Luxury Hotels

PORTUGAL – 3

Saturday’s foodie day in Girlahead’s galaxy. Well, what can one say today? An intimate gourmet restaurant created out of a meeting room…. That was the shell that is now the vibrant, exciting and fun Michelin-starred Cura in, and yet out of, Four Seasons The Ritz Lisbon. The preamble was the white port and tonic cocktail publicised on cards in bedrooms. Henri Poudensan, below, marketing magician who also weaves his wonderful wand over Geneva and Megève, mentioned the fact that Guerlain is sponsoring the hotel’s Golden Afternoon Tea, through June. He proposed toasts to many mutual friends, and then Cura’s performance began.

This is a curated culinary experience – is this the reason for the restaurant’s name? A piece of A4 paper folded over announces four choices. Five courses. Ten courses. Wine pairings. Soft pairings, things like one-off kambuchas perfected by one of the team, Marina Garcia.  Make your choice and look around the room. The favourite table, closest to the open finishing kitchen, is blue marble topped, round, a clone of those in top-category bedrooms. Walls are most blues, inset with tawny wood panels from the hotel’s 1959 birth. Overhead flutter metallic letters, without apparent meaning. It’s art, stupid.

There’s nothing stupid about the art produced by heart-throb chef Pedro Pena Bastos and his six-strong team, in pristine whites with taupe flat caps and aprons. Dishes flow fast. Eel with fennel and parsnip, carob casorão. A small tranche of an à point red mullet with its broth in a separate drinking jug. The best-seller, squid in a mound that looks like pasta, with hazelnut, toasted seaweed butter, bergamot and Oscietra (see above). The fourth course, two types of bread, in wood bowls, with green olive oil and lovage-flavoured butter.

Only one more course, methinks, but no, Bastos and his gang are too busy to count. Next comes Atlantic wreckfish with what looks like a flat pallet, asparagus, razor clams and green garlic. Time for meat, namely a finger of Iberian pork with almond, pears, chanterelle and turnip leaves. Finally dessert, pineapple with bread put-through-a-mill to heaven, but then, as an afterthought, three more mini-dishes. Something sweet, more heaven.

Oh the wines. Girlahead lists’em for the oenophiles in the fan base. Quinta da Pegadlinha, Escolha 2022 Vinhos Verdes. Entre Pedras 2022 Açores. Alfaiate 2020 Peninsula de Setubal. CARM Natural 2021 Douro. Secret Spot Moscatel do Douro 10 anos. At least 70% choose wine pairings, with only one to three a night going for soft pairings. At least 70% of Cura’s total business is from locals, many coming regularly.

At least no-one, it seems, can count. But who cares if five courses flow into more when every mouthful, and every iota of ambience and conversation is memorable. And, you know what, in a few hours it was more food, helping oneself to the perfect papaya, and mango and more, on the Varanda breakfast buffet. Coffee comes in silver pots, and cups are paper-thickness Vista Alegre. Portuguese, as are the pulled-thread linen napkins, here at Four Seasons The Ritz Lisbon.