Thursday 28 October 2010

The Scarlet: Gluttonous Travels, Cornwall, UK

Some hotels advertise their "sea views", but then you need a telescope and hawk eye vision to see the faintest dot of blue on the horizon. This is not the case when you wake up and throw open your curtains at The Scarlet.

Lie back in bed and soak up the views...

The Scarlet is an eco-friendly hotel on the coast of Cornwall, 5 minutes drive from Watergate Bay. Perched discretely on the cliff tops above the beautiful beach of Mawgan Porth, every room comes with stunning views, big and comfy organic cotton robes and crisp white linen to assist with some serious R&R.

Even the rooftops below blend into the scene, being covered in natural grass, and tapering down to my favourite feature of all...

... the big, red, saucepan shaped hot tubs on the outdoor deck. We sipped on local Camel Valley sparkling wine as our seaweed hot tub apparently worked wonders on my cellulite, metabolism and any number of diseases and disorders. I'll drink to that. Whatever its effect on my physical state, it has to be said that watching the sun set over the incoming tide from the comfort of your steaming, wood heated hot tub is the perfect antidote to a tough week at the office. (Or, as the case may be, a big day chasing down Cornish pasties along the coastline....)

The hotel is chic, but relaxed and comfortable. The decor is mostly in natural tones and the soaps (from the Cornish Soap Box Company) smell soothing and divine. Request fresh filtered coffee or tea which is brought to your room, or escape down to the heavenly indoor pool, the invigorating aquamarine tiled oval sauna (with eucalyptus essential oils) or chill out in the relaxation room while soaking up the views. We did all of the above. Several times. There's also a spa onsite offering a range of short and long "journeys" (massages and other treatments).

The indoor pool is heated just enough to take the edge off

Jasper the hotel dog can, to TPG's delight, be borrowed for walks on the beach. He seems to never get tired of chasing a tennis ball. Neither does Jasper.

With so much to keep you lazily occupied at the hotel, it is hard at times to tear yourself away.

Room service

Fortunately, an impressive dinner is available at the hotel's restaurant.

Chef, Ben Tunnicliffe, was head hunted to lead the kitchen after holding a Michelin star at The Abbey, in Penzance, for 8 years. Having championed seasonal, good quality, locally sourced food for a long while before it became today's catch cry, Ben sources his ingredients from local farmers and suppliers as much as possible. He describes his style at The Scarlet as determinedly "rustic" - but I say it's a stylish rustic, matching the style of the hotel in which it is housed. Each plate shows a subtle finesse that betrays the fact Ben is a Michelin starred chef who, after completing his training at Bournemouth College, went on to sharpen his skills further in top, starred restaurants in France and the UK.

But ultimately, this is food is made to be enjoyed rather than to impress the Michelin man.

Pigeon with Jerusalem artichoke and pearl barley broth

To start, my pigeon with Jerusalem artichoke and pearl barley broth is excellent. It's warming and packed with hearty flavours. The pigeon is perfectly plump and rare, while the barley adds a satisfying bite. This dish converts even TPG who is not normally a pigeon fan. 

Red mullet with lemon glazed salsify & prawns

He likes his own dish even more - the fillet of red mullet is thin but moist. The accompanying lemon glazed salsify is a terrific twist, while the prawns with a creamy, prawn sauce are a delectable addition. A fine dish.

My monkfish is a little chewy but has a great flavour. It's wrapped in pancetta and served with some wonderously firm, long yellow beans that retain just the right amount of crunch, parsley gnocchi, cider, mussels and thyme. It tastes every bit as good as it sounds. TPG's, rump of lamb with sweetbreads, red cabbage, parsnips and rosemary is elegantly presented, tender and rich. It's cooked perfectly. Food like this makes me happy.

For dessert, my quince crumble lacks a bit of oomph, but I love the confit orange slice with clotted cream and the chunks of warm fruit blend into the background nicely. TPG's banana, butterscotch and pecan cake is moist, warm and freshly baked with a terrific espresso sorbet which tastes to me like a rich chocolate covered cocoa bean.

We finish with a generous cheese board featuring an 18 month Montgomery cheddar, a mild Bath blue and a King's Favourite soft cheese - with sliced apples, homemade crackers and chutney.

The wine list is extensive, featuring a range of biodynamic and European wines.

A 3 course dinner costs £39.50 per head (plus wine and service). There's also a £19.50 3 course lunch menu. I highly recommend you enjoy a meal there if you're in the area.

Breakfasts at the hotel are also impressive - how nice to start the day with a 3 course breakfast while lapping up the coastal views. (The one downside of the restaurant for dinner at this time of year is that it's too dark to get the benefit of the views at night). We start with a basket of thick cut toast - white, brown and wholegrain - with an impressive home made raspberry jam and one of the best thick cut marmalades we've ever tasted. The home made crunchy granola is superb - nutty and knobbly, it almost borders on being biscuit-like at times. The home made muesli is also good, with lots of satisfying crunchy bits.

The Eggs Arlington is fantastic - a thick slab of whole grain toast, topped with lashings of creamy smoked salmon, poached eggs and a good hollandaise sauce. TPG's full English breakfast features a thick sausage, excellent bacon, roasted tomatoes, mushrooms and a fried egg.

Fresh Cornish apple juice and a cafetiere of hot, aromatic filter coffee is brought to the table from the start.

I must admit to finding it quite traumatic to have to leave The Scarlet. It's a beautiful, calming place, with great food, in an invigorating environment  - the perfect countryside getaway.

The Scarlet, Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4DQ (Tel: 01637 861 800)

Other things to do near The Scarlet:

I could easily go to The Scarlet and not leave the premises all weekend. If you do feel like venturing into the wider world, there are some breathtaking walks to be had along the adjoining cliff tops.

The hotel is a short 5 minute drive to the picturesque Watergate Bay, home to Jamie Oliver's Fifteen restaurant.

Stein's Fish & Chips

It's also a short drive to Padstow, where Rick Stein has several seafood restaurants and cafes. We tried the  casual Stein's Fish & Chips where we had some of the best battered fish we've had in years. Pull apart your haddock or cod, and watch the crisp batter fall away from the steaming hot, fleshy fish. Mushy peas were watery and disappointing and the chips were just ok. But the fish, oh the fish... There are also oysters, scallops and plenty of specials to eat in or take away. Wash down with a cider or spicy ginger beer and Bob's your uncle. (Fish & chips costs about £8.95 per serve).
Stein's Fish & Chips, South Quay, Padstow, Cornwall

Pengenna Pasties

We also headed about 1 hour south to the beautiful beach side town of St Ives. There we had, for morning tea, a huge, home made Cornish pasty from Pengenna Pasties. Bulging at the seams with big meaty chunks of beef, potato, swede, onion and gravy, this chest beating pasty is definitely a meal in itself (£3.25).  Recommended, although I found it slightly oversalted. While you're there, stock up on the takeaway cream tea packs - 2 huge and glorious scones (of course I tried) with jam and Cornish clotted cream for a bargainous £2.95. Eat by the sea shore.
Pengenna Pasties, 9 High Street, St Ives, TR26 1RR.

Ok, I admit it - we also stocked up on the bakery's gorgeous short breads which we nibbled in the car (along with clotted cream fudge) in between meals...

In glorious sunshine we sat outside The Old Quay House in Fowey for a late lunch one day, drinking cider with some fantastic crab cakes and crab sandwiches.

Chef Ben Bass's profile states his inspiration comes from chefs like Fergus Henderson and Thomas Keller and his ethos is to let good simple ingredients do the talking. Service was slow, but the food on the late afternoon menu was terrific (arrive before 2.30pm for the full lunch menu). Fowey has some beautiful scenery and this was a great spot to soak it up.

The Old Quay House, 28 Fore Street, Fowey, Cornwall, PL23 1AQ (Tel: 01726 833 302)

I really, really wanted to try Nathan Outlaw but the address we printed from another website was out of date and we ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Until the next trip....

If time is of the essence, you can take a 1 hour flight from London Gatwick to Newquay airport with Flybe for around £70 return (the airport is a 5 minute drive from The Scarlet). Trains go direct from London Paddington to Bodmin Parkway and arrive just in time for dinner. From 1 November until 22 December 2010, packages for bed and breakfast (plus dinner) in a Just Right room at The Scarlet range from £180 - £230 per night.

The Scarlet, Tredragon Road, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall, TR8 4DQ (Tel: 01637 861 800)

Greedy Diva was a guest of The Scarlet


  1. This looks just amazing, the sea! the food! so much food! I am hungry now. very good pictures by the way. Shame I didn't get a chance to talk to you yesterday at F&L.

  2. Hi Ute - Thanks, wonderful place! Would have loved to have chatted at F&L - I'll be looking out for you at the next doo.

  3. Wow - you got the best side of Cornwall there (although I might argue whether that pasty shows proper crimping...can't argue with homemade mind you). The food scene in Cornwall has just exploded since I left 14 years ago. There is a good spread of decent food, and lot's of great fish and seafood, not to mention all the rare breed farms. Must get back soon!

  4. Awesome pictures. Makes me yearn for a second breakfast, lunch and supper. Not to mention the place looks absolutly amazing. Can you eat at the hotel restaurant without actually staying there? If so I'm going to make an online table reservation in the next five minutes. Saying that I think a weekend to sample all of the other delights you mention might not be a bad idea.

  5. The Grubworm - I look forward to discussing the finer points of pasty crimping with you soon. (I'm serious).

    Redford - Thanks. Yes, you can eat there without staying at the hotel.

  6. Good Report Diva, good to see someone else look at the little corner of the country which is the south west :).

    Next time you are down give me a shout and ill show you some truely amazing Pasties, there is a place in "St. Just" which is the best ive sampled in Cornwall.

  7. MatthewFoodBlog - Thanks Matthew. I always say one can never have too many pasty tips. I'll take you up on that!

  8. What a fab place! I was supposed to visit the Scarlet but with all my recent travels just wasn't able to fit it in, now I'm sorry I didn't go. Looks like you guys had a great time!

  9. and chips..Ive tried that first time during our trip in Australia in 2008...was love at first taste mate!haha

    next stop would be in Norwich...

    i got friends who will be traveling to Cornwall,i will tell them about this hotel

  10. Winesleuth - Oh, poor you - too much time in Champagne perhaps? My heart bleeds, Sleuthy...

    Macky - It is surprisingly hard to find good fish and chips. Glad you found some in Australia.

  11. I'm hungry, so hungry, so very very hungry! That song came into my head reading this! Stunning location, *jealous* x

  12. Vintage Macaroon - It is stunning. Time for a quick trip there before you leave?!


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