Reid's Hotel, Madeira
Restaurants and Cuisine

Reid's Hotel

When Reid's Palace first opened, many guests of course came due to ill-health and every care and attention was offered as the daily routine for meals indicates.
9am Breakfast
11am Broth, beef tea for invalids
1pm Luncheon
4.30pm Tea in the drawing room
7pm Dinner

Today, breakfast is served in the Garden Room, beside the swimming pools, between the very civilised hours of 7am and 10.30. You may also of course have breakfast served on your balcony. The extensive buffet is superb, featuring a delicious selection of locally grown fresh fruits - peaches, plums, mangoes, bananas, custard apples and grapes; there is smoked salmon, sliced ham, cheese, bacon and eggs. Portuguese Champagne is also available for those wishing to start the day with a Buck's Fizz. Yes, we are truly back in the decadent and daring 1920s.

We were not offered beef tea at 11am, but one experience that has not altered one jot is the ritual tradition of afternoon tea in the drawing room or out on the terrace. We were advised to reserve a table as most guests and many non-residents make their way to Reid's at around 4pm.

We are shown to a table right at the edge of the terrace with a perfect view across Funchal Bay. The full menu comprises of sandwiches, scones, pastries, and of course Madeira Cake and giant tiers were brought to many a table around us. We select cucumber and smoked salmon sandwiches, scones, cream and strawberry jam. We drink Earl Grey tea, (real tea requiring a tea strainer) out of rose pink Wedgwood cups. From the drawing room wafts more gentle classic tunes from the piano: As Time Goes By.

Reid's HotelAfterwards we wander through the gardens, blanketed with flowers: birds of paradise, with beak-like orange flowers, bright bougainvillea, jacarandas, and beautiful mimosa. Here and there are borders of spiky cactus and towering above, tall shady palm trees. Down the steep steps to the rock pool where Bernard Shaw and many a former guest would have taken a refreshing sea-water plunge. All through the gardens and around the shore-line rocks there are private nooks with seats and loungers for a quiet read or rest.

Today Reid's has five restaurants with a seasonal variation. The original Victorian Dining Room for international fine dining in a magnificent setting is open all year round: With live music, this is the place for dressing up in style (black tie recommended) for a la carte menus, weekly champagne buffet dinners and dinner dances on Saturday nights.

Les Faunes for gourmet meals is open during the winter months, with views across the harbour and a collection of Picasso drawings around the walls. This is described as an East-West fusion cuisine, blending French, Madeiran and Far East dishes, featuring lobster, tuna with Japanese seaweed, scallops, Duck, Pork, Veal and Lamb in a variety of different dishes. During the summer (June to September) guests may dine al fresco, in the Briso do Mar restaurant, again with an emphasis on fresh local fish, meat, salads and vegetables. There is also the popular Villa Cliff, an Italian restaurant, with a terrace overlooking the ocean.

Reid's HotelThe local fresh fish is particularly superb and do try the local specialities such as espada. This is an ugly ink-black eel like fish, that can grow to 3 feet in length, with long needle sharp teeth. Apparently so. I only ever saw it filleted and cooked on the plate - white, delicate flesh, light and tender like lemon -sole, which is served traditionally fried in a light batter with banana, Caribbean style, and a risotto of limpets and tomato. Absolutely delicious.

Other fish includes pargo and besugo - sea- bream, and garoupa and cherne - grouper; Sword fish and bodiao, (parrot fish). Portuguese sea cod can be quite salty for the unaccustomed palate

Espetada is the typical meat dish, a kebab of beef traditionally served on a laurel stick, but now perhaps on a skewer; chicken ( frango) is often on the menu, grilled or African style as in piri-piri, when it is basted in hot chilli peppers.

Table wines are imported from mainland Portugal - with a range of tinto ( red) and ( branco) white wines. Dao and Douro wines from the north produce rich reds and flavourful whites. The Alentejo region is also highly regarded. Vinho Verde is a delicious light, slightly sparkling young white wine, perfect for lunchtime drinking and with fish dishes.

The eponymous Madeira wine is of course quite different and is a fortified wine; while there are several styles, dry and full bodied, with various flavours and vintages, they are served like a sherry as an aperitif, or like port with desserts and cheese at the end of a meal.

Reid's HotelWhile an irresistible old-fashioned ambience of style and sophistication lingers on with a dress code for afternoon tea, cocktails and dinner to ensure the tradition of glamour around the hotel, it would be misleading to state that little has changed since the early days. Over the decades careful refurbishment and decoration has been carried out, the creation of new restaurants, two heated sea-water swimming pools and the Garden wing, providing increased accommodation. There are now 164 rooms which includes 32 suites. And throughout the day there are numerous activities, sports and games, from deep sea fishing to bridge parties, children's entertainment, tennis, island tours and golf, and even occasional Agatha Christie style Murder Weekends.

Since 1996 the hotel has been owned and managed by the Orient-Express Hotel group which has invested over US $14 million in refurbishment. Careful preservation of the tropical gardens has been undertaken by British garden designers Stuart Rogers and Clinton Crawshaw, who have been inspired by the legendary gardener, Gertrude Jekyll. The gardens were of course a vital aspect within William Reid's vision to surround his dream palace.

Auld Lang Syne
William Reid's name as the creator and founder of Reid's Palace will never be forgotten on Madeira. Neither will his homeland. Each year on the nearest Saturday to Burns' Night - 25th January - there is a very popular Burns Supper, complete with Scottish Pipers, a great deal of tartan, Scottish country dancing and the Address to the haggis. With a few drams of the Reid's Special cocktail, no doubt, Scotch whisky, triple sec and lemon juice, a long time favourite.

Hogmanay, (New Year's Eve) has always been a time for celebration on Madeira, with most of the island's population and visitors alike gathering to watch a fabulous display of fireworks setting alight to the sky over the natural amphitheatre of Funchal Bay. (They claim it is even more impressive than the Hogmanay Fireworks over Edinburgh Castle). The whole sky is apparently lit up with rockets, cascading starlights, 3-D effect gigantic flowers, the entire spectacle lasting ten minutes. Bom Ano Novo!

In November 2001, Reid's Palace, now in its third century, will commemorate its 110th anniversary. Plans are afoot for a quiet celebration including an invitation to the hotel of some of the direct descendants of the Reid family. For generations, Reid's Palace has been the place to stay, on this magical island - it is a destination in itself.

Timeless, romantic, luxurious, unique; And, like George Bernard Shaw, you can still learn to tango, after tea on the terrace.

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