York House, Lapa district, Lisbon, Portugal ***

Q: What is it? A: A nice hotel in Lisbon, that’s what it is. Its greatest asset? The courtyard.

Drink or tea? Both?

Very functional for late evening drinks and for, (you’ve already guessed it), breakfast!

As they say in the ads in the travel magazines: An oasis.

It’s actually quite hard to imagine that this pic was taken smack in the middle of a city with 2.8 million inhabitants.

Size: Small. Next time I'll go big.

A typical small room at the York House. Rather homey, eh?

The mandatory bathroom shot.

The bathroom. Way more modern than expected.

Discreet entrance. Very discreet, actually.

What it looks like from the street. No, not easy to find if you don’t know what to look for. Plus: There’s no space for your cabbie to park, so expect a few frustrated drivers if you arrive late on a Friday night…

It’s an oasis. No doubt.
On the website it says “Est. 1880” but the York House is actually located in an old Carmelite convent dating back to 1606. You are entering through a hole in the wall and then you need to follow a ivy-shaded maroon staircase that snakes it way upwards and upwards. It’s worth the climb. The courtyard is nothing but fantastic and there’s very little that reveals that you are smack in the middle of a capital city with 2.8 million inhabitants. Visually, the first impression was superb, although any offer to help me carry my 23 kg (50.7 lbs) aluminium case plus some camera equipment would have been greatly appreciated.

Where’s the staff? Hello?
Arriving at night is arriving to everything the tourist brochures are promising Lisbon to be. Good looking people are having drinks in the courtyard. Candles and lanterns are lit. You feel the warm breeze in your face. So where’s the reception? You are not getting much help as there are no signs directing you where to go, (Hint: it’s the door three o’clock when you point your nose in a northerly direction, towards the actual hotel). It’s like entering a secluded and well-kept secret. Please, don’t think that is praise for the York House, even if it may sound like it. At the front desk there were still no signs of any staff member. Strange.

32 rooms. Mine is pretty OK.
After climbing some more stairs the room was mine. Not bad at all, especially considered the fact that this is not a particularly expensive hotel. The room is dominated by an arch that looks like a remain from the convent days. Comfy bed. Modern and functional bathroom. This website refuses to talk about stuff like flat screen television*, it rather mentions WiFi, which is available in all areas. The York House is a homey place that has attracted numerous celebs over the years, including writers Graham Greene and John Le Carré. It’s very much how I’d like to picture the quintessential boutique hotel, although it lacks the service level you’d expect from such a place. The elderly, short waiter I met at breakfast was an exception; just as charming as his English was limited.

Not that I needed the help, but…
Oddly enough, the York House leave me with the same feeling as I had when I arrived. On check out I’m supposed to carry my heavy cases down the stairs myself. In this case I was offered assistance, but no such assistance materialized. That’s bad. The hotel made a promise that was not being kept. I was OK carrying my luggage, but what if I’d been an elderly lady?
For atmosphere this hotel causes any meter to peak. It’s a fantastic place. For service there’s room for improvement. Quite a lot of room, actually. Hence this rather lukewarm review.

York House
Rua das Janelas Verdes 32
1200 Santos-o-Velho
Lisboa, Portugal

Tel: +351 213 962 435

Click here to book the York House through TabletHotels.com

*ADDITIONAL NOTE: What is it with these flat screen TVs? It’s 2009 and they are soon available in the Cap’n Crunch cereal boxes. Sorry, dear writers of hotel ads and brochures. They are not what will keep guests arriving in masses.

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