from the roof terrace, flooded with light, the cosy library, to the stylish cocktail bar.
…authenticity, simplicity, and soul…
This is how the team at Grand House Algarve craft there very own interpretation of luxury. Through authentic, welcoming hospitality, General Manager Marita Barth and her team deliver a truly special guest experience.
So, despite the grandeur of the classic architecture and refined Art Nouveau detailing, Grand House is all about the personalised attention and the friendly team. I also found the ambiance to be relaxed and welcoming in this pet-friendly hotel. The chances are you will be greeted in reception not only by the helpful Front Desk team but also by ‘Junior Butler Grand’, a fluffy Portuguese Water Dog puppy that is part of the hotel family. She bounces from reception to the front door, setting the tone for an unpretentious and cosy stay.
…eclectic & chic…
The classic interiors, with creative contemporary twists, play on the property’s Grand Dame history, as well as Portugal’s colonial maritime history of global exploration. Expect an eclectic mix of artefacts collected from around the world, from antique Asian vases, vintage chandeliers, and precious fabrics by Louis Vuitton. This unique style is the work of Portuguese interior design duo ‘White & Kaki’.
Rooms & Suites
Grand House has 6 suites, each with a tranquil aesthetic that makes the most of the abundant natural light. A few art nouveau features collide with baroque style elements from extravagant picture frames to ornate chandeliers.
There are also 12 ‘medium’ rooms and 12 ‘small’ rooms. Each share the same relaxing, elegant style.
We were fortunate to stay in the corner Grand Suite with stunning double height French Windows that opened onto a balcony that wrapped around the room. The space was flooded with light.
Thoughtful details at turndown included homemade local cookies (Areias) and homemade green apple and lime liquor.
Breakfast is in served in the Grand Salon, although one morning we made the most of the spectacular sunrise and enjoyed breakfast in the room.
As a Relais & Châteaux property you can expect to eat & drink well here too. The Grand Salon Restaurant & Bar offers expertly prepared cocktails, gourmet tasting menus and an impressive selection of Portuguese wines.
Head barman Filipe is an award-winning mixologist, who together with is wife, have created a sensation cocktail menu for both the Grand House and the nearby Grand Beach Club. Start off your stay in style with a ´Grand Spritz’ with Portuguese vinho verde, Spanish bonanto and lime, basil and soda. Or maybe before a tasting menu try an ‘Algarvian Sour’ created with homemade lemon sour, local carob and Aguardente de Medronhos.
…flavours of the Algarve…
The tasting menu was a real treat. Sophisticated dining in the elegant Grand Salon, with superb service. Dishes showcased local produce from Atlantic fresh fish and seafood to locally sourced vegetables. Filipe expertly paired each dish with Portuguese wines.
Teodora Martins is an expert vacation designer and will be team will be happy to create tailored experiences to transform a stay into a memorial trip.
We enjoyed the expert insights of barman Felipe, with a cocktail masterclass. Learning the history, elements and different techniques of cocktails making, the personalised masterclass was a fascinating and entertaining evening.
Teodora also took us to the nearby salt marches of the Sapal de Castro Marim Nature Reserve. Here we visited a family-owned business that continues to harvest the flor de sal from water that naturally evaporates in salt pans dug out within the marshlands.
Owner Jorge shared his passion for this most artisan of products and invited us to try the delicate pyramids of salt, learning about the different varieties that are prized by gourmet chefs. Then we feasted on huge Atlantic carabineros prawns cooked on a bed of salt, served with local goats’ cheese and over-sized juicy beef tomatoes.
Grand Beach Club
Vila Real de Santo Antonio is in a unique location, on the delta of the river Guadiana where it meets the Atlantic. Here guests will find the Grand Beach Club, just a few kilometres from Grand House. A complimentary car service will whisk you there, but I can recommend taking the hotel bicycles for the short ride down to this beautifully designed waterside restaurant with pool, sandy, landscaped sun terraces, with lounge beds and hammocks. It’s a beautiful place that adds a little island magic to a stay.
Before the motorway bridge was built across the River Guadiana, travellers crossing the border from Spain into the Algarve would have taken the ferry across to Vila Real de Santo António. As the first town Spaniards from Andalucia would reach, it was designed to appear impressive. The main street looking out across the river to Ayemonte is a row of elegant houses with extravagant glass windows.
Grand House is part of the regeneration of this delightful main avenue. An adjacent period property is being renovated to become a Grand Café, whilst a few doors further down, the old customs house is also being restored, and will be transformed into an exclusive venue for guests including a supper club and cigar club.
Santo António shares the same elegant 18th century Pombaline architectural style of the Portuguese capital. For me, it’s so evocative of Lisbon’s elegant Baixa centre. Unsurprisingly, since both were rebuilt after the 1755 earthquake and tsunami under the direction of the Marquês de Pombal. The town retains some delightful old houses, and lots of interesting shops and market stalls selling everything from Portuguese towels and linens, to traditional cataplana cooking pans. Make sure you visit the smart main square, the Praça Marquês de Pombal, framed with period buildings, lined with orange trees and paved with distinctive black and white basalt and limestone mosaic tiles, typical of the country’s ‘Calcada Portuguesa’ squares, promenades and pavements.
There are also fabulous beaches nearby and delightful hamlets and coastal villages – it all makes for a remarkable geaway.
Find Out More
Rates start from €230 per room per night on a B&B basis