During the short taxi ride from the airport to the hotel, our driver emphasises just how great Portuguese cuisine is. Thank goodness, that was the main reason we were visiting Lisbon.
Pulling up in the general vicinity of the hotel, it takes us a while to locate the actual front door of Memmo Principe Real. Despite being a luxurious 5* destination, Memmo isn’t into flashy facades – it’s altogether more classy than that. We eventually find the entrance discreetly tucked away behind the main stretch of road, its refined demeanour slowly revealing itself as we descend the hill.
Young, fun staff welcome us and check us in smoothly. We briefly mention a restaurant we’d like to try whilst we were there and moments later we had a reservation in the previously fully booked dining room. Impressive.
Our room not quite ready, we wasted no time entrusting our luggage to the helpful porter before checking out the upmarket area of Principe Real. After stocking up on espadrilles we stumble upon highly praised A Cevicheria – just a short stroll from the hotel it’s a must visit for their Portuguese ceviche. They don’t take bookings so do as the locals and sip on expertly made pisco sours whilst waiting for a table. After lunch we took our drivers advice and located the legendary Manteigaria. Attempting a look of nonchalance we wait for the bell to ring as instructed, which declares a fresh batch of pastel de nata is about to appear from the oven.
Custard tart cravings sated, we headed back to base, eager to check out our home for the weekend. We’d booked a superior city view room which did exactly what it said on the tin. Located on the fourth floor, an uninterrupted view of Lisbon stretched out before us, taking in the castle no less.
The room is a masterpiece in minimal design. Light wooden sliding panels separate the large limestone bathroom from the main bedroom which contains a king-size bed with crisp white sheets topped with a teddy bear-soft faux fur throw. The appliances are discreet but high-tech courtesy of Bang & Olufsen, but there are unique touches too – a handmade hat and tailors dress form are used as decorative touches.
I put Andy to work at our mini bar where we’d been left with the complimentary ingredients and instructions to make our own welcome drink – the perfect white port and tonic.
Back in the bathroom we wasted no time freshening up in the rain shower, indulging in the orange scented Hermes toiletries. Everything we needed had been provided, including scales (so we can keep an eye on our custard tart consumption?) and a magnifying mirror that lights up when you peer into it. We find our walk-in wardrobe and forget about unpacking – out of sight, out of mind – it succeeds in hiding our bags for the weekend and keeps our room as pristine as possible.
We’re woken from our afternoon snooze by housekeeping making sure we’re happy and excitedly pressing chocolate truffles into our hands. One day we’ll remember to make use of the Do Not Disturb sign but until then, it’s the most charming wake up call.
Begrudgingly we left our room to embark on the hotel’s complimentary walking tour, which departs daily each afternoon. We take in everything from churches to chocolate shops and get our bearings thanks to our enigmatic guide. We learn that Portugal was neutral in WW2 and therefore THE party place for exiled Kings to hang out, at one point boasting more monarchs than 5* hotels. We can see why. It’s well worth signing up for if you can bear to leave your room.
The next morning we woke up late due to our incredibly comfy bed (maybe it was the six pillows?) and made our way downstairs to breakfast. Taking a seat on the velvet sofa, we admire the view of the elegant swimming pool through the floor to ceiling windows. A friendly waiter advices that the green juice is great (the carrot not so much) and we go with his recommendation. As if by magic a cake stand appears on our black marble table containing every type of bread, pastry and yes – mini custard tarts! The feast doesn’t end there. There’s an extensive buffet choice (including Perrier-Jouët champagne) which we devour before ordering freshly poached eggs and smoked salmon from the kitchen.
It’s only natural that we’d need a lie down after that, so we retire to the terrace. Hotel guests have a discreet pool-side area where we snuggle up on a lounger, big enough for two and so divinely comfortable that there’s a real risk of never getting up. Thankfully there’s really no need to and we use the buzzer provided to order cocktails from the bar. The heated pool isn’t intended for Olympic laps, rather gentle dips which cool us from the midday heat.
The only thing that prises us from our comfortable spot, the promise of a custard tart for the road…