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Exploring Porto and the Douro Valley
At any time of the year, RIB Beef and Wine in Porto would be a great place to enjoy a meal. Arriving, as we did, in Porto on a warm and sunny September day, our hearty lunch was the perfect introduction to the City. Part of the Pestana Vintage Porto Hotel & World Heritage Site the bar is situated in Ribeira on the bank of the river Douro with panoramic views of the Port wine cellars on the opposite bank, the Teleferico de Gaia and the Dom Luis 1 bridge.
True to its name the RIB specialises in beef. We had a very leisurely lunch tucking into plates piled high with succulent meat, served with sauces, French fries, mashed potato and sweet potato. All washed down with a glass of Duas Quintas, Douro 2014, red wine which perfectly complemented the meat. To round off the meal we were served an assortment of chocolate desserts on slate platters.
A quick tour of Porto by car, allowed us just a brief view of the Clerics Tower and Livraria Lello Porto (the bookshop that inspired J K Rowling) before setting off for the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel where we spent the night. It’s a hotel that is is well worth visiting though we were grateful not to be driving ourselves – right in in the middle of the Douro valley you’d need a great sense of direction or a good sat-nav to get there by yourself!
The next day, we travelled on to Quinta da Pacheca, one of the best-known vineyards in the Douro valley, choosing to take the scenic route, with winding roads taking us to a lookout point where the Douro river suddenly came into view beneath us.
The grape harvest was in full swing when we arrived. Groups of pickers working steadily through the terraces of vines, loading their buckets with bunches of red grapes. Harvest varies greatly from year to year as the grapes need to be picked when they are perfectly ripe to ensure the best wine possible. This vineyard processes its grapes in the traditional way with the grapes being stomped for 3 to 4 hours each day, by foot, to start off the fermentation. We joined in snipping the grapes then the treading them in big granite troughs, all accompanied by jolly music before we went on to eat a hearty al fresco lunch.
What could be better in Portugal than tasting port? After lunch we tasted 20and 40-year-old ports with our guide from the hotel explaining the key things to look out for.
Dinner that evening was at the DOC restaurant. Together with DOP restaurant in Porto this is run by the well-known chef Rui Paula. Guilt on the side of the river Douro on a terrace jutting out from the road, you can see the water beneath you through the boards of the outside decking.
We feasted on a delicious menu of prawns with mango and coconut, turbot with French pearl barley, rack of lamb with goat cheese gnocchi and a crème brulee crepe.
After an overnight stay at Quinta da Pacheca Wine Hotel we visited the Six Senses Douro Valley Hotel, a few minutes away, before heading back to Porto for the last day.
Back in Porto, we headed for the fishing port to have lunch at Os Lusiadas restaurant. This restaurant specialises in fish and shellfish with an impressive display of both fresh fish and shellfish in large counters. What could be tastier than sampling fresh clams, king prawns, goose barnacles and crab shells filled with a delicious mix of crab, lobster and egg. This came theatrically presented on a large platter with dry ice.
To follow salt baked sea bass with potatoes and green vegetables. Having grown up in North Cornwall I really appreciated just how fresh this seafood was.
Our next stop was the famous Taylor’s port cellars. Row upon row of oak barrels stretching out in the warehouse, over a thousand barrels in total. After a brief history of Taylor’s and the origin of port, we had the chance to sample four different ports including a white chip dry port, which I was told goes well with tonic, the port equivalent of a G & T. I made a note to try it soon!
It is only a few minutes from Taylor’s to the waterfront at Gaia where we took the six bridges river cruise which lasts about fifty minutes. There couldn’t be a better way to see the magnificent bridges spanning the Douro river as well as the architecture of the buildings lining both banks. The boat had headphones for all the passengers, with a commentary in English as we headed up and down the river.
We checked in at the Teatro Hotel, this hotel is centrally located on the spot where there was originally a theatre, the Baquet Theatre, and is themed around a theatre. Even the hotel’s entrance doors fit in with the theme; the words of the poet Almeida Garrett are reproduced on them in gold letters.
Dinner was at DOP restaurant, another restaurant run by the chef Rui Paula, where we were welcomed by the chef himself who was born in Porto. Located in the Palace of Arts, DOP meaning “Tasting and daring in Oporto”, the restaurant has a cuisine based on traditional Portuguese flavours. The restaurant has a clean modern feel with cream and aqua décor. We dined on veal bresaola with pesto and parmesan, salt cod with turnip tops and potatoes and slow cooked pork with celeriac puree. Dessert was a delicious orange cake.
I’ve written in more detail about some of the wine hotels of the Douro in a previous post. You’ll find more about the Monverde Wine Experience Hotel, Quinta da Pacheca and the Six Senses Douro Valley, so do check it out if you are thinking of visiting. And, why not pin this post for later…
We were guests of Porto and Northern Portugal Tourism Board
TAP Portugal flies direct from London Gatwick to Porto 13 times a week, prices start at £42 one way including all taxes and surcharges.
For further information, visit www.flytap.com or call 0345 601 0932
For further destination information, visit visitportoandnorth.travel