“Winery, gourmet restaurant and small boutique hotel at the heart of the Baixo Alentejo”
At present Malhadinha has just 10 rooms but plans are afoot to convert other buildings on the estate. Of these, there are 2 suites, Marias and Malhadinha, one junior suite, Pequeño Joao, and 7 doubles, Cacho de Uva, Peceguina Flor, Oliveira, Borbolata, Caracol, Abelhinha and Lagartinha.
I stayed in one of the suites and would find it hard to fault my immaculately conceived sleeping space. Both suites have high-ceilinged sitting rooms with a mezzanine level where a second double bed has been tucked beneath the beams. Down below you can slump into a comfy sofa or lounge on to the ottoman. Their focus is a woodburning stove which, Janus-like, looks forward to your sitting room and back into the main bedroom.
Here, in addition to an enormous 2m x 2m bed dressed in fine linen with your monogrammed bathrobe and slippers neatly bundled up, you'll find a freestanding tub, a big fitted wardrobe and a writing desk with a perspex Starck chair. Expect loads of little treats: your complimentary bottle of the estate's Monte da Peceguinha wine on a silver tray for booking through i-escape, a bowl of fruit next to the bath tub and a big vase of cut flowers.
Your suite's bathroom leads off from the sitting room but is visually linked in with the bedroom by a glass panel behind the twin surface-top sinks: drop-down blinds determine to what extent you share your ablutions. There's a walk-in rain shower to complement the tub next door.
The junior suite also comes with a huge kingsize double and the treat of a freestanding tub next to the bed, whilst the 7 standard rooms are smaller but have the same range of creature comforts: airconditioning, underfloor heating, fitted wardrobes, as well as all of the towels, toiletries and special extras that you get in the suites. The baths have an overhead shower although, in this case, it's within the bathroom itself. And a big plus for booking a standard is that you get a slice of deck outside your room with direct access down to the pool and spa.
A stay at Malhadinha is very much about good food and wine, and the heart of the matter is the Restaurante Gourmet da Malhadinha (closed Sundays and Monday lunchtime), which looks out to the vineyards and inwards to the gleaming steel vats of the winery. The idea was to create dishes that would showcase the estate's red, white and rosé wines. Under the guidance of Michelin-starred chef Joachim Koerper, the restaurant offers a modern take on regional dishes. Reasonably priced 3- and 5-course menus change with the seasons and follow the dictates of nouvelle cuisine: manageable portions, light sauces, fresh-as-fresh ingredients and eye-catching presentation.
A typical lunch or dinner might begin with a selection of amuses-bouches, followed by salt cod confit in an olive crust, then Iberian pork shoulder with apple and celeriac puree, and melon carpaccio with port wine ice cream to finish. Everything looked so pretty on the plate I felt almost loathe to disturb their culinary artwork. And everything that they magicked up for me was simply scrumptious.
If you're more of a traditionalist you can also order time-tried Alentejo dishes like a hearty cocido (a bean soup), an ensopado de borrego (a type of lamb stew) or some variant on the game theme: a lot of hunting goes on in the region.
Breakfasts are less formal events and take place back in the hotel's open-plan sitting-cum-dining room. You eat at one big, square wooden table flanked by 12 perspex Philippe Starck chairs or, when the weather's right, at individual tables on the decked terrace which overlooks the pool and spa.
Your meal takes the form of a big buffet and will include fruit salad and freshly squeezed orange juice, alentejano hard and soft cheeses, locally cured ham, a selection of freshly baked breads, croissants, yoghurts, homemade cakes and biscuits as well as any variant on the cooked breakfast theme that takes your fancy.
Light snacks can be prepared at the hotel at any time during the day and gourmet picnics can also be created but these need to be ordered in advance.
If you want to eat elsewhere try one of the two local restaurants, Restaurante O Celeiro or Restaurante A Cavalariça for simple traditional fare.
Although children are welcome, with an accent so firmly placed on wine and food this doesn't strike me as an ideal place for families. That said, the two suites both have a second double hoisted up on their mezzanine levels and kids would certainly enjoy exploring the estate: I was taken off to see piglets being born! The possibility of learning to ride would be an added attraction for older kids and the pool and mountain bikes could provide plenty of entertainment for a shorter stay.
Children (4-12 years)
Cots Available, Extra Beds Available
Baby cots available on request
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking