Traditional Portuguese interiors meld with contemporary design at this new hotel entry in the Portuguese capital, which also boasts a hidden culinary gem in restaurant Azul & Branco
As first-time visitors to Lisbon, it wasn’t easy to figure out where might be the best location to stay.
But, as soon as I spotted the sparkling new H10 Duque de Loulé hotel, and particularly its 10th floor outdoor terrace looking out across the city and as far as the Tagus River, I knew this was it.
Our first accommodation pick is always a boutique property, so this gorgeous new four-star entry to the Spanish-owned H10 Hotels family easily beat out its international multi-storey competition.
Host to 89 rooms and suites, the H10 Duque de Loulé opened its doors in March on Duque de Loulé Street, a small thoroughfare off stately Marques de Pombal square that runs parallel to Lisbon’s main drag, Avenida da Liberdade.
Interior designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán is responsible for carefully renovating and decorating one of central Lisbon’s historical buildings, while preserving its attractive 18th century façade.
It’s not surprising that H10 Hotels – which is expanding its portfolio in other European countries and the Caribbean – invested in this locality, considering that Liberdade is shaping up as one of Lisbon’s most sought-after addresses. Stately neoclassical buildings are being rapidly transformed into slick residences that are being snapped up by the Portuguese capital’s affluent individuals.
It may be situated in the Portuguese capital’s business district but we found it exceedingly romantic and a handy base from which we could easily explore the city.
Taking the Aerobus from Lisbon airport, we arrived in about 15 minutes at the Marques de Pombal stop, which is just a few minutes’ walk from the hotel.
All about first impressions
First impressions count and stay top of mind, so it’s heartening to see that the Portuguese comprehend the importance of staffing the front-line of their tourism industry, starting with airport security officers and hotel front desk staff, with the right people.
It was at the H10 Duque de Loulé where we sampled our first taste of Portuguese hospitality, which is simultaneously open-hearted, welcoming, discreet and professional. Nothing was ever too much trouble – from asking for restaurant suggestions to clarifying city directions.
As we checked in, I took in the warm, low-lit surroundings that blend traditional and contemporary Portuguese design. A small, open reading room is situated on our left, and on our right, the Equestre library lounge-bar adorned with ceramic-tiled walls, leather tan-hued armchairs and curious coffee table books beckoned.
We were escorted to our stylish room, on the ninth floor, where we unpacked our suitcases and flopped onto our comfortable bed to rest awhile.
Bright, airy and fresh, the comfortably-sized room featured stark white bed covers, matte timber floors and indigo, velveteen curtains that matched the romantic cushioned window sill-settee that opened up to tall windows, which allowed the sunshine to stream in. Blue-and-white Portuguese ceramic tiles jazzed up the timber office desk.
With early November temperatures around 20C or so degrees, we were happy that we could open up the windows to let in some fresh air. I always avoid booking hotel rooms where you can’t open the window; call me slightly claustrophobic.
We always love a roomy bathroom that blends style, ergonomic design and practicality. Black-and-white tiled floors and distinctive Portuguese azulejos tiles on the walls? It works, amazingly.
Carlo granted extra points for the long, glass-fronted shower cabin, as it allowed him room to move; pretty important if you’re tall.
By day, the neighbourhood wasn’t particularly busy and, by night, it was completely peaceful and we felt very safe walking around, so we enjoyed an excellent night’s sleep on a firm mattress.
One late afternoon, as the sun was setting, we headed up to the Limão chill-out rooftop terrace, whose bar had closed for the season, to take in the city lights and beautiful silence.
The H10 Duque de Loule may not be walking distance to Lisbon’s boho-chic neighbourhoods of Chiado, Alfama and Bairro Alta, among others, but the Marques de Pombal metro stop is just a couple of minutes’ walk away.
Lisbon’s Metro is easy to navigate and affordable, so we made good use of it to travel from ‘hood to ‘hood, both night and day.
On our first evening, we decided to dine at the hotel’s chic, understated restaurant, Azul & Branco, which translates as blue and white in Portuguese.
It can be a little hit-or-miss if you choose to dine in-house, however most boutique hoteliers now realise that quality dining is worth the considerable effort, particularly if the property is located in a business district.
Dining at Azul & Branco
Perfect for an intimate dinner for two, but also for business parties winding down after a day of meetings, Azul & Branco is atmospherically lit and elegantly fitted out in indigo velvet, heavy white chairs and walls, ceramic plate displays and oversized lamp shades.
A spacious adjoining dining space hosts a brilliant breakfast, and one of the very best we have ever had. We rely on a hearty hotel breakfast to keep our energy levels high throughout long days of exploring on foot, often skipping lunch altogether and preferring a relatively early dinner.
For us lovers of all things savoury in the morning, we were delighted to find an extensive array of wonderful choices including Portuguese presunto and cheeses, mini quiches, but also tropical fruit, yoghurt and freshly-baked cake.
Back at Azul & Branco, convivial maitre’d Bruno welcomed us, sat us in a romantic little nook and we agreed to a chef’s menu, which commenced with the aromatic, sweet Portuguese wine known as Moscatel for aperitif.
A refreshing tomato gazpacho starter in a large shot glass tickled our palate into action, shortly before we sampled a trio of delicious, tender braised scallops with crispy cured ham and Serra cheese – the standout dish of the night.
Next up were succulent sardines escabeche prepared with peppers and onion and served atop corn bread in a tin can, that was half-ajar, in a cheeky nod to the gourmet canned fish trend that took off in Lisbon and Porto around three years ago.
As Anita Baker classics played, we sipped on a pale fruity white wine from Portugal’s wine-producing region Douro that paired beautifully with the succession of seafood.
Our main dishes, black pork cheeks braised with carrots and served with sauteed spinach, grilled Portobello mushrooms and a gratin tart and a poached grouper topped with citrus-marinated flying fish roe and accompanied by Portuguese fish stew, proved delightful.
The highlight of a sweet finale was Abade de Priscos pudding, which reminded us of cream caramel-style dessert though with an interesting twist; it was laced with bacon fat.
H10 Duque de Loule ticked off all the boxes, the most significant being the human factor, therefore we highly recommend it for couples, friends and business travellers seeking a quiet, sophisticated hotel just a metro ride from the city centre. It certainly delivers five-star service and standards at a four-star rate, with a very personal touch.