A friend introduced us to Diogo at Torre do Frade to arrange an afternoon drinking Alentejo wines and eating lunch outside of Lisbon. Considering Alentejo is almost two hours from Lisbon, we did not think it would be a good idea to drive back to Lisbon in order to catch our morning flight. In fact, we were warned not to drive back. Diogo said he had a friend who had a place we could stay for the night, in exchange for coverage in a blog post. That is how we found our way to Torre de Palma.
From what I could figure out, the area we were headed was pretty tiny, a little rural, and we had no idea what to expect. I imagined that my mention of Torre de Palma would almost be in a footnote to my post about tasting Diogo’s wines, something along the lines of “drunk and happy we crashed at Torre de Palma, just down the road.”
In fact, when lunch finished around 5pm, which seemed to be a trend for our Portuguese lunches, Eric suggested we just drive back to Lisbon. But, I did not want to have to find a place in Lisbon last minute, for just one night. Besides, Diogo’s friend was expecting us. I suggested we just suck it up and stay at Torre de Palma.
Less than thirty minutes later, Eric was eating his words, and reminding me why I am the boss.
Arriving at Torre de Palma
We turned off the rural road outside of the village of Vaiamonte in Alentejo, and drove down an even more narrow rural driveway. The skies were turning grey, threatening spring showers. As we wound our way through the countryside, we saw a gorgeous white washed building, with yellow painted trim – characteristic of the region. The building looked stunning and suddenly I felt we did not have nearly enough time to enjoy the property.
Diogo continued to drive right past the building that I hoped to stay in, and I became nervous once again. Just where was he taking us? Turned out that he wanted to show us the Roman ruins on Torre de Palma’s property, but they were locked for the night. Dejected, we returned to the hotel. Well, perhaps Diogo was rejected. I was fine with our arrival at the hotel.
The grand entrance read “Torre de Palma, Wine Hotel.” Really? I thought we would be staying in a rustic farm house and instead we were staying in a wine hotel, in a restored building dating from 1338. Knowing we had to leave by 8 am the following morning, I was already counting down the hours to leave, understanding quickly that we did not have enough time.
Touring Torre de Palma
Filipe, the manager of Torre de Palma, proudly showed off the property, starting with our room. We had a well appointed room, decorated in purple hues, with a bed that made me want to hop right in. I swear it was not all the Alentejo wine that I just drank. It was romantic to a tee, including a large settee in the center.
As we continued our tour and saw comfy sofas and chairs, and plenty of nooks and crannies where I imagined myself reading or writing, I had to pinch myself. I could not believe that this property was Diogo’s friend’s hotel down the road.
We joked with Filipe over a complimentary glass of their in-house Alentejo wine, how we would need to return for a “proper” review, where we could enjoy everything Torre de Palma had to offer. He agreed to welcome us back, and I hope he was as serious as I was.
Dining at Torre de Palma – Basili Restaurant
The one part of the hotel that we were able to experience, was dinner at their in-house restaurant, Basilii. The menu was loaded with modern interpretations of traditional Portuguese and Alentejano cuisine. We drank the Torre de Palma wine, as we watched them prepare my Açorda, a traditional soup, table side.
The elaborate Açorda presentation involved a double boiler type contraption, to create the broth, which was infused with garlic and pennyroyal. The server used a small torch to seer the sardines in my bowl. Then, the green broth was poured over a poached egg, toasted bread, and fresh sardines to create the Açorda, which was warming and light at the same time. Eric felt almost slighted that his fried mushrooms came to the table brilliantly displayed, but already prepared.
We both chose the roasted pork cheek as Eric has found himself on a beef and pork cheek kick recently. We closed the meal with desserts and port, realizing that we had not as as much port as we had hoped while in Lisbon. Eric’s brownie was more like a light brownie crumble with olive oil and honey ice cream. I chose the Alentejano style Sericaia, a regional dessert with marsclpon cheese, cinnamon, plum, and lemon ice cream.
I was thrilled with all that Torre de Palma offered us, and was so impressed with the level of luxury, both in accommodations and dining, which was provided in the heart of the Alentejo countryside. I truly hope we can return, and I hope the Açorda is still on the menu. I am easily amused when it comes to table side preparation, particularly when the dish that results is so tasty.
We were guests of Torre de Palma Wine Hotel, but of course all opinions, and my amazement at their Açorda presentation, are my own. Rooms start around $170, with breakfast included. I am sooo hoping to return!
For more tips on traveling Alentejo wine and exploring Portugal through food, check out our Portugal Food Travel Guide.