The first thing I noticed setting foot into Martinhal Lisbon Oriente was the fragrance. Deep but light; warming and calming. It was instantly inviting and straight away made me feel happy to be there. The kind of feeling that automatically eases your shoulders down an extra inch and is an indication of the relaxed elegance that permeates the hotel. Smiling welcomes from each of the staff, plus the eye-catching art from local artists dotted around the lobby all added to the feeling of a laid back yet fun lux and I knew that I was in for a great mini-break.
Invited as part of a press trip to visit the newest Martinhal property, Martinhal Lisbon Oriente, located in the Parque das Nações district in the east of Lisbon; an area of the city that has been gradually building a reputation for culture; street art, the Oceanarium, a plethora of restaurants and bars and of course the famous cable cars that run parallel to the river past the Water Gardens. In contrast to the historical old town, Parque das Nações is modern, cool and urban.
I usually reside in the tranquil and lush rolling hills in the heart of the beautiful English countryside but from time to time I enjoy a change of pace - a bit of adventure, perhaps a little sun, a bit of experiencing another culture, and it goes without saying, exploring new foods so I leapt at the opportunity to pack my laptop, swimsuit and sunglasses to head to Lisbon, one of the coolest cultural capitals of Europe. In 2018 I spent a week exploring the south of Portugal and ever since Lisbon has been high on my travel list; the climate, the food, the architecture, the history, did I mention the food? Pastel de nata! Salt cod! Cherry liquor!
The first port of call upon arrival was to sit in the garden of the restaurant, Terrace, for coffee, cake and local pastries. Newly constructed as a living building with foliage inside and out, Martinhal Lisbon Oriente is an Oasis within a city boasting panoramic views of the vast river and Europe’s longest bridge. The Terrace has a huge open kitchen where you can see the chefs preparing the fresh menus daily. Taking the theme of being in the eastern part of the city, the menus are based around the concept of “looking east” with lots of fusion from the Middle East, India and Asia - and of course, lots of daily caught seafood. Mesmerised, I watched a chef roll sushi - which then to my absolute delight was served to our table. At lunch I chose the pan fried stone bass on a base of quinoa mixed with avocado and green mango, cut in a brunoise with surgical precision which was every bit as good as it sounds. As a chef who loves dining out, it’s important to me that food delights on the plate - you have to enjoy the dish before you take the first mouthful; a mantra clearly shared by Terrace’s kitchen team. Over the weekend I also ate such delights as Thai beef salad, spiced broccoli pakora, burrata with pineapple chutney and honey, black cod with pak choi that was accompanied by a moreish miso sauce poured at the table, veggie spring rolls, chicken satay skewers. Even the on site baked bread came with hummus, labneh and flavoured oils. The food throughout the trip was consistently flawless, whatever meal of the day it was. With a wide selection of local wine on the menu and seasonal cocktails available in addition to juices, smoothies and non alcoholic cocktails - everyone is thoughtfully catered for which seems to be the MO of the Martinhal brand.
Historically designed for families, Martinhal put connection at the heart of everything they do; for parents on holiday with their children, being able to relax and reconnect mean their children are also relaxed. No matter the age; from the trampoline outside in the garden to the organised activities and babysitting services, there are a plethora of things to do and everything has been thought of. As someone without children, a “family friendly” hotel wouldn’t necessarily be my first choice for a holiday but interestingly, I found Martinhal Lisbon Oriente more grown up and slick than venues not designed for families - quite simply because the way Martinhal have curated this niche is so successful that in comparison to other places where children are left feral to run around screaming, burning off their energy, here both the family unit and the individuals the unit consists of are considered meaning in fact I barely noticed that there actually were children around and among the slick furniture, the neon art and the sun loungers.
Martinhal Lisbon Oriente is slightly different to its other properties in Lisbon and Portugal in that The Parque das Nações district itself is relatively new. Having been purpose built for the World Exposition in 1998 the area has a lot of business travellers plus people from all over Portugal and the world for events at the Altice Arena and again, the thoughtful details, the commitment to connection, Martinhal Lisbon Oriente have built a full business suite, including glass soundproof pods, for digital nomads like me who just want to explore the world while working.
We spent time as a group being looked after and touring not only the Parque das Nações but the old town as well. From the hotel, you can easily reach by foot the second largest aquarium in Europe, a fantastic private boat tour to Belém where if you’re as lucky as us you may glimpse dolphins in the Tagus River as you sip on a glass of Vino Verde and even get to wear the Captain’s Hat as you take on the role of skipper (which I highly recommend for a memorable Instagram moment!). You can participate in street art walking tours and walk to a multitude of restaurants - though you could easily eat every meal for a week at Terrace and never feel that your inner epicure is missing out. A short car ride away you can be in the historical centre browsing little boutiques, marvelling at the architecture and snacking on pasteis de nata or salt cod fritters with a side of chilled white port.
While having dinner at the other Lisbon based Martinhal property, Martinhal Chiado, I sat next to Roman, one half of the husband and wife team behind the brand who talked to me at length about the connection that they are trying to nurture and the importance of quality time, be it as part of a family on holiday, or a digital nomad taking advantage of technology and the freedoms it can afford. The rooms are furnished with kitchens and even washing hidden away machines in the rooms bringing an extra level of freedom and flexibility and making it perfect for long or short term stays.
At the Oceanarium there was a sign quoting “nothing lasts, nothing’s finished, nothing’s perfect” and isn’t that life itself in a nutshell; always in motion, the sands of time rushing away. The best we can hope for is to find moments to build memories; to strengthen connection; to each other, to the land, to the food on our plates. And as a foundation for that desire, Martinhal Lisbon Oriente is about as close to perfect as it is possible to get.
Martinhal Lisbon Oriente offer rooms from studios to suites perfect for short and long term stays for solo travellers, families and world explorers