We heard about Casa Mãe last year sometime, when we came across their own inaugural magazine in one of our favourite Lisbon spots, Copenhagen Coffee Lab. The magazine spoke of the plans for the property, the suppliers they were going to be using and the concept of the hotel. We instantly knew that it was somewhere we wanted to explore. I booked us up for a weekend there to celebrate Caitlin’s birthday.
Casa Mãe is part original building and part new development. The old building, Casa Mãe itself, is a 19th century manor house offering luxury suites and living. It was still a week or so away from being fully open when we visited, but we were lucky enough to be given a tour and it is going to be spectacular. Below the house, and overlooking the vegetable garden, you’ll find the Cabanas, which offer private patios and outside showers.
We stayed in the main building, Jogo da bola. It’s a new structure with rooms directly from an interior designer’s dream, all complete with balcony, hammock and plenty of local produce including soaps made in-house and organic shampoos. The beds are big and comfy and the free standing bath huge. The building itself is minimalist, and the rooms reflect this. Terracotta floors, white walls and rough, natural edges.
Food is a big part of the resort, which doesn’t just boast its own restaurant, Orta, but also a vegetable patch onsite and a farm just an hour up the road. Time has been taken to ensure the food is as local and as organic as possible. There are even plans for guests to pick their own vegetables from the garden, which the chef will then cook for them.
Breakfast is served at the very agreeable time of 8am until midday. None of this 7.30-9am ridiculousness so many places decide to offer here. The avocado and poached egg on toast is a particular highlight, but you’ve got choices ranging from eggs and bacon to granola and dried figs. It’s a mix and match affair, where you choose a main dish and then add a few side bits. I would have liked two more days there to be able to give a fuller review, but between Caitlin and I we managed to cover a lot of the choices and didn’t find a weak point. And it can all be finished off of course with coffee from Copenhagen Coffee Lab.
The weekend we stayed was workshop week, and as a bit of a birthday surprise I booked us into the cooking workshop with Bruno, the head chef. After a couple of hours learning how to gut and fillet a fish like a pro (spoiler: just keep pushing against the bones and it should work), we got onto Bruno’s true love. Vegetables. As well as the farm and the garden, he’d been to the local farmer’s market that morning, and he was in his element. His love of freshness and getting the most flavour out of basic ingredients, shined through as we chomped our way through radishes, cauliflower, mustard seeds, various flowers, sweet potatoes and plenty more. It was probably my favourite part of the entire trip, and if you do decide to visit, and it happens to be workshop week, I can’t recommend it enough.
Elsewhere in the kitchen you’ll find jars filled with pickling kimchi, honey and garlic, and anything else that Bruno and his team think might produce something great.
With so many wonderful artisan brands showing off the best of contemporary takes on traditional portuguese design used throughout the hotel, it would be a shame not be able to take some home for yourself. Luckily they have thought of that with the great Loja concept store. Here you can buy clothes from La Paz, +351 and Daily Day, rugs from Gur, bags from Lona, and ceramics from Circulo. There are also local beers, wine and even a magazine section, which in a change of direction is curated by London magazine store magCulture.
Casa Mãe is a work in progress, and there are still teething problems. The house should have been open by now, and there’s still some work needed to ensure the kitchen can cope with a full hotel, but the bones are in place. And most importantly the desire to stick to their concept is strong. The staff are friendly and want to make your stay extra special. We didn’t ask to see the Casa Mãe house itself, for example, but they offered us the chance as soon as we checked in. We’ll be back in the summer, and can’t wait.