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Pestana Carlton Madeira
History, photos, hotel and restaurant review of the
first Pestana Hotel
Article added on April 10, 2012

The history of the Pestana Carlton Madeira hotel and its owners

Just fifteen minutes on foot from the historic city center, built on a cliff and on the site of the previous Hotel Atlântico dating back to 1896, the hotel Pestana Carlton was the work of the architect Semião, with the latest transformations made by Jaime Morais of Dueto Arquitectos.

The first stone for the new hotel was set in 1968. On November 20, 1972, the hotel was opened under intense “flower showers” by Almirante Américo Thomaz, President of the Portuguese Republic, as the new Madeira Sheraton. A cocktail party with illustrious guests followed. Nowadays, not a single international hotel chain is present on the island of Madeira.

The owner of the Madeira Sheraton hotel was Manuel Pestana, the son of a large family of farmers from the picturesque Madeiran village of Vila Madeirense, Ribeira Brava, located some 20km away from Funchal. At the age of 20, he emigrated to Mozambique in the south of Africa, where he made a fortune in the real estate business in both Mozambique and South Africa.

He came back to Madeira in 1966 and bought Hotel Atlântico, which he transformed into the first hotel on his island of birth; today, Pestana Group operates 9 hotels in Madeira. Pestana's only son, Dionísio Pestana, born and raised in South Africa, later took over his businesses.

For 18 years, Madeira Sheraton was run under the management of the Sheraton Chain. Only in 1990, it became the first Pestana Hotel in the world, under the management of Dionísio Pestana, at the time renamed Madeira Carlton Hotel.

Today, Pestana Group is Portugal's largest hotel group and operates some 90 hotels around the world. Other investments include Vacation Clubs (time-share), real estate, business centers and travel agencies. Manuel Pestana died in 2008. His son Dionísio is the new CEO. He has three children.

Today's Pestana Carlton Madeira
Sometimes, when you are lucky, you enter a hotel room and think, this is it, the room I have been waiting for! For me, that moment came when I entered my Sea View Junior Suite 1115 on the 11th floor at Pestana Carlton Madeira. I felt like in a 1970s movie, although the interior design was last updated in 2007 and impeccable.

Later, I had a walk around the property and a look at several other of the in total 285 rooms and suites. The suites are larger than my junior suite, the corner rooms (also junior suites) on the four floors around the pool have large balconies to two sides, but clearly my favorite room remained my Sea View Junior Suite 1115 with an elegant sitting area, a writing area, a freestanding bathtub, a separate shower, and of course a fabulous view over the Atlantic Ocean as well as the hotel property. Incidentally, all rooms have a balcony with a sitting area. If you have deep pockets, I had a look at the Presidential Suite, which features a Jacuzzi on its balcony.

The bathtubs of the superior rooms are by Duravit, a Philippe Starck model. The standard rooms have bathtubs by Sanindusa (Prestige model). The wooden floors are made of American Oak and American Ash. The Portuguese marble used in the bathrooms is called Crema Marfil. All hotel rooms are decorated with abstract paintings by the Brazilian artist Frederico Alves Pinto.

Among the great features of Pestana Carlton Madeira are its pools: On the hotel level is the heated, fresh water 25-meter Indoor Pool; also on the hotel level is the large, outdoor Garden Pool with seawater; on the ocean level is the equally large Atlantic Pool, another seawater pool; in addition, Pestana Carlton Madeira offers a diving center on the ocean level, with a motorboat for sea diving excursions.

In addition to a gym, a Finnish sauna, a steam bath, a Jacuzzi, a solarium and massage rooms, the hotel also offers a tennis court and a mini golf.

Review of a vegetarian dinner at Restaurant Taverna Grill

Among the bars and restaurants of Pestana Carlton Madeira, Restaurant Taverna Grill has best kept the glamour of the 1970s. On the walls of the à la carte restaurant, you can admire old photographs showing the young Cliff Richard, the young Olivia Newton-John as well as Amália Rodrigues, Portugal's best Fado singer.

Restaurant Taverna Grill, in its original, just regularly refreshed 1972-design, offers a great dinner atmosphere. On my evening, the French sous-chef Olivier Caria (*1979) from Toulon was the head in the kitchen of the restaurant offering international cuisine.

I started my vegetarian dinner with a Bolo do Caco, a typical Madeiran garlic butter bread, cooked on a stone in a fire, which is also traditionally served as part of the famous Madeiran Prego, together with a not so vegetarian beefsteak. Incidentally, a non-vegetarian dinner would for instance have included lobster and lamb.

As an aperitif, I chose a small bottle of Moêt & Chandon Brut Imperial; you can't go wrong with Champagne. My first dish was a tomato and onion soup with a poached egg and some pesto on top. A healthy dish for a start.

My second course consisted of a green asparagus risotto with wild mushrooms, both from mainland Portugal. I added some Parmigiano-Reggiano and was delighted by the medium-cooked rice. The mushrooms included boletus edulis, better known as penny bun, and agaricus bisporus, known as the common mushroom, with some truffle oil. I tasted the risotto with a glass of Cova da Ursa, an aromatic 2010-Chardonnay from Setubal (Serra da Arrábida), matured in an oak barrel, which felt light despite despite its 14% alcohol.

For dessert, I chose a chocolate fondant with local passion fruit sorbet and fresh mango and green melon fruits. A nice finish. - Restaurant Taverna Grill is not a gourmet restaurant, but worth a visit for its atmosphere alone.

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The bar above the sea. The hotel has direct access to the Atlantic Ocean, with a sea water pool on the ocean level as well as a diving center with a motorboat for excursions. Photos © Hotel Pestana Carlton, Funchal, Madeira.

The hotel seen from the upper sea water pool. The hotel has a second large pool directly by the sea. The Pestana Carlton also features a diving center with a boat for diving in the Atlantic Ocean. Photos © Hotel Pestana Carlton, Funchal, Madeira.

View of a Suite, almost identical to my Junior Suite. Photos © Hotel Pestana Carlton, Funchal, Madeira. - Books about Madeira from

A free standing bathtub as in my Junior Suite 1115, which also featured a separate shower. Photos © Hotel Pestana Carlton, Madeira.

A Standard or Classic Sea View Room. As all rooms with a balcony from where you can enjoy Madeira's sun and sea. Photos © Hotel Pestana Carlton, Funchal, Madeira.

The pool area. Photos © Hotel Pestana Carlton, Funchal, Madeira. - Books about Madeira from

Taverna Grill Restaurant, where I had my dinner. It is the nicest public area room with a lot of character, dating back to the opening of the hotel, just refreshed from time to time. Photos © Hotel Pestana Carlton, Madeira.

View from the Carlton Terrace. Photos © Hotel Pestana Carlton, Funchal, Madeira.

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English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.