A Portuguese palace from 1861 brought to new life –scraping away layers of paint from the walls. The stuccoes on the ceilings represent Portuguese writers, who give their names to the suites
During the renovation of the Torel Palace in Porto, restoring the high ceilings to their original splendour, bas-reliefs depicting Portuguese writers emerged. That is why room’s names are dedicated some Portuguese writers such as Florbela Espanca, Fernando Pessoa.
Torel Palace, Porto: the suites
Suite number 5 is dedicated to the journalist, diplomat and writer, Eça de Queiroz. He was a leading exponent of Portuguese realism. Great traveller, Eça de Queiroz composed most of his work abroad, although with a constant eye on Portuguese reality, of which he was also a profound critic. One of the author’s most important commitments was the project to write a series of twelve novels defined as Scenes from Portuguese Life, from Lisbon to Oporto, from the provinces to professionals, traders, politicians, adventurers, nobles, prostitutes and bankers. After three years of work, what should have been a short story became instead a volume of six hundred pages. His novel, which dealt mainly with Lisbon’s literary life, from journalists to artists, caused such a stir and scandal that he waited fifty years before publishing it.
The bathroom is a cube of mirrors in the centre of the room. All around it are the various areas. On the right is the imposing bed – you lie under the ceiling paintings, imagining how the family that lived in the palace until the nineteenth century lived. Frescoes tell of games between little angels – it was once the children’s room.
In the living room there is a large sofa that precedes a long console table, where there are a typewriter, a container for drinks and glassware, and a fridge full of Portuguese wines. A portrait, painted by Jorge Curval, reveal the identity of the author – Eça de Queiroz. Three windows overlook Rua de Entreparedes. From here you can see the seagulls flying, high in the sky, crying out and choosing which roofs to perch on. They are the guardians of this city, which spreads high above the wide, fast-flowing river. The ocean is a few kilometres away, but it makes its presence felt in the salty wind.
Interview to Ingrid Koeck, Torel Boutique Collection, Portugal
Torel Palace Porto opened in February 2020. It is the latest project in the Torel Boutiques collection. Ingrid Koeck is one of the three partners of the Torel Boutique Collection – four hotels in Portugal, one in Lisbon and three in Porto. The Torel 1884 suites and apartments and the Torel Palace Porto are two of the three hotels in Porto. «Each of our hotels has a different concept – Mrs Koeck explains. In Lisbon, the hotel is dedicated to the Kings and Queens of Portugal. In Torel Avantgarde the inspiration comes from international and Portuguese artists, while in Torel 1884 suites and apartments from Portuguese discoveries».
Torel Palace, Porto: the interior design
Isabel Sá Nogueira – who has already worked on other hotels in the group, including the design of the Torel Palace Lisboa and the common areas of the Torel Avantgarde – was entrusted with the interior design.
«We trust our designers. They have carte blanche. When we come up with the theme of our hotel, they develop an interpretation and choose their suppliers. They make sure materials are from Port, and supplies too have to be from Portugal. The same for our amenities».
The architectural structure was maintained, with the intervention essentially at the level of furniture, colors and lighting. The intention was to enhance the beauty of the palace and restore its splendor, as it is happening in the lobby, the staircase or the skylight. Looking up, the curved line of the staircase leads to the dome, where four deities dear to the family of merchants who once owned the palace are depicted in bas-relief. At night, the line is illuminated by a nerve of light.
The building was created in 1861. «There was a part badly destroyed. We had to open everything, scratch layers and layers of overpainting from the walls. We took out everything we could, so as to free the palace from all the layers that were put on in the meantime. It took three years to renovate the entire palace».
Torel Palace – attention to environment
«We try to adopt a plastic free policy – I think the only plastic we have is for the coffee pods. The water is in glass bottles, from Portugal. We have our amenities. We start now to have bamboo slippers packaged in paper, wooden toothbrushes». Torel Palace has retainers for water: «we save water, which is a big topic this year in Portugal because there’s already been a drought. We are not an eco hotel, but we have the consciousness to come to save, and not to waste. Like the lights: they’re automatic lights, because when people switch on and then relax, they forget and so we want to help the guest in a light way. We asked them to reuse the bath towels and so on, but I think this is important, since the amenities generate huge waste normally».
Torel Boutique Collection: the history
The project was born after a meeting of three minds. «Barbara, Joau, and myself: we didn’t know each other before and we all three changed our lives. In the course of changing our lives our paths crossed. Joau had been working for 20 years in a bank and he decided to leave. Then he started the project of the Torel Palace Lisbon – the very first project. At that time it was a small bed and breakfast, with 12 rooms only one building. Barbara – who is also from Austria as me – stayed in the hotel during a trip to Portugal. They started talking. She decided to invest. She moved to Portugal and became a business partner in the company. This happened in 2014-2015».
«I come originally from hospitality: my grandmother had a bed and breakfast. My parents had a restaurant in Austria, but I studied journalism in Vienna, and for many years I worked for the United Nations.
For ten years in Africa and the Middle East. It was a different life. My last experience was in Lebanon. When I was working there, I felt it was time to change my life. I wanted to return to Europe and return to hospitality.
I remembered a trip to Portugal many years before, and I felt like: maybe this could be the place where I could spend the next chapter of my life. And then, in a nutshell, I basically quit my job, I flew to Austria, I bought a car and I drove to Portugal. Then I was looking for my project here, and in the course of looking for my project I met Barbara and Joau. I didn’t know them before, and they invited me to join. This was in 2016. It was the moment when they were thinking about expanding, when I joined the company. At that time we only had one hotel and now we have four. Since I joined a lot of things have happened».
Blind restaurant in Porto
The name of the restaurant – Blind – comes from the book Blindness by Jose Saramago. It’s in the lower part of the hotel and is also open to external customers. From here you access the courtyard, the swimming pool which are surrounded by greenery. «The restaurant was designed by a chef from Porto – our consulting chef – Vitor Matos. You can enjoy a set menu with eight or ten moments. Each dish is connected to Porto, and has Portuguese ingredients. The bread that we use is homemade from here. The dishes have a creative name, so you don’t know what you get. All of it has to do with Portugal and, again, telling the story of Portugal. We have one dish that is dedicated to another chef in Portugal, who is the chef in the South. The plate is blue like the sea and it’s seafood, it’s a real concept».