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Travel Stories and Guides by Table Magazine

A collection of travel stories and guides by Table Magazine and contributors from around the world.

A Farmhouse in Wild Portugal

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Deep in Portugal’s wild and rural Alentejo region lies an escape of breathtaking serenity - a cluster of traditional 19th Century farmhouses, beautifully restored as a one-of-kind hotel with a deep focus on local food and wine, that can leave any weary city-dweller feeling refreshed and revived, as only a weekend of good food and country air can do.

The estate of São Lourenço do Barrocal is nestled among vineyards and olives groves, and sprawls a cobbled path that leads between converted cowsheds, old vehicle garages and the housing that farmworkers and their families occupied almost 200 years ago. Once crumbling and near-forgotten, the houses are newly restored, shining proudly in pleasing whitewash and soothing neutrals that bring them neatly to modernity while still preserving their original character. Today, the estate is once again home to a family-run working farm, still in the hands of the historical family, as owner José António Uva is the eighth generation to have lived at the residence. After spending his childhood growing up on the land and hearing tales of the buildings in their former glory, he became determined to bring the community back to life, and so embarked on a labour of love that lasted for fourteen years. As José puts it, “I was a young man when I started, and I’m in my 40s now”. It only takes a stroll around the buildings, taking in the wide open space, the view across the hills, and the calm that hangs in the air, to feel that it’s been time well spent. 

As a working farm, there is much to please the locavore, and as well as olive groves and vineyards, there are kitchen gardens nursing fresh herbs and vegetables, as well as a keen relationship with local suppliers, celebrated annually with a farm-to-table feast on the grounds. The estate restaurant shines a spotlight on produce native to the land and deeply rooted in Alentejo’s tradition, with dishes like slow roasted veal cheeks, and partridge escabeche to traditional chickpea stew served in clay pots, as well vibrant vegetable dishes grown in the garden and picked fresh for the day’s menu. A breakfast spread features whole natural honeycomb and in the farm shop you’ll find dried herbs, jams and olive oil made from the fruits of the land. All of these can be enjoyed at the table, but for those who crave being more at one with food and flavour, you can enjoy the feeling of soil beneath your fingertips with veg-picking in the garden, or learn a new treasured dish with cooking workshops in the houses. 

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Where there is good food, there should always be good wine, and in the land surrounding the farmstead, vineyards bask in the sun, and wines sleep in the cellars, resting until they are ready to be enjoyed. Winemaker Susana Esteban crafts expressive juice from native varieties, and is on-hand to bring you through a guided tasting of Touriga Nacional, Alicante Bouschet and Roupeiro. There’s something at once humbling and transcendent about drinking wines on the very same land from which they are grown, and here, 200 years of history swirl to meet you in the glass. 

Staying at São Lourenço do Barrocal feels like a rural luxury food retreat with soul, where tranquil minimalist interiors meet soft sage and terracotta, and warm textures and textiles add a thoughtful cosiness. Added to the culinary draws are the options of horse-riding across the land, pottery workshops, a spa and two beautiful outdoor pools for a fully restorative experience. The farmhouse also lies under a dedicated dark sky reserve, meaning the night sky is protected from light resulting in starscape so dense and so clear you can see them twinkling. This is escapism at its very best, where you can glide around the site, full from food, woozy from wine, and maybe a little bit starry-eyed at life. 

Credits
Words & Photography by Abbie Moulton