24-Hour Room Service: Fontana Park, Lisbon, Portugal
Saturday 29 March 2008
Lisbon's sleepy hotel scene has been undergoing a quiet revolution. Two design hotels opened last year: the 65-bedroom Jeronimos 8, in the historic suburb of Belem, was completed in August; and on Boxing Day, the larger Fontana Park Hotel in central Lisbon welcomed its first guests.
Local response to both has been enthusiastic, and in the case of the Fontana Park, positively rapturous.
During my stay shortly after it opened, a small but steady stream of stylish Lisboans flowed in to take a look at the striking lobby and bar area, exclaiming over the sheer impact of this large space, and the dramatic juxtaposition of black floors and illuminated walls of opaque glass.
Countering the starkness of the black-and-white effect, several floor-to-ceiling photographs of trees add shades of green and brown.
The building dates from 1908, and was constructed as a factory for iron products. The façade and some ironwork near the entrance have been retained from this period, and although much of the rest of the hotel is entirely new in construction, a subtle sense of industrial reclamation prevails through the play of clean lines and the use of micronised concrete on some walls and other surfaces.
Facilities include a courtyard garden into which the bar area will spill through rolled-back doors during the summer, and two restaurants: Bonsai, for sushi and other Japanese dishes, and the all-white Saldanha-Mar, which has an open grill area and serves well-priced Mediterranean and Portuguese cuisine (grilled shrimps, for example, at €10/£7.70, and pork with clams at €12/£9). It was already drawing fashionable local diners during my visit.
As a brand new operation, careful consideration has been given to green policies. Behind the scenes, the hotel has implemented extensive environmentally friendly measures, particularly in its use of the latest energy- and water-saving equipment.
Fontana Park Hotel, rua Engenheiro Vieira da Silva 2, Lisbon, Portugal (00 351 21 357 6212; www.fontanaparkhotel.com), is a few kilometres north of Lisbon's central railway station and major sights. The heart of the city, around Praca da Figueira, is about 35 minutes away on foot (downhill all the way), or seven minutes by metro from Saldanha station, just around the corner from the hotel. Despite the hotel's name, there is no park here: Praca Jose Fontana down the road is a leafy street with a small square. Such quibbles aside, this is a pleasant business neighbourhood that is becoming increasingly fashionable as a hotel and residential area.
There are smart stores and restaurants beside the metro station, while for a flavour of old-time Lisbon you can visit the morning fruit-and- vegetable market, Mercado 31 Janeiro, right opposite the hotel.
Time from international airport: Lisbon airport is a 10-minute drive away (allow 20 minutes at peak periods), costing around €8 (£6.15) in a taxi.
Furnished in black and white, the 139 rooms are pared-down chic and generously proportioned. Standard features include a wall-mounted flat-screen TV and a small desk area. Bathrooms have black granite floors and smoked-glass screening. My room had high windows giving on to a balcony that offered good views west over the city.
Freebies: Bathrooms are stocked with Rituals "body cosmetics", such as ginseng and peony shampoo and mandarin and mint soap.
Keeping in touch: Chargeable Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel.
The Bottom Line
Double rooms start at €185 (£142), including breakfast.
I'm not paying that: The Sheraton (00 351 21 312 0000; www.sheraton.com), very nearby at rua Latino Coelho 1, has recently reopened after a radical refurbishment. For all the Seventies tower-block exterior, its rooms are sleekly contemporary, with ultra-modern lighting. Doubles from €125 (£96), including breakfast.
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