Around about 2003, we started to recognize a fascinating new hospitality trend, whereby enterprising epicures of particularly good taste were creating design-focused new hotels in strikingly historic structures. Most with just 20 rooms or less, we classified them at the time as “the new urban inns.”
One of the first and most spectacular was Lisbon’s Palácio Belmonte, fitted into, as the name hints, a 15th Century palace in the old Alfama district. It won awards for urban regeneration upon its opening just this side of the turning of the Millennium. Still thriving, it currently boasts 11 ethereal suites, all exhibiting a thematic rustic-chic luxe, with wood ceilings, 17th Century tiles, antique wardrobes and private garden spaces.
Now, despite Lisbon still managing to decisively skirt the over-tourism problem of neighboring Spain, attention is at last lately being drawn to the city’s thriving culinary scene. And into that, Palacio Belmonte has just opened Grenache, a 41-seat temple of gastronomy, under the stewardship of Provençal pals Chef Philippe Gelfi and Sommelier Quentin Vedovati.
The new restaurant offers up a creative take on haute French cuisine based on local Portuguese produce and ingredients, with Vedovati’s influence extending to an exquisite European wine list – including a number of good bottles from Portugal’s Duoro and Alentejo regions.
The menu – changing monthly – is more daring than intimidating, with starters like sea bream carpaccio with orange-curry sorbet, and octopus with avocado, black garlic and lemon; mains feature Portuguese black pig fillet, with textures of potatoes and anchovy juice, as well as a heavenly sounding smoked red pepper risotto with paprika-lemon marinated sardines. Finish with an extravagant dessert of chocolate and lime curd, popcorn/pimento ice cream, and crispy cacao leaves.
“Patrons will find themselves immersed in a sensorial experience far beyond what is expected,” enthuses Palacio Belmonte proprietor Frederic Coustols of his refined but welcoming new culinary venture. “We are elated to usher in a revolution of magnificent French cuisine that will exist as a perfect addition to the fine dining landscape of Lisbon.”
Grenache‘s cool, airy dining room will also host a rotating series of works by international contemporary artists. Yet for as long as the weather allows, we strenuously recommend taking one’s meal outside on the Páteo Dom Fradique, where the bright white and terracotta cityscape stretches out below.