2Future Holding is further enriching its connections with Portugal through a unique investment in the country's gastronomical heritage. The recent investment in the restaurant O Frade complements the firm's QriarCity Portuguese real estate development investment, with its goal of "bringing value and quality of life for the community without losing the links with the origins." Naturally, the firm anticipates financial returns from this newest investment, but O Frade also represents an investment in Portugal's rich culture through its Alentejo cuisine, which is considered by many to be the country's gastronomic soul.
While seeking out investment opportunities in Portugal, we were very focused on our existing investment in QriarCity and its emphasis on creating value. We know that our QriarCity customers are interested in high quality real estate projects that fit in with the existing cultural landscape rather than run-of-the-mill developments that anyone could build. Thus, if we are going to deliver some of the best real estate developments in the country, whatever else we invest in has to be of equal high quality and provide an additional boost to regional cultural enhancement. With O Frade, we realized that we could participate with the continuing development of one of the best restaurants in Portugal and perhaps all of Europe.
Based on Tradition, O Frade's Quickly Earned Culinary Accolades
Opened in Belém in April 2019 by cousins Sérgio Frade and Carlos Afonso, O Frade harkens to the culinary traditions that were offered by their grandparents' restaurant from the 1960s to the end of the 20th century. Located in Beja, the original O Frade was known for its Alentejo cuisine specialties and for its traditional end-of-meal "despique," a tribute to Cante Alentejano, a popular regional music genre based on instrument-less vocals. While Grandmother Frade handled the cooking, Grandfather Frade was dedicated to the production of wine, the quality of which further enhanced the culinary reputation of the original O Frade.
Wine remains an integral part of the new O Frade, as the restaurant maintains an excellent and varied wine list with Talha wines that distinguish it from other restaurants in the capital. Included with a selection of Portuguese wines the envy of some of Lisbon's top sommeliers, are wines still produced by the Frade family, which were one of the first Portuguese wine producers to meet DOC classification. The family produces about 15,000 bottles per year, all organic, and in three different terroirs: Beja, Vila de Frades, and Magancha.
But it's the new O Frade's cuisine that's captured the culinary attention of Portugal . . . and the world. Chef Carlos Afonso serves dishes from all over Portugal-from sea bass to cherry chicken, and from duck rice to escabeche pheasant-made in the traditional rustic Alentejo way, but with gastronomic enhancements picked up during his tutelage under other world-class chefs. The combination of traditional cuisine with modern techniques proved highly successful, as one year after its opening O Frade was added to Portugal's Best 30. More importantly, though, it was also awarded Michelin's Bib Gourmand international prize, one of the few restaurants in the country with this distinction. The restaurant has also earned accolades from Mesa Marcada that named it the best in quality and price in Portugal, and Chef Afonso earned the Chef Revelation of the Year award from Revista de Vinhos.
O Frade Also Distinguished by its Atmosphere
Along with its fast-rising culinary reputation, O Frade is distinguished by offering a restaurant experience that differs from that provided by other Lisbon-area establishments. The dining area invokes a relaxed atmosphere in part by its center-piece 16-seat U counter that invites convivial interaction between guests. Behind this counter, Chef Carlos and his team welcome customers like old friends and strive to make everyone feel at home. In fact, conveying a sense of "my home is your home" friendliness is an integral part of the O Frade experience. And as temporary members of the O Frade family, diners can watch from the counter as Chef Carlos and his sub-chefs prepare their traditional Alentejo meals.
The environment conveys human warmth in a contemporary way with some more traditional touches. In a sober and modern style, a wall of hydraulic tiles in shades of blue and gray frames the entrance to the kitchen. The well-studied lighting gives a warm touch to large photographs of clay carvings and complements items from the past: a marble counter, tavern glasses, metal and clay dishes, and a vintage Philips radio, an antique adapted to reproduce the playlist of the day, chosen according to the mood of the team.
For those seeking more intimacy, there is a small counter against one wall and window-side tables on another. The restaurant also has terrace seating for 16, with view of the Presidential Palace, Coach Museum, and Tagus River.
An Investment in Superior Talent
Chef Carlos grew up learning traditional pot cooking skills from his mother, Trás-os-Montes-area sausage dishes from the paternal side of his family, and Portuguese seafood dishes from time spent on family vacations in Costa Alentejana. His love of cooking then took him on an international journey that schooled him in a wide variety of cuisines and refined his haute culinary techniques. Chef Carlos studied at the Hotel & Catering School in Portalegre and followed up his studies with internships and work in restaurants in the Netherlands, Belgium and the Basque Country. In Portugal, he joined with Chef Alexandre Silva to open Marmóris in Villa Vila Viçosa, and then passed through the kitchens of Tabik and Bica do Sapato. More recently, he spent two and a half years in the Algarve, where he worked at Ocean with the German chef Hans Neuner and at the opening of the Hotel Avenida in Lagos. At the age of 34, Chef Carlos decided to return to his gastronomical origins and create his own brand based on them.
Sérgio Frade, the older of the two cousins, followed a more sporting path, which led him to study physical education in Lisbon. After a career in teaching and as a highly competitive athlete, he dedicated himself to the real estate industry, spending a season in Brazil before returning to Portugal to invest in the local market and join his cousin to launch O Frade.
2Future Holding Interest in Portugal
2Future Holding's investments in Portugal emerged almost naturally given Brazil's distinct cultural ties and shared heritage with the country. Along with a vibrant culture, Portugal enjoys bountiful natural beauty and a temperate climate that attract international tourists and families seeking a better quality of life. This attraction grew significantly starting in 2009 when the government initiated tax benefits programs designed to capture direct foreign investment and encourage foreigners to settle in the country or purchase vacation homes. The initiative worked and the country now has a native and international population with the financial means to enjoy 2Future Holding's products and services-first in our real estate offerings, and now in our new culinary venture.
Portugal's economy fell 7.6% in 2020, marking the biggest annual decline since 1936. While this was worse than the 6.4% decline experienced by the European Union as a whole, there is no reason to believe that the country's economy will not experience a healthy rebound when the COVID-19 pandemic wanes. In particular, we expect to see strong recovery in the country's tourism sector as it will again become a popular destination for travelers when worldwide pandemic restrictions are finally eased. We also foresee continued strong support for Portugal's housing market, which has proven to be especially resilient during the ongoing pandemic.
Going forward, QriarCity continues to analyze prospective future developments. We expect to launch Pateos Serpa Pinto in Faro this quarter and initiate another project in Alta de Lisboa sometime in the second or third quarter. We remain very excited about the Portuguese real estate market and believe that young adults, executives, investors, and vacation home buyers will continue to maintain a strong demand for residential properties, such as those we are developing.
With regard to O Frade, we plan to double the indoor and outdoor seating capacity of our existing location on the Calçada da Ajuda in Belém. Chef Carlos is also working on expanding his culinary offerings, but will retain the Alentejo flavors and cooking style that have proven so successful. O Frade will also expand its already diversified wine cellar, bringing in more Portuguese and international wines, with an aim of creating one of the best wine cellars in the country. We are also planning to expand the O Frade brand into other regions, with restaurant openings in the city of Faro and in Bairro Alto of Lisbon planned for the coming year. Once these are up and successfully delighting our diners' palates, we will take the O Frade concept and brand to other continents, with the goal of making it a cuisine and a gastronomic venue of world renown.