This is a continuation of Part 1 of my review of the new Hilton Porto Gaia, which opened in September 2021.
This part covers the restaurant, food, gym and spa area.
Warning: There are a lot of photos!
For disclosure purposes, I was invited by Hilton to stay there for two nights, including a dinner and spa treatment, for free. I was kindly shown around the hotel facilities by the Sales Director who was also able to provide me the factsheet to help me with some of the details of this review. The opinions in this review remain my own. Most of the photos were taken by me, but there are a couple I have had to rely on the stock image from the Hotel's website where my own came out rather poorly. These are indicated on a per-photo basis.
There is a well-sized, unsupervised gym in the hotel which is open 24 hours per day. Access was via your room key card. There are definitely enough treadmills, rowing machines, dumbells and other machinery to cater for the most popular exercises. In one corner of the gym there is also a small studio which holds yoga, pilates and other forms of instructor-led sessions. In good weather these lessons can also be held on the rooftop overlooking the city, or down by the quay. I do wonder whether they will allow for non-guests to come along and join the classes as that's something I'd definitely love to experience.
Given that I visited during a time when Covid allowances were mandatory, the machinery was well-spaced and there was strong ventilation. I am unsure whether there will be any further changes afterwards, though I did feel like this was a good layout to maintain.
In the basement of the hotel is a large, expansive spa area which includes two saunas (Turkish and Finnish styles), a cooldown room, swimming and bathing area
For those who go for individualised spa treatment, there are several spa treatment rooms with their own separate recuperation area. Prior to selecting what treatment to follow there was a 10-15 minute consultation to help choose the package. I opted for a body scrub and deep tissue back neck massage which felt fantastic. Each treatment room also has a shower area to allow you to rinse between phases of the treatment (the therapist leaves the room during this time).
There is a peaceful recovery zone to relax after the treatment.
I was provided with a lovely jasmine tea with cookies wrapped in poppy seeds and seaweed as part of the massage recovery.
I mentioned that I had a body scrub treatment. As part of the hotel's drive towards sustainability, while you shower to wash off excess, part of the scrub mixture used for your treatment is then bottled up to allow for individual reuse and reconditioning your skin later. Or in my case to relive the wonderful aroma from the massage! I was presented with these extra skin products for my eyes and face. Perhaps the long hours in front of the computer screen were a bit too obvious!
Restaurant, food and beverage
The restaurant – “Composto” – has a lovely understated grandeur to it, and with the bright internal courtyard to one end and the kitchen to the other, the transition from natural to artificial light is barely noticeable. Like the lobby area from Part 1, the décor takes inspiration from colours of foliage and trees. The walls and service table are beautiful green marble and the feature columns have a look of a tree bark being unwrapped from the trunk.
And now my favourite part of the whole stay, the food and drinks. Prior to dinner we ordered a couple of cocktails. We were asked about our preference of spirit, and the mixologist conjured up a cocktail based on our favourites. Mine was based upon a gin and tonic.
While my partner's was influenced by a partiality towards strawberry daiquiri.
I loved this following white wine. The dry/semi-dryness and deep earthiness complemented the highly-spiced flavours from the food beautifully.
The first item we had was the Couvert Composto, which comprises a multitude of homemade breads, both white and wholemeal; crackers; salted cod “Bola de Berlim” which has the fluffy texture of a stuffed doughnut; oxtail croquettes, and amazing honey butter and Arvolea olive oil from the northern regions of Portugal.
Next up, beef tartar marinated with shallots and masala. This too was amazing – good playfulness with the tenderness of the meat with the crunchiness of the cereal garnish.
Main course was Frango sem Púcara, a slow cooked chicken breast, onions, bacon, raisins, roasted potatoes and “púcara” sauce with herbs. The sauce is a slightly tangy but also earthy sauce to balance the sweetness from the caramelised onions.
To end the meal we had a lovely small glass of 10 year Tawny port wine.
Followed by chocolate truffles with our coffee.
For the breakfasts, we tried out both the restaurant service and room service. What we ate was the same on both days so I have only included the pictures from room service.
The breakfast included tea, coffee, fresh fruits, some of the tastiest jams I have ever had (pumpkin, peach) and the amazing honey butter from the night before. The staff could tell we loved the butter so much that they actually prepared a small sample for us to take home at checkout!
Lunch on day two consisted of their interpretation of chicken caesar salad. While looking unconventional, it was thoroughly delicious!
Followed by a spaghetti dish with a creamy tomato sauce
We had a pork taco with sour cream and bean filling, alongside a beef cheese and steak sandwich, with a side of super crispy French fries.
And for pudding a strawberry crème brulée.
We also had some afternoon canapés delivered up to the small private room between the executive lounge and the panoramic bar. I really wish I could remember all the items individually but there were a mix of savoury rissóis, little fried pastries stuffed with shrimp or beef or chicken, cheeses, hams, teriyaki salmon, and little tarts.
And to match the canapés, we had some more sparkling wine.
Hilton Porto Gaia is no doubt a great hotel and with a fantastic restaurant. Being in the culinary hotspot of Portugal does make its external competition that much stiffer, but with the modern twists on Portuguese classics, the Composto restaurant is certainly worth a visit, whether for a business dinner or for a romantic evening.
Given that it is a 5 star hotel, the pricing of the rooms are very reasonable. Room rates would be easily exceeded by 3 or 4 star hotels in major cities like London or Paris, and the meals are great value in the €40-60 range per person for three courses and wine. This is of course an elevated price compared to dining out in the rest of Porto, but the dishes being served (at least the ones I tried) are quite distinct from the rest of the city and certainly on another level, so in that respect I believe it is fair to good value.
The spa treatments are also open to the public, and the scrub and back massage treatment I received was especially wonderful, given the lack of regular movement throughout the pandemic period. While I did not use the swimming pool or jacuzzi area, this felt surprisingly spacious given it is a basement facility.
With its location on the southern bank of the river, it's a little bit away from the most hustle and bustle of tourism without feeling like it is far from the action. Once at the hotel you will be treated with some of the best views of Porto that money can buy.
This hotel comes with my firm recommendation. And even if you are not staying a night, definitely come to the restaurant or the bar for the food.