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Muddy Reviews: Hotel Meudon, Falmouth

Off the beaten track and with a private beach and acres of subtropical gardens, the newly revamped Hotel Meudon is a bit of a Cornish coastal gem.

WHAT? WHERE?

Follow the coast south from Falmouth, leaving behind the bustle of the town and just before you come to the Helford River, you’ll find Hotel Meudon near to the little village of Mawnan Smith. It was once owned by Falmouth’s Fox family who had rather a passion for exotic gardens, creating a host of them in this part of Cornwall’s south coast including Trebah and Glendurgan Gardens.

Meudon is set in a hidden-valley, and at the coastal foot of 8.5 acres of sub-tropical paradise-like gardens you’ll find their own private beach (below). Despite having a real feeling of something you’ve just discovered, that you’ve stumbled upon during an adventure – or that should be in a novel, Meudon is actually not that far from the village, and Falmouth, come to that, giving it the best of both worlds.

THE VIBE

This previously family-owned hotel has recently been revamped and revitalised under new ownership, but has kept the warmth, heart and soul of the hotel that has kept the loyal (but ageing) clientele returned for year after year whilst gently bringing things up to date.

Much of the most stylish original mid-century furniture has been retained and given a new lease of life, as well as other modern vintage touches throughout the hotel. The original building, seen to best advantage from the back of the hotel, dates back to the 1800s, which houses the impressive dining room, lounge, and Freddie’s Cocktail Bar in all its deep red and neon glory, with the main hotel built from the mid-1970s – with the rooms updated and refurbed, including added glass balconies.

Service here is incredibly friendly and relaxed in the best sense of the word – nothing is too much trouble, children are made a fuss of the staff are quick with tailored suggestions on where to go and what to do locally.

SCOFF AND QUAFF

This is Hotel Meudon’s not-so-secret weapon. Restaurant Meudon, complete with inside grapevine, is under the care of executive head chef Darren Kerley, who spent nearly a decade heading up the kitchen at Soho’s Bob Bob Ricard – and restaurant manager, Stephen Mouser and his team. Between them they bring knowledge, humour and charm, which lifts the silver service-style formal dining into a warm and inviting experience.

Exec head chef Darren Kerley

The restaurant has been greedily scooping up awards including a Gold at the Taste of the West Awards 2021/2022 in the Restaurant category and it’s well deserved. Firstly, you’re going to love its aesthetic – windows stretch the whole width of the restaurant, giving stunning views into the tropical gardens, and there’s enough floor tiles and retro-downlighters to please even the most ardent Pig or Soho House fan.

However, good looks are nothing without intelligence, and fortunately Restaurant Meudon has a gastronomic phD with creatively presented local produce as its calling card. I started with local crab above (divine the crab not too overpowering, tempered by the delicate cucumber)…

…. before hitting the jackpot with the South coast hake with olive & citrus salad and anchovy dressing.

For dessert, it could only be the ‘chariot de fromages’ – straight out of an old-school guide but also utterly compelling and stocked with Cornish cheeses. Accessorised with sticky desert wine and a coffee, it was an unbeatable combination.

As an aside, my children had both gone for a main beef with peppercorn sauce, and we’d agreed during the meal that we had to come back the following evening to eat here again – I wanted to order the beef! Only thing was, the menu is so flexible here (sea food, for example, changes daily depending on the catch), that the next night it was duck instead. Don’t feel too sorry for me, that was great too but it shows a deftness and ambition with changing up the menu that I liked.

It’s worth letting you know that you don’t have to be a hotel guest to book the restaurant. Lunch (2 or 3 course Prix Fixe menu offered Wednesday to Saturday and roasts on Sunday), dinner and afternoon tea are served to residents and non-residents alike – all with a beautiful view out of the glass windows and down the gardens.

Cocktail fans will appreciate Freddie’s, which was dark and cosy and the drinks expertly made and served – just the place to have an apéritif before dinner, and then to retire afterwards for another look at the drinks list – I’m on a one-woman mission to bring back the Bloody Mary as 2022’s coolest cocktail and gave myself plenty of practise trying it out.

The lounge next door has a fire too, making it super cosy in winter, though the ambient lighting makes reading a book nigh impossible as the sun sets.

STAY

There are 29 rooms, almost all of which look over the gardens as well as two with sea views and one large in-land facing suite. Rooms are spacious and light filled and the bathrooms newly revamped, with, as you’d expect, fluffy white towels and Cornish toiletries.

Modern touches are included, like vintage-style telephones and the mini fridge under the dressing table had real milk. Our room had a balcony with chairs overlooking the gardens, a comfy, mid-century sofa for watching TV or slouching out with a book, and enough room to accommodate a fold-out bed for my youngest child.

While there is no escaping the fact that some of the hotel remains a little old-fashioned – the green carpets need to go for example, and the corridors feel dated – there is a charm about the whole place. It feels a little like you’ve arrived in a parallel universe where no-one is going to bother you and you can just relax; not old-fashioned like a period drama, but as if it is from a different era somehow – and I wanted to just lie down on one of the handily placed loungers and not get up all day.

OUT AND ABOUT

You could honestly spend the whole stay going no further than the hotel grounds. Aside from the loungers in the garden, or the many Ercol chairs in the reading room, you can also book a yoga class or treatments including massages and manicure/pedicures in the Sanctuary Suite.

More of a pull for out of town visitors will be Bream Cove at the bottom of the garden – perfect for wild swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding (you can hire boards on the beach), or just a lovely place to while away an afternoon with a book. There are four simple routes through the hotel grounds that all converge at the beach and it’s a stunning walk amongst mature gardens that feel wild and timeless – giant rhubarbs growing alongside agapanthus, hydrangeas and ferns.

It won’t take you long to get to the beach – maybe 10 minutes meander, and an easy walk for younger kids – at which point you’ll find a handy mobile coffee van for drinks and emergency brownie rations. It was an over cast, breezy day when we visited, but we took the complimentary beach towels with us and sat for an hour on the sand, backs supported by the rocks, people watching and enjoying the waves.

The South West Coast Path borders the property, so from just above the beach you can follow that round to Helford Passage (below) where you’ll find the Ferryboat Inn….

… or head north towards Maenporth (it will take you roughly 45 mins and takes in some dramatic coastline) where you’ll find family-friendly shelving waters, friendly café Life’s a Beach with plenty of outdoor seating, views towards Pendennis Castle and The Cove, Matthew Caine’s latest restaurant venture.

We carried on from here another 45 minutes until we reached Falmouth, very much worth a trip. There’s a slick café/restaurant at Gylly Beach – stop by for a coffee and cake at the very least. My sea-faring son loved the National Maritime Museum, and afterwards we sat on the steps eating award-winning fish and chips from Harbour Lights.

The Monsters of the Deep exhibition, currently at Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum

The top of the high street is charming with indie shops such as Willow and Stone and Botanical Atelier, though as you go further down, the discount and charity shops raise their heads along with the mundane high street brands that proliferate most towns.

Further afield from Hotel Meudon you’ll find The National Trust garden, Glendurgan, is open in the summer months, and Trebah, still privately owned, for much of the year. Cross the river Helford, you can explore the stunning Lizard Peninsula.

THE MUDDY VERDICT

Good for: Fans of mid century modern furniture (me! me!) will be in absolute heaven here, as well anyone who is looking for a peaceful haven, as there is no passing traffic, and the rooms all face the garden and sea. Foodies have no need to venture further – the restaurant is a major draw here. There’s flexibility in the room sets ups, including several inland-facing family rooms for four people (two bedrooms and two bathrooms) as well as dog-friendly rooms.

Not for: If you’re after a traditional ‘sea view’ you won’t find it here – the sub-tropical gardens stretch out down the valley before you reach the water. Families and children are welcome but there are no specific facilities for little ones, so if you have young children you may find Meudon doesn’t offer enough distraction beyond the grounds and the beach. I wasn’t mad keen on the art, but each to their own on that one.

The damage: From £119 per night B&B. A four-night Christmas celebration package costs from £1,350 based on two people sharing, including dinner, bed and breakfast. Twixmas and New Year stays are also available.

Hotel Meudon, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 5HT. Tel: 01326 250541. Reservations@meudon.co.uk

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