Styled like a traditional Comporta farm, Portugal retreat Quinta da Comporta exudes an air of rustic refinement, helped on its way by a superlative spa and enticing organic restaurant. Mimicking the region’s traditional architecture, the rooms are spread between thatch-roof cabanas and mock farmhouses with tiled roofs and painted shutters; from the windows, you overlook the sun-soaked rice fields that fringe the sleepy village of Carvalhal. Inside, whitewashed walls and wooden beams create a soothingly simple backdrop for the elegant furnishings, most of which are handmade from rattan, wood and patterned fabrics. This celebration of Comporta’s agrarian prowess is also evident in the spa – housed in a barn that was brought all the way from Canada – and the restaurant, which uses produce from the on-site organic garden.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £374.44 (€420), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates include an international buffet breakfast with homemade bread, pastries and jams; a range of milks, yoghurts and healthy toppings; and cheese, cold cuts and smoked fish. A glass of champagne is included.
Almost all of the hotel’s furniture, ceramics and tableware was made by a team of Portuguese artisans, all of them passionate about heritage and handmade methods.
At the hotel
Coffee shop and boutique, free WiFi throughout, laundry. In rooms: flatscreen TV; minibar; Delta coffee machine; tea and a kettle; free bottled water.
Our favourite rooms
If you’re happy to splash out, book one of the immaculate rooftop suites. Tucked beneath the wooden eaves, they have the loftiest views over the rice fields on the hotel’s doorstep. If you have the whole family in tow, the three-bedroom Pool Villas are a peaceful and private option. Mimicking the design of classic Comportan cabanas, each freestanding villa has a sun-washed living room, spacious dining room and a stylish kitchen with ample space for family meals. Outside, you’ll have a private sun deck and a pool overlooking the fields.
The 40m infinity pool overlooks the rice fields, catching reflections from the crops and surrounding buildings. There’s a second, adults-only pool in the spa, with an indoor and outdoor section.
Oryza spa is inspired by rice, a staple Comportan crop that also invokes thoughts of the Far East, where wellness rituals have been practiced for millennia. The spa building was a barn in its former life – the hotel’s owners spotted it on a trip to Canada, and liked so much they had it shipped over and reconstructed piece by piece. In its reincarnated form, it houses an indoor/outdoor pool, six treatment rooms and a relaxation area, where you’ll be greeted with a glass of rice water and a soothing foot bath ahead of your session. The team of therapists offer massages, scrubs, wraps and facials using the hotel’s own Orza Lab essential oils, which they can match to your skin type in the Beauty Atelier. Regular yoga, pilates and meditation classes complete the lineup.
Some of Comporta’s beaches are reached by staircases that carve down sandy cliffs and hills, so it’s worth bringing a decent pair of slip-ons.
All common areas are wheelchair accessible, and several Deluxe Rooms have been adapted.
All ages are welcome. The hotel runs a children’s programme in July and August, and can organise babysitting from €10 an hour; a week’s notice is needed when booking.
The hotel uses solar panels and recycles waste water, which is used in the garden.
Go for a table on the terrace, where you’ll have the best views over the fields at sunset.
Mrs Smith will hit the mark with flowing dresses from the likes of Ganni; for dinner, Mr Smith might slip on an unstructured jacket.
The restaurant is housed in a beautiful barn-like building with a pitched roof, stone columns and simple wooden furniture. A wall of windows runs along the side, leading out to a terrace and the rice paddies beyond, which look particularly ravishing when bathed in the evening’s last light. This rustic frame chimes perfectly with chef Joao Sousa’s approach to cooking, which begins with finding the best organic produce the region has to offer, paired with fruit, vegetables and herbs from the hotel’s own garden. Sousa has a definite affinity with the Mediterranean diet, cooking with plenty of fish and flavoursome vegetables, but isn’t blinkered by geography: there are flavours from further afield, too. Lunches are laid back, featuring lots of grilled seafood and tender meat. At dinner, the dishes are more playful and delicate, echoing the intimate atmosphere.
The bar is part of the restaurant, ensuring it has sunset views across the rice fields. There are more than 150 wines to choose from, both local and international, and many of the cocktails are made with produce from the organic garden.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 10.30am; lunch from 12.30pm to 3.30pm; dinner from 7.30pm to 10.30pm.
Room service is available round the clock. The à la carte menu is available during restaurant hours; from 10.30pm until breakfast, there’s a menu of snacks and light bites.
Quinta da Comporta is on the edge of Carvalhal, a peaceful village that’s a five-minute drive from Comporta’s beaches.
The best place to touch down is Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport. It takes around an hour to drive from there to the hotel; private transfers can be arranged for €185 each way.
The closest station is Grandola, which can be reached from Lisbon Entrecampos in just over an hour. From there, it takes around 25 minutes to drive to the hotel (staff can book you a local taxi for €50).
Your own set of wheels will make exploring the surrounding countryside much easier (ask the Smith24 team for help booking your hire car). The closest beach is around a kilometre from the hotel, so having a car will drastically cut the time it takes to get there (the hotel does, however, offer a free shuttle service to Pego beach). There’s free valet parking at the hotel.
Worth getting out of bed for
Nothing helps you ease into the out-of-office mood than a champagne breakfast, which is par the course at Quinta da Comporta. For those who prefer to start their day with a healthful hit, there are yoga, pilates and meditation sessions, all of them held in an inviting studio in the spa building. Speaking of the spa, you could easily while away half the day inside the repurposed barn, sampling massages, herbal wraps and beauty treatments; between sessions, sip herbal teas and snack on dried fruit in the relaxation area. Outside, the long, slim infinity pool is the definitive hangout while the sun’s high in the sky, but if salt water is more in your line, Comporta’s beautiful beaches can be reached in as little as five minutes by car. Backed by an extraordinary set of organ-pipe cliffs that range from pale honey to dark copper, Praia Galé-Fontainhas is the most dramatic of them all, and not to be missed.
If you like the idea of galloping through the shallows on a windswept steed, book a riding tour with Cavalos na Areia, who also run bike and kayak tours of Comporta’s coastline, passing rolling dunes, verdant rice fields and traditional fishing villages along the way. If you opt for the kayak tour, you’ll make your way up some of Comporta’s estuaries, which are home to flocks of birds and colonies of oysters. The hotel concierge can also arrange all sorts of private tours and experiences in the local area, including sailing, scuba diving, nature walks and hot-air balloon rides.
Perched on the sand at Praia do Pego, Sal is a laid-back beach restaurant with whitewashed walls and a netful of nautical props, many of them dangling from the ceiling. It isn’t cheap by local standards, but the sea views and grilled seafood makes it worth the splurge. To the north on Praia Comporta, Comporta Café is another beachfront hotspot, favoured for its shellfish and squid-ink pasta. From the outside, roadside restaurant Dona Bia may not look like much, but locals are only too willing to hop in their car and make the drive to this traditional eatery. Try one of the seafood pots cooked with coriander rice. For a more modern affair, book a table for dinner at Cavalariça, which has taken up residence in a refurbished stables. The hay racks are still on the walls and the stall dividers now separate the tables, adding a rustic echo to this otherwise modern restaurant. The menu makes use of local ingredients but is less traditional than many of its peers, due in part to the youthful team in the kitchen.
Cavalariça’s seasonal cocktails are well worth stopping in for, and local concept store Lavanda run an in-store bar from June to September each year, adding further incentive to peruse their regional wares.
‘Are they even ready yet?’ asks 14-year-old Miss Smith. Judging by the piles of sand, empty flower boxes and stacked furniture, luxury resort Quinta da Comporta appears to be shut – but I have always been an early bird. I don’t just mean I tend to be rigorously punctual, but as a documentary filmmaker I was invariably on the premature side with my subject matter. I made a film about AIDS when the world was still in denial about it and I’d shot half a dozen films about female genital mutilation before most of my friends knew what it was. As a journalist I’ve always liked projects that involve me predicting trends or being ahead of the curve, and so it’s fitting to be at this spanking new resort during its ‘soft’ opening period, before it’s really up and running.
Besides, I am always intrigued to see what a new luxury resort is doing to differentiate itself, because in today’s luxury industry pampering and self-indulgence are now considered so last century. Nowadays any serious wellness resort has to offer something akin to a spiritual pilgrimage to keep up with its competitors – Quinta da Comporta is no exception. From a distance, it looks like a futuristic farm. Located on the edge of Carvalhal, a village about an hour south of Lisbon, the resort comprises a series of barns and long whitewashed stable-like buildings, brightened by terracotta roof tiles and blue paint. All the buildings face the sun, so you catch it rising and setting over the surrounding rice fields. The renowned Portuguese architect, Miguel Câncio Martins, has envisioned the place as an authentic reflection of his love and respect for the resort’s agricultural location. We’re encouraged to reconnect with and absorb the ‘wise lessons’ of nature’s rhythms.
Miss Smith and I arrive via a long train ride up from Silves via Tunes to Grândola, a beautiful journey through river valleys that yield to lush green as we head north. We are looking forward to two nights of recuperation after a winter of political discontent in London and a week of partying with friends in the south. On arrival, we’re led along wooden slatted paths that wind through a sandy landscape dotted with newly planted trees and shrubs, leading to a covered area of polished concrete. Roughly hewn wooden doors open into our spacious whitewashed and beamed room, which has a wooden deck looking over the (not yet functioning) infinity pool and the rice fields beyond. Our room lies next to a spacious lounge with a stash of board games. It’s not yet open, but we agree that when it does we’d want to hang out there. For now, our room, with a big sofa, TV screen, efficient WiFi and plenty of plugs is more than comfortable. It has a sizeable bathroom with a walk-in shower and a bath tub with a view of a rough wooden fence, suggesting we are mere inches from an ancient barn.
A word about the bed: the quality of bedding clearly indicates that Quinto da Comporta believes sleep is key to well-being. Plump and inviting, with new white linen, the bed is one of the biggest I’ve encountered, an advantage when sharing with a hyper teenager. Furthermore, the doors to our deck are equipped with shutters, mosquito nets and black-out curtains so there is no chance of sleep being disturbed. Sustainability is key here: energy is solar, a bio-garden is planned, wastewater is treated and water bottles are glass (though the bathroom could do with less cellophane and plastic packaging). The resort’s ‘eco-conscience’ means the buildings are crafted from locally sourced materials like rattan, bamboo, thatch, string and wood, to reinvent the lines of old warehouses, fishermen’s cabanas and farmers’ cottages. There are 73 rooms, including suites and three-bedroom villas with pools. Bordered by the Sado River, the rice fields must shimmer with emerald brilliance in the summer, but in April they constitute a flat brown landscape. In many ways this earthy plainness is a metaphor for everything Quinta da Comporta aims to be: an inward journey to reconnect with the simpler joys of life.
Hungry after our train journey, we went for an early dinner at 7.30pm. There are two other couples and a small family in the gigantic dining barn that also houses the open-plan kitchen and a bar. The bar won’t open till later in the year, but a bottle of crisp chilled 2017 Verdelho is produced and we sit beside one of the four fireplaces to watch the sun sinking behind the rice fields. The cooking is elaborate and involves a lot of foam – we eat octopus carpaccio with quails’ eggs, sole with beluga lentils, artichoke in lobster sauce (foaming), and monkfish with creamy rice, prawns, algae and fennel (more foaming). The ingredients, including edible flowers, are locally sourced, organic, fresh and well worth the steep price. Our ‘sands of chocolate’ pudding, with parfait, coffee mousseline and caramelised hazelnut, is sublime. Our waitress explains that the dining hall is a repurposed barn brought over from Canada. Once she’s told us that, it does feel a bit like the barn that Harrison Ford helped the Amish build in Witness. The rustic, Shaker look is augmented by rows of enormous string lamps hanging from the beams and the austere yet chic white ceramic tableware.
We book a massage in the Oryza (Rice) Spa, also housed in a mammoth barn, which has treatments that harness the many health benefits of rice – it’s claimed it can rejuvenate skin and hair, boost sluggish metabolisms, help digestion, reduce high blood pressure and sugar levels and boost the immune and nervous systems. That’s us told. It’s a theme continued at breakfast (which is excellent) – we’re all given a small glass of nutmeg-infused rice water as a cleansing start to the day. The spa is not yet fully functioning and besides Miss Smith is deemed too young to roam around it unaccompanied, though she’s allowed to have a massage there with me. We’re given an efficient, relaxing and beautifully scented pummelling together.
Carvalhal Beach, a curve of white sand pounded by theatrically thundering Atlantic surf, is a two-mile walk away along quiet roads. Despite clear blue skies, there’s hardly anyone on it and we eat grilled mackerel and fried squid on the deck of a beachfront restaurant. Miss Smith manages the beginnings of a tan and we discuss the satisfying joys of being early birds before the summer crowds arrive. From the resort, you can go riding or walking or see dolphins on a boat trip. Nearby Comporta has artisan shops (we visited a cultural market there) and in Carvalhal itself is 5 Sentidos, a lively, friendly, family-run restaurant, where we had squid-ink risotto and shrimp and squid in a bean and chorizo stew. But really, the point of Quinta da Comporta is just to sit and be still. There are no distracting fripperies here, just the restful rice fields. Quinta da Comporta suggests that the greatest luxury is time, and what this unspectacular flat landscape offers is the opportunity to decompress, breathe, enjoy the sky and birdsong and find the mental, emotional and spiritual bandwidth for our healing inward journey.
When Prince Alfonso opened the Marbella Club in 1954 he defined luxury as ‘privacy in a garden’, a definition that’s stood the test of time. Contemporary luxury has moved on to be more akin to spiritual enlightenment in a wilderness and this is exactly what Quinta da Comporta strives to provide, with its artfully designed agricultural backdrop. As we leave for Lisbon airport, a 90-minute drive away. Miss Smith and I agree that what the resort lacked in readiness is more than compensated for in the enthusiasm and optimism of the staff. We’re looking forward to returning when the planting is done, and when the bar, lounge and pool are open, so we can drift into a blissful state of rice-fuelled physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.