The Yeatman doesn’t sound, to the ill-informed, a
particularly Portuguese name for a hotel. One would more readily expect
a name like “Henry the Navigator Inn” or “The Porto Paradise”. Do some
homework and you’ll find that The Yeatman is steeped in Portuguese
history that has drifted through half-a-dozen or so generations of
transplanted British. That’s a marvel when many folks these days
consider themselves aristocrats if they can trace their family all the
way back to their father. Portugal is a country that has long had these
strong British connections.
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Natasha and her husband Adrian have been described as the ‘first couple
of Port’. That might sound an extravagant monica but it truly sums up
the regard in which these two are held. She is the eldest daughter of
Taylor, Fladgate & Yeatman’s chairman, Alistair Robertson, who
inherited the business in 1966 following the death of Dick Yeatman, his
uncle. Natasha is the seventh generation of the Taylor Fladgate and
Yeatman dynasty and is the head blender for the Taylor Fladgate
Partnership. Founded in 1692, Taylor, Fladgate and Yeatman is one of
the oldest port wine houses, and one of the largest. It owns the brands
of Fonseca, Taylor, and Croft.
Adrian met his wife in 1982 and joined the family firm in 1994. This
was his third career, being first an officer in The 1st Queen’s Dragoon
Guards. He later worked in the banking industry and in 1994 he and
Natasha moved to Portugal full-time, where he assumed responsibility
for Taylor’s Port and Fonseca Port in the UK and USA arenas. In 2000,
he formally took on the role of Managing Director of the Taylor Fonseca
Port Group. Adrian is a keen sportsman and has represented Great
Britain at bobsledding – one can picture him scudding down the Douro
Valley through the vines.
In 2010, The Yeatman Hotel was finally launched. It’s an outstanding
luxury wine hotel and has been Adrian’s project for over 5 years. It
has evidently involved the whole family, as Natasha’s mum had much to
do with the interior decoration and she has done a magnificent job.
One might expect this couple to be stiff and unapproachable. They are
well used to the company of kings, politicians, notables from the world
over. Adrian and Natasha both come from good “stock” but they are
natural, friendly and put their guests at ease. They are passionately
dedicated to showcasing quality hospitality in all its guises, and
their staff have the same enthusiasm. Everyone is unobtrusively
attentive and knowledgeable about the hotel, food and wine – this is,
after all, a wine hotel.
The Yeatman is full of surprises. One approaches a hotel that gives the
impression of a contemporary European bungalow. Step inside and the
perception changes. A huge reception area with imposing staircase,
pillars and statue of Bacchus greet the travel-weary. This striking lad
must be an image of the god as a youngster: most other representations
present him as a well-padded chap with hints of Santa. This
“David”-like figure matches the elegance of his new home.
The lifts pay homage to the Douro with images covering all sides with a
360-degree panorama. Another elevator takes younger visitors to the
bespoke Kid's Club. That one gives one the impression of being lifted
in a hot-air balloon. There is great humour in this hotel
that could have been so dry, worthy, academic and remote, the preserve
of the “old school”. The Yeatman will be appreciated by all those with
a taste for the finer things of life but it has wide appeal. Older
folks will enjoy the traditional luxury, couples can indulge in some
pampering, and families can take advantage of the unbeatable location.
It’s truly a hotel for all seasons.
The Yeatman is built on the sloping hillside opposite Porto city, in
Vila Nova de Gaia (easy access across the bridge). It’s constructed
with terraces replicating the distinctive vineyards of the Douro Valley
an hour’s drive away. The Yeatman flatters and harmonizes with the
landscape. This cascading design allows every room to take advantage of
the terracotta-roofed cityscape across the river. The sun sets and the
view changes to give a romantic ambiance to the private balconies.
The public spaces act as a gallery for paintings and artwork
reflecting the history of the region and the country in general, all
impeccably displayed. There is a collection of roosters (the iconic symbol
of Portugal) painted and
embellished by students. Maps, watercolours, sculpture, and photography
– it’s all found a home at the Yeatman.
There is so much here that gives a nod to wine, its production and
consumption. The suites are named after wines, the walls are hung with
wine-related pictures, and every room is sponsored by a producer. The
67 wine companies each take a turn hosting a Thursday evening
wine-tasting dinner, which is very reasonably priced and popular with
locals and visitors alike.
The 82 rooms are predictably well-appointed. Each one is different with
individually-chosen soft furnishings, and books carefully selected for
the edification and entertainment of guests. There will likely be a
copy of Charles Metcalf’s Wines of Portugal and also a slim volume
entitled 1066 and All That. At first glance that might seem a rather
random literary inclusion but take a look at the cover: one of the
authors is a Yeatman, and a relative of Natasha. This book continues
the tone of the hotel in general – a mix of contemporary and classic
features, of whimsy and substance.
Adrian had sustainability at the forefront of this new build. Solar
panels are used for heating water, and photovoltaic cells generate
electricity to reduce consumption of the regular mains power.
Low-energy lighting is installed throughout the building
and rainwater is collected and stored for flushing loos and sprinkling the
garden. A reverse-osmosis system converts tap water into purified
drinking water, so the hotel is self-sufficient without the need to buy
bottled ‘eau-not-so-naturelle’ with all its baggage of transport miles,
processing and packaging.
This is the Yeatman so their full wine list is as thick as a bible and
features around 800 Portuguese wines and 80 international wines. Their
cellar is open for inspection for a couple of hours each day with a
display of 25,000 or so bottles, many of which are unique and will be
sought by the enthusiast. The racks are arranged geographically with
some New World vintages in the corner at the back for those with no
soul who would actually want a cheeky little Californian rosé
when visiting this land of such memorable local wines.
Along with fine wine goes fine dining. Chef Ricardo Costa is one of the
leaders of a new generation of culinary innovators in Portugal,
recently winning a Michelin star for The Yeatman. He attended the
School of Hospitality and Tourism of
Coimbra where he honed his technical skills and fed his passion for the
artistry of food. He has graced the kitchens of several hotels and
restaurants in mainland Portugal, Madeira, Spain and England before
settling at the Yeatman.
It’s obvious that any chef would want to be at the helm of a kitchen in
his home land, but I have the sense that Ricardo must be particularly
pleased that his gastronomic ship is newly launched and has the most
sophisticated, not to mention spacious, kitchen of any hotel. The
owners have devoted an extraordinary amount of space to cooking. There
are walk-in fridges aplenty and a specialist station for almost every
course or function. There is even a space devoted to room service, and
a separate kitchen just for breakfast.
Ricardo offers dishes that are unmistakably special but he clings to
the essence of Portuguese cuisine, tempting with flavours of
traditional ingredients prepared and presented with delicious flair.
His food entices and intrigues before calming and
charming the diner. This is skilled cooking that, although cheffy,
never forgets its origins. This is serious food that contrives to
amuse but the bottom line is, most importantly, it tastes great.
We dined on shrimps and mackerel as starters. The Yeatman’s proximity
to the Atlantic is evident in a menu with so many fresh seafood dishes.
Lots here for the committed carnivore, though. The veal was blushing
and tender in its pastry crust and the lamb chops should be a signature
dish. The desserts were beautiful, and the vanilla ice cream, figs and
diced sweet beetroot was a triumph. Do try the local cheese platter,
and you might consider a glass of port to go along with that – I’m sure
they’ll find one somewhere. The menu changes to offer guests the
seasonal best from the market but be assured that Chef Ricardo will
transform those ingredients into dishes with that unmistakable Michelin
Smoking is not allowed in the public areas of The Yeatman
but there is a haven for those wanting a fragrant after-dinner cigar
and that’s The Study. OK, so it’s a change from the Victorian tradition
of ladies retiring and leaving the gentlemen at table passing the port
and puffing, but both ladies and gents will delight in spending a
little time in this book-bedecked idyll.
The Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa is just what you would expect of the Yeatman, offering a wide
selection of wellbeing and relaxation facilities including a Roman
bath, tepidarium, hammam, shower experience and sauna. Space to sit and
unwind, a dip in the pool and a treatment can all be yours. Keeping
with the theme there is even a staircase fashioned from a wine barrel,
and the walls have ancient and gnarled vines as objets-d’art. Treat
your body and mind with such programmes as a Barrel Bath immersion, or
a Merlot Wrap. They take advantage of natural ingredients from the
vineyard with their antioxidant properties, and many of the treatments
can be enjoyed by couples. The lounging area will have you nodding off
over that latest paperback or enjoying that celebrated panoramic view
across the river to the city. A break at this hotel and spa will offer
a romantic retreat and with such affordable luxury you could become
Adrian says he wants The Yeatman to be the foremost destination for
Portuguese wine, and an ambassador for Porto and Portugal in general. I
would say he has already succeeded and it’s still early days. It’s a
platform of viticultural and culinary excellence with some really comfy
Spa Treatments available:
Luxury Moment for Two
• Champagne Afternoon Tea
• Divine Duo Massage
Perfect Moment for Two
• Divine Duo
• Cranial Massage
5 Senses Moments for Two
• Grape Bath
• Crushed Cabernet Scrub
The property is a member of Relais & Chateaux.
The Yeatman Hotel
Rua do Choufelo
4400-088 Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal
Phone: +351 22 013 3100Fax: +351 22 013 3199
Visit The Yeatman here