Chef José Avillez and his wife Sofia Ulrich create...

Chef José Avillez and his wife Sofia Ulrich created Casa Nossa, a luxurious Alentejo farmhouse on the shores of the Alqueva

By: Alexandra Stilwell

Photo: Grupo José Avillez

The ultimate lakeside retreat

Portuguese chef José Avillez is renowned for his gastronomic empire, spanning from Lisbon to Porto and all the way to the Middle East. With restaurants ranging from a two Michelin-star establishment to a cosy pizzeria, he knows the ins and out of the business. So, it comes as no surprise that the born entrepreneur’s latest project should take him a step further into the world of hospitality.

Together with his wife, Sofia Ulrich, he has combined gastronomy with luxury accommodation to create an all-inclusive sumptuous experience for foodies and country lovers alike.

Two hours southeast of Lisbon, in a secluded location on the shores of the Alqueva Lake, they created Casa Nossa – The Lake Farmhouse. This exquisite Alentejo retreat is a large 10-bedroom white-washed farmhouse boasting breathtaking views of its surroundings, full-board, including the chef’s signature dishes, and even has its own dock with a speedboat to explore the lake.

Hidden behind a large wooden gate, the superb property the house was built on features 65 hectares of natural landscape dotted with hundred-years-old holm oaks, fruit trees and fragrant herbs. This secluded corner of Alentejano heaven was discovered and lovingly developed by the award-winning chef and Sofia, who is a compulsive reader and amateur photographer.

Casa Nossa actually began as a family project. The Cascais-based couple started looking for a holiday home in the Alentejo a while before the pandemic struck. Although their initial plan was for something smaller, as soon as they laid eyes on the incredible property, it was love at first sight. They understood the location’s potential and shifted gears for a more ambitious project.

Together, they designed and built an Alentejo-inspired house, seamlessly harmonising tradition with modernity. They called it Casa Nossa, Our House, because, in a nutshell, it says it all. The house belongs to the couple, but it also belongs to those who rent it for the duration of their stay. That is the atmosphere they have created – a luxurious all-inclusive holiday destination where guests feel at home.

José and Sofia designed the house together, giving it unique details that reflect their passion for hospitality. The interior design and decoration project was overseen by the reputable Studio Astolfi, to which a selection of traditional Portuguese craftwork pieces curated by Felipa Almeida was added. The result is a luxuriously discreet and sophisticated house, with spacious rooms where natural materials and earthy shades of orange and brown prevail.

Like most traditional Alentejo houses, Casa Nossa features several fireplaces, three inside and several outdoors, adding extra comfort during the colder months. The main sitting room, measuring around 180 square meters, includes three sitting areas, two of the fireplaces, game tables, a large piano, a television, a sound system and a record player. Part of the main living area, the dining room features a table that seats 20 people and another for 12. For a more relaxed lunch or dinner, or maybe for the kids, there is a table for 10 in the kitchen.

The vast wine cellar stocks around 800 bottles, including over 120 labels of some of the best Portuguese wines, and a tasting table for 10. Some of these wines are included in the daily drinks supplement, and more can be ordered à la carte. Other luxurious comforts include a cinema and showroom with a giant 2mX3m screen and plush seating for cosy movie nights.

The sitting room, with its fireplaces, interior patio and bar, is the perfect place to enjoy a cocktail, listen to the house playlist or leaf through one of the library’s numerous books on the Alentejo, gastronomy, hunting, fishing, and traditional crafts. For more serious reading sessions, the hosts have curated a selection of Portuguese and world literature classics.

The 10 suites, fitted with king-size beds, Egyptian cotton sheets, and the best pillow for a sumptuous night’s sleep, either have a private patio, balcony or porch.

Of course, since you will be staying at José Avillez’s home, every meal will have his unique signature. The cuisine is Portuguese in essence and includes a selection of traditional and contemporary dishes prepared daily according to Casa Nossa’s farm-to-table model, privileging, whenever possible, seasonal, local, and the estate’s products. Picnics, pool lunches, wine tastings, and more can also be organised.

Outside, surrounding the house, a large porch offers a stunning 180º view of the lake.

The property features two swimming pools, a vegetable garden where the season’s best products flourish, and a tennis and a paddle court, which can be used day and night. No need to bring your equipment; rackets and balls are available in the house.

Next to the pools, you will find a small sauna, a Turkish bath, and a well-being pavilion. With stunning views overlooking the lake, this is the ideal location for a yoga session or a therapeutic massage, both of which are part of the extra activities that can be booked in advance. It also includes a small workout room that can be used freely or for a workout session with a personal trainer.

One of the property’s most exclusive features is its direct access to the Alqueva Lake and a small river beach, where guests can rest and enjoy the sun, and its pier, where the estate’s speedboat is moored. Meant for all sorts of nautical activities, it is always driven by a professional skipper who can take up to 10 guests on a tour of the lake. The ideal scenario includes a stop at one of the small Alqueva islands for a relaxing picnic. Stand-up paddle boards and kayaks stocked in the house can be used freely, and water-skiing and wakeboard sessions can be organised at an extra cost.

Casa Nossa is designed to be rented as a single property, or a minimum of six rooms for two nights, with prices starting at €4,500 per night. Offering total privacy and comfort, the five-star hotel services include housekeeping, meals, countless amenities and the permanent support of a dedicated team.

Follow Casa Nossa on Instagram.


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