Hotel Review: Farol Design Hotel – Cascais, Portugal
I heard about Farol Design Hotel from the Design Hotels (designhotels.com) online newsletter.
The first thing that struck me was the mysterious moniker: “On the Water”. I was enticed.
Further research was required. My sleuthing led me to extraordinary online images of delirious waves crashing violently over jagged rocks. Those pictures oozed mystery and wild abandon. I was in love. I read traveller reviews, scoured a few airline fares, and viola, a trip to Cascais was born.
The hotel is situated approximately 40 minutes by car from Lisbon airport, on the Estoril Coast. The drive can be a bit tricky if you’re not a local, so I’d recommend employing a GPS navigator. The town of Cascais itself is a pretty little fishing village complete with a sleepy marina and a proud lighthouse. We found that is was relatively easy to make day trips to nearby Sintra and Lisbon by car.
Upon arrival, we found plenty of parking space. I particularly loved the huge sculpture at the entrance with the bent-over man proffering a flower. These savvy sculptural details could be found throughout the hotel, and added to the quirky, design feel of the property.
The hotel itself, a renovated 19th century mansion handsomely married to a new, modern wing which had been added to house the restaurant and some additional guest rooms. The breathtaking blinding white exterior with space-age loungers certainly fed my taste for contemporary and modern design.
The hotel comprises of 20 guest rooms, 3 suites, and a penthouse. 9 additional ‘designer’ rooms (fashioned by different designers) offered guests the chance to experience a unique haven.
We had booked a sea view room, and were expecting some of the stunning views that are showcased on the hotel’s website. However we were hugely disappointed to find that ‘sea view’ meant only a small window that one could peer out of onto pool and sea. There was no balcony from which we could enjoy the views.
Furthermore, it seemed our room was situated in the ‘old’ section of the hotel, and the dark wooden beams criss-crossing the ceiling lent a dark and dreary look to the room. I was quickly disenchanted by the huge contrast from the contemporary appearance of the lobby and common areas, to the aged look of our room.
We decided not to let our disappointment over the room ruin our romantic vacation away, and after unpacking we headed out to explore the property a little more. The relatively small grounds lead out onto the magnificent pool area. The sleek rectangular design of the pool flowed perfectly into the rocky backdrop of pounding waves. It was heavenly to sit out there, sun beating down and just enjoy the remarkable views.
Cleverly, the entire perimeter was fenced by clear panes, allowing for uninhibited views of the ocean. Stone and concrete flooring gave the impression of stylishly earthy finishes.
The pool sparkled like a jewel but the water was freezing and made any hope of swimming disappear. Sleek sun loungers lined the wall closest to the pool while comfy day beds lay strewn along the patch of lawn.
On our first day, we tried the Sushi bar, Sushi Design. The sushi was beautifully presented, and the taste and quality were exceptional. We would have liked to return for another meal, but we quite enjoyed finding local restaurants in the area instead. We never visited the Mix Restaurant, so unfortunately I can’t offer any advice on that. However the stunning décor of the restaurant left me breathless. Huge flower-petal chandeliers hung from the ceiling, and the mixture of chrome, glass, black and white made for a very extravagant setting.
Breakfast was included in our rate, and comprised of the usual hot and cold selections. Several made-to-order items were also available, such as pancakes or omelets, but one had to ask (or read the menu’s fine print). We ate out on the terrace every day, as we could not get enough of the magnificent views. The pancakes were outstanding and we found the patisserie fresh and tasty –not a dried croissant in sight!
The breakfast staff were extremely polite and friendly. We had celebrated Mr Wolf’s birthday on this trip, and I had made mention of this to the waiter during breakfast. And what do you know… as we were finishing our coffees, the exceptionally sweet waiters brought over a birthday cake and two glasses of champagne to our table, on the house. It was a lovely, unexpected gesture and we really enjoyed the moment. Great service really goes a long way in creating lasting memories.
What I loved:
- Bar on the Rocks: The poolside servers were very efficient, and soon after ordering, we had our cocktail of choice in hand. The bar prices are somewhat higher than typical hotels in the area, but the hotel’s 5 stars, and its affiliation to the Design Hotels group would certainly have contributed to that. All in all, for the exceptional views, stunning décor, and efficient services, I did not find the prices prohibitive at all.
- Views to die for. I finally understood “On the Water”. It was literal.
What I didn’t love:
- I’ll say it again and again. I hated the wooden beams and the darkness of the room. I wanted a bright, modern space. It’s what sold me on the hotel in the first place!
- The neon lighting along the pool area at night: Fancy? Yes. Luxurious and fitting for a 5 star hotel? No.
In summary, once I got over the disappointment of our room, I quite enjoyed my stay at Farol Design Hotel. The staff interact well with guests and are very friendly and helpful in terms of giving directions or suggestions for local activities, restaurants etc. The contemporary design appealed to me, but should extend to all guest rooms to ensure the flow is maintained.
That being said, I probably wouldn’t return to this hotel.
This post was featured in iAfrica Travel on 11 June 2013
Disclaimer: No part of this vacation (travel, accommodation or otherwise) was paid for by Farol Design Hotel. The views expressed in this review are from my own personal experience, and have not been prejudiced in any form.