I’ll be honest: I have a weakness for small, independent hotels that are the passion projects of slightly mad entrepreneurs who don’t care about P&Ls or pleasing their investors, nor following conventional wisdom. Hotels-as-investments, in which the cost-benefit analyses and play-it-safe decisions are fairly clear, generally don’t do it for me.
But I’ll make an exception for Portugal’s Discovery Hotel Management. It’s part of investment fund that buys distressed properties (of recent vintage, not decayed old palaces) around Portugal and brings them back to life. More than that: They imbue them with new life, and with plenty of Portuguese soul. It’s more sustainable than building from scratch, and a little bit of backstory is never a bad thing.
And so I became a fan of hotels like Douro 41, Vila Monte Farm House in the Algarve, and Furnas Boutique Hotel in the Azores. I’m not the only one. And so I paid attention when I saw that they were all being rebranded at Octant [destination]—giving up on name recognition has to be for a very good reason.
The reason here is the creation of Octant Hotels, a new brand (of eight hotels, of course) spotlighting DHM’s most design-driven, local-spirited hotels and adding a big dose of “freedom” to the mix. They’re particularly proud of their 24-hour services, including breakfast on demand at any time, even after the buffet has been taken apart. (Though it’s worth waking up for that buffet, with its great variety and quality.) The two outdoor pools are also available 24-7, and a third one is heated and indoors for winter swims.
They’ve also come up with a nifty new definition of luxury: kindness, empathy and efficiency, an environment where guests and staff are at ease. And in fact, everyone I encountered during a recent stay at Octant Évora, from the front desk attendants to the spa therapists who whisked me off for a welcome ritual almost the moment I arrived to the servers at dinner, was friendly and calm, but also making things happen. (Something that’s not always easy to find in 2022.)
Their other touchstone is making things as local as possible, from the materials in the furnishings and finishes in the 56 rooms in the main building and the 16 two-and three-bedroom villas to the all-Alentejo wine list in the restaurant to the food trucks that will soon open beside the garden. That garden supplies a lot of what goes into the kitchen, and overall, some 78% of the hotel’s suppliers are based in Évora.
Before there was Octant, the property was known as Évora Farm Hotel—built around 2008 as such for a Portuguese footballer who ran out of funds in the crash of that same year. It was abandoned until DHM got involved and opened it in 2021. That farm component still exists—not just the kitchen garden (where the chefs and gardeners lead guided tours) but also an animal farm, with a pony called Mathilde, a pig called Bacon (it won’t be) and a sheep called Alecrim (rosemary).
That menagerie is growing, and they’ll soon be expanding the space for it. “We didn’t expect the animals to be so happy and procreate so much,” admits the general manager. But settled in and happy is what everyone is. There’s an adopt-a-rabbit program for the baby bunnies, but everyone else is staying put. The objective is to be educational, not merely cute and fluffy—a connection with nature and food for city kids and the adults who bring them to this family-friendly hotel.