Torel 1884 arrives in Porto’s riverside area of Ribeira

Torel 1884 – Suites & Apartments, the latest Torel Boutiques group brand, has opened in Porto. The building in which the new hotel is housed was the first the group’s owners visited when they considered expanding their operations to Porto, and the opening marks their second venture in the city, following the 2017 launch of Torel Avantgarde.

Located in the heart of Porto, just a stone’s throw away from Avenida dos Aliados and the riverfront area of Ribeira, Torel 1884 comprises two buildings: a charming 19th-century palace on Rua Mouzinho da Silveira, which houses the ‘hotel’ per se – comprising 12 guestrooms and suites as well as common areas; and also a traditional building with 11 apartments a few metres away on Rua das Flores.

The palace’s grandeur – with its intricate windows, spacious rooms, high ceilings, elegant staircase and crowning skylight – was reflected in a design scheme nodding to the cultural diversity of the faraway lands encountered by the Portuguese on their maritime voyages of discovery. The concept is inspired by some of the exotic discoveries that Portugal’s mariners made along the sea and trading routes they followed, celebrating the richness of the continents they visited and the influences thus inherited. Many of the materials and products found in these distant lands, including pepper, porcelain, coffee and silk, continue to be a part of the country’s life and culture today.

This journey into an exotic world, encountering the cultures of other continents, leads to a chic atmosphere in a city palace where the the classical and the contemporary intertwine. Nature – and its colours and materials – was a recurring source of inspiration for the interiors of Torel 1884, which are abound with the colours of sand, terracotta, olive green, ocean blue and coffee. Every detail is key to creating the tone of the ambience, from colours to textures, and from the use of linen, cotton and silk to that of wood, raffia and cane.

As far as possible, the renovation of the palace has preserved the original structure and materials, including the stone, part of the wooden floor and the decorative details, retaining a great deal of the building’s soul. To achieve this, Torel 1884 – Suites & Apartments collaborated with various partners in Porto.

The architectural project was the work of Miguel Nogueira, while the interiors were conceived by Nano Design, a studio that had previously contributed to the guestrooms at Torel Avantgarde. The remit was to enhance the architectural beauty of the building, with the theme of the cultural diversity of the voyages of discovery evident throughout. Close attention has been given to every detail, with bespoke wooden fittings, the showcasing of the traditional art of handmade tassels, and decorative finishings which give each room a personalised touch, while using Portuguese suppliers and artisans whenever possible.

The interiors also feature the work of artists Jorge Curval and João Pedro Rodrigues. The former was responsible for the large paintings that punctuate the various spaces, providing a personalised interpretation of the chosen themes, while the work of the latter can be seen in the entrance area. Based on the muses of Luis Camões’ Lusiads, he created an installation that combines opposite and complementary forces: the tangible and the intangible, the ethereal and the human. Exhibited facing each other on opposite walls are on one side six light coloured heads representing the gods of nature, purity and the celestial, and opposite them thirteen dark heads portraying the physical world and people with all their weaknesses and limitations.

Themed around the voyages of discovery, both the suites and the apartments are given the names of animals, materials, products and spices, reflecting their origins and roots. Each of the three floors is centred around a continent and the names and themes of the rooms are defined accordingly. Africa suffuses the ground floor. This is where the reception, Bartolomeu Wine Bistro, the restrooms and two rooms with courtyards – “Suleiman” and “Malagueta” (Chilli Pepper) – are located. The first is inspired by the history of the elephant Suleiman, King João III’s unusual wedding gift to Archduke Maximilian III of Austria, while the latter is named after the spice brought back from Africa by the Portuguese.

Moving through the reception area and climbing the stairs, the first floor – or American floor –features five rooms related to the continent: Exotic wood, Exotic birds, Coffee, Sugarcane and Tobacco. In the Exotic wood room, guests enter the rich colours of the Amazon Forest, while in the Exotic birds room, the tone is set by the velvet and cane, and the exuberance of the bathroom wallpaper. Browns and blacks dominate the Coffee space, punctuated with burlap, while the Sugarcane room features natural and light tones, and the Tobacco room is enveloped in a hue of emerald green, reminiscent of tobacco leaves.

Meanwhile, the second floor is an invitation to discover the charms of Asia. The five rooms here are named Tea, Porcelain, Silk, Tapestry and Spices, in homage to Portugal’s Eastern heritage. Earth colours, an oriental-themed screen and raffia carpets give a subtly piquant feel to the Spices room, while the Tea room transports us to leafy green plantations, featuring colourful cotton and linen, banana-leaf wallpaper and a raffia carpet as a final touch. The Porcelain, Silk and Tapestry rooms are richer, reflecting Asian luxury. Ever-classical blue and white dominate the Porcelain room, with a canopy bed and an antique settee, and an indulgence of velvet, brass and wood. Classical and refined, the Silk room has velvet curtains and silk tassels, bamboo lining the wardrobe doors and scenes from Asian life on the fabrics. Finally, the Tapestry room, featuring black, white, beige and a few splashes of colour, an armchair in patterned fabric and a stool with fringes, brings the Asian theme to an elegant end.

Generously dimensioned, the guestrooms and suites vary in size from 28-55 m2. Those facing the street enjoy large windows that bathe them in light, while the others exploit the tranquility of the secluded location. Whether it be the courtyards, the canopy beds or bathtubs that look like works of art, each guestroom is unique. To take advantage of the palace’s grandeur, and under the light that streams in through the skylight, there is also a cosy library and lounge. In addition, an old-fashioned travel trunk has been transformed into an honesty bar, where guests can serve themselves a drink, relax with a book or embark on an interesting conversation.

The 11 apartments – Ginger, Saffron, Paprika, Coriander, Mustard, Basil, Clove, Turmeric, Cardamom, Pepper and Cinnamon – are located in the Rua das Flores building and are split into five categories that follow the same concept as the 1884 rooms.

For breakfast, guests receive a form to fill in the night before, with various basic options that allow them to create their own personal meal. For example, they can choose between pancakes or an egg-white omelette; muesli, porridge or granola; cappuccino or tea; and croissants or bread – a flexible way of satisfying guests’ preferences while creating less waste.

Completing the offer is Bartolomeu Wine Bistro, named in honour of Bartolomeu Dias – a 15th-century Portuguese seafarer who explored distant lands and seas. The chic wine bistro offers vintages from the country’s regions, north to south, with a focus on small producers, with the only exception to the rule being Champagne. As far as the food is concerned, it is created to accompany the wine and follows Anthony Bourdain’s maxim that “good food is very often, even most often, simple food”. The concept is that of a bistro with French-inspired food made with fresh Portuguese ingredients supplied by local producers, wherever possible.

On the menu are quick snacks like the Portuguese Sausage or Cheese Platters and Homemade Pâté de Campagne, as well as dishes to pick at like Mushroom, Barley and Spinach Salad and Pissaladière, a delicious foccacia-like recipe from the south of France. And as for the desserts, the Chocolate Tarte and Apple Crumble promise to become Bartolomeu classics.

With wine at the centre of the F&B experience, the hotel also boasts an impressive wine cellar. Located in the former vault of the bank that was once housed in the palace, the intimate space features a stone-clad arched ceiling and plays host to regular wine tastings.