I was looking for ideas for where to stay on our annual Summer trip to the South of Portugal – the format is always the same, 2 nights in the Alentejo, 5 nights in the Algarve and 2 in Lisbon. It is what we call our July ‘back to home’ summer trip.
There have been a few openings recently and I asked those who know best: my readers. And with 40+ individual recommendations from a post on my Facebook place, there was a clear candidate: São Lourenço do Barrocal, located near the beautiful historic village of Monsaraz in Alentejo, Portugal.
Located 2 hours away from Lisbon, quite close to the border with Spain – it was easy to get to. We left Lisbon after a lazy breakfast, followed by a very lazy lunch in Evora (the largest city in the area) and arrived at São Lourenço do Barrocal at around 3pm, which gave us some extra time to enjoy our 3-day stay.
São Lourenço do Barrocal has won a few accolades in its short life – its spa was named the best hotel spa 2016-17 by Monocle and it is the newest Portuguese member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, as well as being on Virtuoso’s select hotel list.
– The entrance and outside
We drove through the gorgeous path that led to the property and parked our car in the car park – I wondered how we were going to get *all* our luggage to the reception (we had made a pit stop for some wine buying) but within seconds we were pleasantly surprised by the arrival of a buggy and a bell man, who kindly welcomed us, took our bags and drove us to reception, which is located in the building on the left of the photo above.
– How quick and efficient was the hotel check-in?
There was no one else checking in at the same time, so it was pretty quick. We completed all the necessary forms and ID checks (please note that in Portugal, all hotel guests have to provide a copy of passport details) and were driven to our room.. which was literally 3 doors down!
– Was I addressed by name once reservation has been located? (it is all about the small details, some others are outstanding with this, and I love it, like I do when I board an airplane)
Indeed – and it always the reason for a laugh with be being very Portuguese and my very international surname.
– Did I get an upgrade from my confirmed pre-booked room type?
We were confirmed a Farm Room and that is what we got.
– Luggage – how many people did I have to tip before the luggage made it safely to my room?
As stated earlier, the luggage was taken from us at the car park and promptly delivered to our room as we got there.
– Wi-fi – was I told anything about it? Was there a charge?
No password. Ta da!
– First impressions – décor, size and wow factor
Our room was, in effect, in one of the doors you see – which led on to a private patio. There is a series of rooms like this (but there are also larger suites and multi-bedroom self catering cottages). All rooms have direct ‘street’ access and that made it quite unique.
Our room was very spacious and the decor was modern yet with traditional touches from the area, which we really appreciated.
– Welcome amenity
We had some lovely ice tea, pastries and chocolates waiting for us.
– The bedroom
The room was quite large, had lots of light and felt very spacious. It had a seating area, a working desk and a semi-private patio.
I loved the old furniture touches like the suitcases with the local woollen throws for colder nights.
– The bed
The bed was super comfortable and the bedding was one of the nicest I have experienced in Portugal, in all honesty.
– Closet/Wardrobe – proper hangers or those annoying ones where you need a PhD to get them out one by one? This is a personal pet peeve of mine. I can’t stand them.
The wardrobe was located in the ‘hall’ of the room, next to the bathroom and offered considerable storage, as well as a safe.
Worth adding that this part of the room wasn’t air-conditioned, which made a big difference. It was quite hot outside and as you entered the room, it was very hot in the bathroom and foyer – and the temperature only changed when you got into the bedroom itself. I am not sure why.
– Iphone Charger/Dock
The room had a USB port port and plenty of sockets (which were brand new but using an old-fashioned designed which I loved) by each side of the bed.
– Bathrobes and slippers
Indeed and for once I actually tried both. However, I did think it was a bit strange to have a bath mat at turndown – these are usually linen and I felt that being a bath one, didn’t really work.
– Coffee and Tea
There was a Nespresso machine in the room and plenty of pods, but we did not use it.
– Free bottled water
Yes, and replenished daily.
– Magazine selection – had some nice surprises and doesn’t happen often enough!
I did not notice anything, except for some local books.
– Power sockets in useful places – we have more and more devices and we know where we want them! By the bed, by the working area.
Absolutely – plenty.
– First impressions – décor, size and wow factor
Again, a lot of thought was put into the design of the bathroom and the materials. Obviously the hotel is new, but they really chose the materials well – I knew where in the world I was.
– Bath, shower and taps – I am looking for Duravits and Hansgrohes (or other fab brands) around the world. How fab was the shower? And a little pet peeve.. was I able to operate the shower without asking Mr. O for help?
The bathroom had a separate bath and a walk-in shower (which I did need some help on how to use).
– Towels – yes, please! How many and how soft and lovely?
They were fluffy and ‘heavy’ and I say this in a positive way – they were great. And the bath towels were proper bath towels – large!
– Toiletries – own brand, super brand, baby ones or proper ones? I shall find out!
The toiletries were by Suzanne Kauffman, an Austrian brand I wasn’t familiar with. The spa uses the same organic products. I have to say, they were excellent and real candidates to add to my ‘Toiletries worth stealing list‘.
– Amenity kit – I don’t want more sewing kits thank you very much, but I will need a shower cap.
All there. I couldn’t find the kleenex at first, which I thought was a bit strange, but then I found them on top of the desk. I moved them to the bathroom.
– Hairdryer – is it a human one, or just something stuck to a wall that only makes noise?
I washed and dried my hair and had no issues at all. There was also a socket in the actual bathroom (amen).
The hotel grounds
The hotel is set in a huge property – yet has only 40 rooms. There are plenty of activities (like horse-riding, star-gazing, bicycles, walks etc) for families and couples and also plenty of opportunities to do very little at all.
It is actually a real working farm – so most of the produce comes from the property or from as close as possible. This is a real farm-to-table experience – and I will talk about the food in more detail later on.
There is also a shop – which was a delight (meaning it was very well curated) with a great mix of local products and plenty of food to buy or take home with you.
The pool is one of the most Instagrammed parts of the hotel – but it was TINY. So so so small, we didn’t actually go in – because there were twenty people there already.
The lounge area is quite extensive (so you are not on top of other people), but I cannot understand why the pool would be like this – there is plenty of space.
Sadly, there was a family who took over the whole space and really ruined the experience for us (which made us leave and spend the second day elsewhere) as they really kicked up a racket. And for the record, it wasn’t the children – it was the parents who screamed the most. At every meal, there was a before and after they arrived or left. And it wasn’t just me being picky – everyone was talking about it.
There is only one restaurant at the property – but it very cleverly offers various settings, so we felt we had different experiences. We absolutely loved the menu (unashamedly and proudly local with very very good options, in my opinion).
We had dinner at the hotel on both nights and thought it was excellent (and excellent value too). There were plenty of wines by the glass so you could try different things (starting at 6 Euros – I kid you not). We had a full a la carte meal on the first night and then a cheese and charcuterie board on the second night as we went back for lunch at the fabulous Esporao estate which is only 30 mins from Barrocal.
Before dinner, we indulged in some G&Ts with a view, in the area by the restaurant – they were lovely.
After dinner (say around 9.30pm), we tried to go to the bar on both nights, only to find it unmanned. We asked reception who went to call someone but after 20 minutes of waiting, we gave up. Same thing happened on the second night – and I am not sure why. The hotel was pretty busy and everyone just went back to their rooms.
What I really loved
The hotel grounds were gorgeous and I do think they offer a very good local experience. I loved the design.
What could be better
The air conditioning in the rooms was the loudest I have seen/heard in a long time – being brand new, I do not understand it. They are supposed to be eco-this and eco-that – but it makes no sense if it is at the expense of comfort (in my personal opinion). And air-con is an absolute must in the Summer, where temperatures regularly get to 40c.
The pool is tiny and this would be a hotel where people would travel to in order to enjoy the pool, relax, read, namely in the Summer.
– How good and reliable was the wi-fi?
In the room it was actually great, but not everywhere else. Thick walls.
– Did I feel genuinely welcomed by the hotel staff?
Yes, but I felt they weren’t so great with my non-Portuguese speaking husband. Various times I would say something in English, and they responded to me in Portuguese and this happened repeatedly in the restaurant, which was a shame.
Located near Monsaraz, 2 hours from Lisbon by car.
Rooms cost from 175 Euros per night including tax.
– Would I recommend it to my best friend?
The setting is gorgeous and I do recommend the hotel.
– Would I stay again?
Have you visited this hotel? What were your thoughts?
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Barrocal and Small Luxury Hotels of the World during this stay, but hopefully you will see that this has not influenced my thoughts about the property. For more information about the hotel, visit its official website.