Gourmet Getaway: Talland Bay Hotel
A quirky seaside bolthole on Cornwall's South coast with funky vibes, knock out food and a fabled gin bar. Muddy checks in...
Known for its quirky character and double AA fine dining, Talland Bay Hotel attracts guests from all over the UK and beyond, including an impressive roster of A-listers. The 16th-century, white-washed exterior sits elegantly in the scenic coastal setting but throughout the gardens and interiors, eclectic artwork, sculptures and other curiosities bring a magical sense of fun. The brilliant staff also make the experience. Friendly and relaxed, yet total pros, they make you feel right at home (if only).
The hotel is a stone’s throw from the South West Coast Path, between Looe and Polperro, on Cornwall’s charmed South East coast.
The sense of escape is immediate, as you descend down a gradually narrowing, hedge-lined Cornish road (dear God, don’t make me reverse!) to the serene seaside retreat.
The terrace and gardens make the most of the views and a short walk will take you down to the one-time smuggler’s coves and quiet hamlet of Talland. Talland Sand has a little beach cafe and is great for rock-pooling at low tide and if you like a dip, Rotterdam Beach makes a perfect swimming spot on warmer days.
The last time I stayed in a hotel with this much personality, I was in Paris. It was opposite the Moulin Rouge and the rooms were named after dead rockstars. But in Cornwall? Seafaring stripes and crisp white linen is more the norm. So how refreshing to discover a hotel so full of fun.
The rockstar spirit is strong here, from the zebra print couches to the cast silver bottom by the loos, there is something to make you smile – or raise an eyebrow – around every corner. Head of housekeeping Penny is the creative force behind the hotel’s quirky/cool style. Her mantra “nothing classic, nothing ordinary, nothing safe”, inspiring flamingos, feathers, fuchsia wood panelling and more.
The kooky character continues outside. Take a turn around the garden to discover wire fairy sculptures, a horse galloping through the bushes, the oft-Instagrammed budgie bench and many more surprises. None of them eclipsed however, by the magic of that uninterrupted view of rolling hills and the sea.
Each room at the Talland Bay is individually decorated in the hotel’s signature, unique style. Ours – number 4 – has a gorgeous sea view and a silver theme going on, with lustrous cushions, a sparkling chandelier and full length mosaic mirror. The bathroom was immaculate and well stocked with White Company toiletries and we loved the luxe little touches – like the loose leaf Earl Grey and a strainer, so you can do your morning cuppa properly.
As well as the rooms in the main hotel, there are garden suites available, which offer a little more space for small families.
We were very excited about dinner! The Terrace restaurant at Talland Bay Hotel won ‘Best South West Restaurant’ in the Taste of the West awards in 2017. In fact the trophy cabinet is positively groaning with awards.
The wood panelled dining room is intimate and cosy in winter, with a log fire and the flicker of candlelight but the doors can be thrown open to the terrace on warmer days.
The kitchen is headed up by super chef Nick Hawke, who trained under Michelin Star mentors, including Chris Eden at The Driftwood in Portscatho. Now I’m no food critic – just an enthusiast – but the skills on show here are wow-worthy and every pretty little dot on the plate serves a higher purpose.
Fine dining with a Cornish flavour – expect local seafood, fish and meat – whipped up into imaginative dishes you’ll want to take your time over, savouring every taste.
And frankly, it could take you all evening, as the exceptional food just keeps coming. As well as the courses on the menu, there’s canapés, amuse bouche and a palette cleansing sorbet to squeeze in.
The sort of meal you’ll enjoy at Talland Bay’s fine dining restaurant is probably a once-a-year, celebratory affair for most of us but is so worth it for a special occasion.
We loved hanging out in the hotel bar pre and post dinner. The tantalising menu of 70+ gins from Cornwall and beyond was a major part of the charm. Slightly unadventurously, I went for Tarquins Yeghes Da, a tried-and-tested favourite, infused with elderflower and pink grapefruit. But there are gins on offer from all over the world.
KIDS AND DOGS
Children are welcome here and mine would love all the fun touches and exploring the garden. Having said that I’m not sure how much I’d be able to relax – a bull in china shop springs to mind. You’d probably be fine with well behaved little ones or slightly older kids.
If you have a dog on the other hand, it would almost be rude to leave him behind. Talland Bay makes its guests’ canine companions very welcome indeed. For £12.50 per night, your dog will be lavished with blankets and treats and can even hang out with you at mealtimes, seated in the brasserie.
AROUND AND ABOUT
The ancient fishing village of Polperro has got to be one of Cornwall’s prettiest and is just 1.5 miles from the hotel along the coast path. In the other direction, is the bustling fishing port of Looe (a 4 mile walk away), where if you time it right, you can take a boat to Looe Island. Bring your binoculars – this nature reserve is famous for its population of sea birds, grey seals and basking shark sightings.
The day we left, we paid a visit to Lanhydrock, a Victorian country house managed by the National Trust, which is just short of half an hour away. There are acres of stunning grounds to explore, accessible woodland bike trails and a decent cafe too.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: The whole experience was so uplifting. I’d recommend it for couples or friends on a foodie escape / dog owners who like a little luxury/ a gourmet walking weekend.
Not for: Anyone who’s after extensive facilities, such as a pool, spa or tennis courts.
The damage: £220 – £320 per room, per night. Starters £11-£13, mains £19-£23, puds £10, cheese board £12-£14.
Special offer: This April (2018) Talland Bay is offering B&B rates of £165 (based on a couple sharing a Classic room).
Talland Bay Hotel, Porthallow, Cornwall PL13 2JB. 01503 272667. Tallandbayhotel.co.uk