“ Address: Rua Jaime Brasil 40 / Porto 4350-005 / Portugal „
The AC that's handy for the FC
The AC Porto is situated in the Antas area of Porto city, a district which was built up a few years ago for the European football cup and it's very conveniently placed for access to the major football stadium. Perhaps the testosterone charged atmosphere of the game accounts for the design of what is one of the most overtly 'manly' hotels I've seen in a very long time. If you are old enough to remember Mickey Rourke when he was still handsome, the hotel rooms look like they're an 'homage' to his apartment in the film '9 1/2 Weeks'.
I was dropped off by my colleague who lives nearby. She'd chosen this hotel because it's handy for her to ferry people around and it meant we could go out for dinner in Lisbon rather than the small town where our factory is based. I stepped into a high ceilinged and rather bleak lobby, decorated with lots of very modern leather seating, metal coffee tables, lamps galore and a lot of rather ugly vases. What is it with hotels that they seem to think all ills can be solved with vases? The whole 'Elle Deco' vibe was a little cold and gave me an uneasy feeling that the designers had been trying a bit too hard.
The check in was handled quickly and politely by a young lady who seemed unfazed by the extraordinarily ugly sculpture on the wall behind her which looked like it had been fashioned out of old coat hangers and Hoover fluff. She confirmed the time of breakfast and that it was included in my rate, gave me my card key and directed me towards the lifts.
A very manly room
The hallways were carpeted which was a nice surprise. Carpeting makes an enormous difference to the acoustics of hotel rooms and I was surprised to see it in Lisbon as hotels in southern Europe tend towards tiled flooring. With the door opened I stepped into a room with not one trace of anything even slightly soft or girly. The floors were of a dark wood laminate, the walls were painted grey, and the furniture was characterised by lots more dark wood and black leather. Could a place be more 'single man on the pull in 1985'?
To brighten things a little the curtains were white and had excellent blackout properties. The duvet and bedding were also white. On the wall was an ugly print of a boat, painted from what I can only imagine as a sort of sharks eye view.
Furniture included a large padded bag stand a long narrow desk with a smaller than might be expected flat screen television, a desk lamp and an ultra chic Jacob Jensen slim phone. I'll admit I fell slightly in love with the phone though it seemed a shame to put not one but two such beautiful iconic design classics into a hotel room, given that hardly anyone ever uses hotel phones any more. There was a black leather arm chair and matching footstool which looked great but were not the most practical things to actually sit in.
The bed side tables are platforms that just emerge from the wall. Lighting around the bed includes some pretty intense reading lights which I liked a lot. The wardrobe doors glow from the lights behind in a slightly eerie way but when I opened the doors it was intensely dusty inside and made me suspect that most guests probably live out of their suitcases like I do. Additional facilities included a small mini bar but surprisingly neither a safe nor an iron and board or trouser press. The Portuguese are normally pretty dapper so that seemed like quite an omission.
The bathroom was impressive - very sleek and ultra modern with a fabulous moulded glass sink that's strictly for those with time to clean it every time it's used or staff to do it for them. It was gorgeous but not very practical. Because the sink was so splendid they seemed reluctant to put anything on it so a small trolley underneath held all the toiletries and spare towels as if putting anything on the glass might be sacrilege. In normal Iberian style there was both toilet and bidet and the room was beautifully tiled in small grey-green tiles. You have to hand it to the Portuguese - they're world experts at tiling. The mirror was large and well lit but there was no shaving/make up mirror.
I slept well in my room and headed down to breakfast the next morning at about 7.30 am. The restaurant was enormous but completely empty and I did wonder if maybe I'd set my watch wrong or turned up before it had opened. But the food was laid out so I blundered around and helped myself. I got to the stage of wondering where they'd hidden the coffee when a slightly flustered waiter emerged and sorted me out with a cup. I asked him if it was always so quiet and he muttered something about 'calm before the storm'. I later learned he was referring to the fact that a Russian team was playing one of the Porto teams at the football stadium nearby that night and so the hotel was booked up solid for the next day or so. I found a good selection of cold food but very limited hot options. I wasn't bothered, they had mini 'pastel de nata' (the exquisite little custard tarts) so who needs scrambled egg when those are available.
My check out was handled just as quickly and efficiently as the check in had been the night before and my bill was 90 Euros which I thought was quite good value. Porto is always a city that delivers a lot for your money. Unless you need or want to be by the stadium or the shopping centre next door, I'm not sure that most people would pick this hotel. It's not so convenient for the more obvious city attractions but taxis in Porto are cheaper than many cities so it's well worth considering.