Calling something sublime sets up certain expectations: Sublime Comporta doesn’t disappoint, thanks to its sleepy bucolic setting (in easy reach of Portugal’s best beach), minimalist design – all glittering glass, white wood and modernist va-va-voom – and delicious Portuguese food. This handsome hotel’s romantic rooms and cosy cabanas occupy a bucolic 17-acre patch of woodlands and wildflowers, home to a knee-weakening pool with a fire pit beyond it, designed for sultry, sociable nights. If you go home without trying the suckling pig, scarlet prawns or the other wonders the chef finds in the hotel garden, from local fishermen and at nearby wineries, we haven’t done our job properly.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm, 4pm for villas.
Double rooms from £155.16 (€180), including tax at 6 per cent.
Rates usually include breakfast (Continental and cooked options, including just-baked pastries, ham, cheese, granola, eggs, bacon and so on).
Sublime Comporta has a stash of bikes for guests to borrow.
At the hotel
Scenic 17-hectare estate; fire pit; gym and fitness classes; free WiFi throughout. In rooms: TV, desk, minibar, bathrobes.
Our favourite rooms
We wish we were still bedding down in one of the Cabanas, which are set apart from the lobby and main building, offering plenty of privacy. Comporta-inspired architecture and minimalist Scandinavian styling adds up to a ridiculously romantic effect; referencing their forest roots, the cabanas come with cork walls, exposed wooden beams, pine stools and straw lampshades. To quote Bjork, it’s all so quiet: all you can hear outside is birdsong (unless one of you dive-bombs into your private pool, that is). Each cabana also has an indoor/outdoor fireplace and a cosy outside seating area, equipped with wooden tables, chairs and a handy stash of blankets. If you’d prefer to stay in the main building, the Owner’s Suite is as good as it sounds, thanks in part to two terraces, one of which has a hot tub.
Sublime Comporta’s ravishing, adults-only pool is set in the green-and-gold grounds, next to a fire pit that hints at sociable evenings. There’s also a small pool by the restaurant, for little Smiths to splash around in.
Set in the main building, the spa has a peaceful heated pool, a sauna, steam bath and a fleet of celestial therapists. Have a massage in the pine-shaded grounds, unwind in the sleeping pods or notch up a few laps. After your treatment, try a herbal tea featuring leaves plucked from the garden.
Bear in mind that staff rock white linens, so you might want to go easy on your own. Bring your thirst: Herdade da Comporta is home to some excellent wineries.
Bedrooms in the Friends Room King Bed category are suitable for wheelchair-users.
Small Smiths can come too and will love running around on the beach nearby; babysitting is available for €15 an hour, and the restaurant has a dedicated kids menu and highchairs to borrow.
Out on the wooden deck. Summer can mean mozzies, in which case plump for window seats inside.
Woodland nymph or satyr. To match the hotel, combine minimalist, monochrome tailoring with wood or nut-brown accents.
Get an introduction to the region’s natural bounty – both on land and underwater – at Sem Porta Restaurant, whose open-plan dining room puts the Great Outdoors centre stage, with help from floor-to-ceiling windows. The chef is dedicated to locally sourced, seasonal food to truly reflect the Alentejo region – the hotel even grows its own organic ingredients onsite – and the kitchen works closely with local fishermen, farms and wineries. Nibble local razor clams, suckling pig with orange purée and black-pepper sauce or the succulent catch of the day (and team whatever you opt for with a bottle of crisp, chilled Comporta white wine). Or, enjoy a more intimate meal in the Food Circle, a 12-seater restaurant in the garden, which uses ancestral cooking methods and the principles of permaculture for a unique tasting-menu experience. Tasca da Comporta is more laidback; here you can nibble on petiscos, such as octopus salad or fire-grilled black-pork chorizo in a relaxing natural setting.
And, from June to September, you can spend sunny days stretched out on the picturesque Carvalhal beach at the Sublime Comporta beach club, just ten minutes from the hotel. Be sure to book in advance as it fills up fast. Move from sunlounger to lunch to cocktails at this chic beach spot. The menu has classic Mediterranean summer fare: grilled local fish, seafood linguine and grilled meats, all complemented by a list of local and international wines and cocktails.
Try eight different spins on the mojito (passionfruit was our fave) at Sublime Comporta’s relaxed Botanico bar, which is housed in the main building (a pleasing sight upon check-in). The capable bar stuff don’t really do menus; they’d much rather quiz you on your tastes and concoct something boozily bespoke.
Breakfast is served from 8am to 11am, lunch from noon to 3pm and dinner from 7pm to 10pm. Tasca closes from October until early January (but is open for lunch 21 December to 7 January) and in March. Sem Porta closes from 8 January to 29 February.
Order from a limited menu between 10am and 10pm; treats include Caesar salad (shrimp or chicken), goat’s cheese salad with olive tapenade, and an onion-relish-slathered burger.
Sublime Comporta sits in a stunning 17-acre estate, south of Lisbon, on Herdade da Comporta: a swoop of coast between the Sado Estuary and the sea. One of Portugal’s best beaches is just a 15-minute drive away.
Lisbon Airport is 128 kilometres from the hotel (www.lisbon-airport.com); EasyJet offers direct flights from major cities in the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland. Transatlantic flights arrive via Madrid-Barajas; flights across the Pacific arrive via Abu Dhabi or Guangzhou Baiyun and Amsterdam Schipol. If you take the speedy route from the airport, you’ll be at Sublime Comporta in one hour and 15 minutes. Hotel transfers are €195 a vehicle (for up to four guests), each way.
Lisbon is around one hour and 15 minutes away by car. From the airport, take the Vasco da Gama bridge and the A12 highway, then the A2 towards south (Algarve) for approximately 100 kilometres. Take exit 9 (Grândola/Sines) and merge onto the IC33. Continue for about nine kilometres, then take the exit towards Comporta/Troia. Turn left onto N261-1 and continue for another 10.5 kilometres, until crossing the small village of Muda. Just 1.5 kilometres down the road, you’ll find the signs for Sublime Comporta on the right. The hotel has plenty of free on-site parking.
If you’re not in a rush to get here, take the scenic route from Lisbon and hop on the Troia ferry (keeping your eyes peeled for dolphins) across Sado River. It’s a short drive to the hotel from the Troia Peninsula (http://www.atlanticferries.pt/en/index.aspx).
Worth getting out of bed for
Herdade da Comporta has plenty to write home about: discover its tranquil 70-kilometre coastline, home to Portugal’s best beach. Ask nicely and staff will pack you a picnic, drop you off at a deserted patch of white sand and arrange a time to come and collect you. Visit some of Comporta’s amazing wineries, Herdade da ComportaandQuinta Brejinho da Costa (staff will tip you off to some others if needed), or ask the hotel to arrange horse-riding in the surrounding rice fields and beaches. It’s also a beautiful place to go running, should you be so inclined. A word to the wise – if you've got your heart set on a particular activity or excursion, be sure to book before arrival to avoid disappointment. During Christmas, the hotel hosts a fare-filled market, wine tastings by the fireplace, and cookie making classes for all.
Soak up the prime beach views and squabble over crunchy calamari, fat prawns and just-caught fish at Sal Comporta, which occupies a prime slice of sand on Praia do Pêgo. Owned by a fisherman, O Dinis, Grandola woos locals and global fashion-editors alike, serving succulent seafood in a humble-but-brilliant space in Carvalhal.
While it’s hard to regret the invention of air conditioning in Portugal, even in late September, the pine-drenched warmth that greets me as I hoist myself out of the car window to reach Sublime’s (perfectly positioned) entry phone proves so thrilling I immediately stop complaining about Someone’s bad driving and start loudly regretting the wasted hour we’ve just spent inhaling Eau de Fiat Panda instead.
In fact, the Panda – a serviceable yet notably ugly vehicle we quickly christen the Popemobile in honour of His Holiness’ recent visit to Portugal (or more truthfully, because of its ungainly proportions) – is to prove a millstone round our necks for the entirety of our stay. Within those artfully rustic gates lies a world of understated elegance and quiet luxury – and, for this weekend only, our pea green entry-level hire car.
That said, Sublime’s lovely young staff don’t raise so much as a well-groomed eyebrow at our aesthetically challenged transport choice – they’re so friendly that I’m tempted to hop on the golf buggy with the receptionist and leave Mr Smith to do the drive of shame to our suite solo. Instead, I spend the entire three minute journey crouched over, pretending to try and find the coin that slipped under the seat in the inevitable frenzy of the motorway tollbooth. (You never know when you might need 20 cents in a luxury hotel.)
All this embarrassment is no doubt all in my head; Sublime is the kind of place where fellow guests politely ask whether you’d mind if they put on some ‘Balearic beats’ round the pool – ‘it’ll be super chill, I promise’ – or if you could do with a spritz of organic insect repellent. (The beasts in need of repelling are tiny flies, not mosquitoes, which is an important distinction as far as I’m concerned; flies only take a single punchy margarita to stop being annoying, mosquitos require a bottle of tequila to be even tolerable.)
The whole vibe here is so super chill, in fact, that it’s almost otherworldly – a feeling reinforced by the fact that, although our room is but a couple of minutes walk along clearly marked forest paths from the main reception area, I manage to get lost on several occasions, too busy wandering around with my mouth open wittering on about the beauty of the parasol pines (‘absolutely my second favourite tree’) to pay attention to directions. This is nothing, however, to the panicky half hour I spend flailing around thorn bushes with a family of wild boar after embarking on an overambitious run one morning – the surrounding countryside is glorious, but I’d recommend asking staff about routes rather than striking out in the dubious company of Google maps.
During my epic struggle to find my way back to Sublime civilisation, I’m struck by the worrying, but increasingly credible possibility that the estate actually exists in an alternative, and rather more desirable reality. Though, once safely installed in front of a strong coffee, I recognise this as the rambling of a woman desperately afraid of missing out on homemade granola. Nevertheless the feeling persists, and indeed it’s a reality I’d be more than happy to defect to full time, if only I were a different person. The clean white decor of the room, for example, all sheer white curtains billowing in the breeze and soaring ceilings, has a profoundly calming effect on us both – until I open my suitcase and all is chaos again.
Sadly said suitcase is too tightly packed (I laugh in the face of baggage charges) to accommodate one of the lovely embroidered cushions that provide the only splash of colour in an ocean of tasteful neutrals, though I strongly consider making an offer for the wall-hanging fashioned from local cork. A sculptural pinboard would be so useful for the detritus that tends to follow me round in real life.
To my considerable relief, there’s very little need for the Panda on our three-day stay, though we do razz it down to the hip village of Comporta one afternoon on the pretence of exploring the local area. The beach – wide, sandy, almost empty, save for a couple of laid-back bars serving icy rosé and tapas – is perfect, but I fall harder for the Gomes Supermercados, a dimly-lit warren of culinary joy with an extensive range of tinned sardines in beautiful packaging, and a fabulous pair of goat-shaped salt and pepper shakers that nearly spark divorce proceedings.
Otherwise we loll about on dove-grey sun loungers next to the bracing infinity pool, sip margaritas by the sunken fire pit and eat. Mostly we eat. So generous are the breakfasts (pasteis de nata on tap!) that, with the help of the odd olive or 70 we just about manage to hold out until dinner, where we ravage the eclectic, rather sprawling menu like ill-bred locusts, boldly chasing up xara, an Alentejo speciality which I surmise to be brawn, and homemade pickles with rice pudding and avocado ice cream.
If the kitchen sometimes seems to be trying a bit too hard, the food is certainly never boring, which is refreshing in a place where there are no alternatives within walking distance. The two local wines recommended to us are so exceptional I order a case of the white on my phone as the Panda rattles us back to reality. After all, that hard-won 20 cents won’t spend itself.