The Yeatman: Porto’s premier wine hotel
Enjoy a two-Michelin-star dinner with glorious views over one of Europe’s prettiest cities
Even in a city steeped in oenological history, The Yeatman stands out as a hotel that takes wine seriously. Not just because it has one of the largest wine cellars in Portugal, nor even because it sits in between several port lodges, where for centuries wines have been blended and matured. What really sets it apart is that wine-making traditions have seeped into the very structure of the hotel, which is set into the side of a valley in terraces, like a vineyard.
Where is it?
In Porto, Portugal’s picturesque second city perched on the banks of the Douro. Or, to be strictly accurate, in Vila Nova de Gaia, on the south bank of the river, which is outside the Porto city limits. That’s a good thing, as it means the rooms have spectacular views over the steep valley towards the Luiz I bridge, designed by Gustave Eiffel, and the historic buildings on the other side. And one benefit of the terraced architecture is that every room has a balcony and a city view.
Where to eat
The obvious place to start is The Yeatman hotel’s own restaurant, which has two Michelin stars. Head chef Ricardo Costa has constructed a menu which stays true to Portuguese traditions while delivering the kind of creativity and playfulness expected by Michelin judges – and travelling gourmets.
Chicken terrine sandwiched between crisp, smoky squares of chicken skin is a moreish delight, whetting the appetite for more substantial dishes to come - among them an umami-laden portion of pigeon with risotto and parmesan. A course consisting entirely of carrots, some honeyed and others pureed, is an unexpected precursor to the puddings – and, despite some doubts, a welcome one. It cleans and freshens the palate, preparing it for the sweetness that follows.
The paired wines are proudly Portuguese. The sparkling Campolargo served with the amuses bouches, made from pinot noir grapes using the champagne method, gets things off to a lively start: bright and taut, it has a green apple freshness. Five more wines follow, including a vintage port, but the highlight is another pinot noir - the more burgundian Quinta de Sant’Ana from 2015, which accompanies both an oxtail terrine and a tender, salty cut of veal.
The breakfast buffet is just as indulgent, particularly if you opt for the baked brioche with eggs, cream and coconut - a luxurious variant of bread-and-butter pudding. It even runs to champagne and caviar, if you have the stomach for it.
If not, Porto also abounds with less formal dining options, ranging from the pavement cafes along both sides of the river, where traditional salted cod and pasteis de nata vie for attention with pizza and burgers – to Taberna dos Mercadores, a few streets back from the harbour, “where you can find prawn ‘açorda’ bread soup, ‘rojões’ diced pork and even an unmissable ‘arouquesa’ meat pot”, says Time Out. “For special days – and by special order only – they make cod tongue rice and roast kid goat, prepared with ingredients that proprietor António Coelho collects regularly from his home town of Resende.”
And what to drink…
Port, obviously. The lodge in which Taylor’s ages its wine is opposite the hotel, and after an instructive tour of the facilities you can taste the output. The Douro region also produces many fine non-fortified wines, which can be sampled at restaurants through the city.
In early December, The Yeatman runs a series of wine-tasting events, at which you can test more than 150 Portuguese wines, ports and madeiras, ranging in price from about £6 to £200 per bottle. Vast platters of cured meats and cheeses help to soak up the alcohol, assuming that you’re not making use of the spittoons.
What to see and do
The hotel itself could occupy you for most of a weekend. It has two swimming pools, one indoors and another outside, overlooking Porto. The spa offers “vinotherapy” treatments which make use of essential oils and antioxidants extracted from vines and the grapes that grow on them. Vinotherapy of a more conventional sort is supported by the hotel’s 25,000-bottle wine cellar: the sommelier offers guided tours each evening.
If you do decide to venture beyond the hotel, the Luiz I bridge is a ten-minute walk from the front door, and beyond it the old town. The 12th-century Romanesque cathedral is its most impressive building, but the real pleasure here is in strolling through steep, narrow streets and happening on a neglected baroque church, or a market, or an unexpected view of the river and its bridges. It’s all delightfully unspoilt, says Conde Nast Traveller. “Few of Europe's cities remain so unreconstructed.”
“And there’s the seaside,” says The Guardian. “Empty surf beaches lie a few minutes from the city centre … and further north, Matosinhos offers rock-cut swimming pools, sunsets and superb fish dinners.
When to go?
Summer is peak season, but spring and autumn are warm and beautiful and a little bit quieter. Winter can be chilly but the sun retains some heat, so lunch outside on the harbour is possible even in December.
Rooms at The Yeatman hotel start from €215 (£190), including breakfast. British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair fly to Porto from several UK airports from about £40 each way