Tuesday, 8 November 2011

The Scarlet Hotel, Cornwall

It’s hard to decide what the best thing about the Scarlet Hotel is, so here’s a short list: the beautiful views from every room, the commitment to sustainability, the delicious and local food, the genuine manner of the staff, the wealth of calm rooms to unwind in, and the fact there are no under-18s allowed. Bliss.
Tucked away at the end of a wiggly road in Mawgan Porth, the Scarlet feels delightfully remote from the real world. You know right from the start that this isn’t going to be a traditional hotel experience. With no reception desk for staff to hide behind, you’re simply greeted by a friendly person who checks you in without the need for a barrier between you and them. Teas and coffees are brought to your room to enjoy while you unpack, and soak up the ambience.

Of course, the first thing that hits you when you reach your room is how quiet everything is without any children hurtling around the corridors or shrieking in neighbouring rooms. This is wonderful. The second thing you realise is the stunning view of Mawgan Porth beach from your room, with the beds perfectly positioned so you can gaze on the roaring waves from the picture window without even needing to stand up. And then there’s the simple elegance that spells out the room’s décor – ours had a tasteful wooden tree motif on one wall, which was much more agreeable than the usual attempt at contemporary art you find in many hotels.

We had a Just Right room… and it was, with wooden flooring and simple but stylish furniture. The bathroom is open plan with the room, and the shower and toilet are behind a screen (perhaps a little exposed for some!), but it works well and the room is infused with the scent of rosemary and lavender from the locally made toiletries. We were given a little cloth bag in which to take the soap home in, so as not to waste it – meaning my bathroom at home now smells as delicious as the Scarlet!

The Scarlet has a calming Ayurvedic-inspired spa, and although we didn’t take advantage of any treatments this time, we were sorely tempted. However, the spa is adjacent to the indoor pool (since it was November we weren’t brave enough to try the outdoor one!), which is a haven of peace and boasts a view overlooking the coastline. Although the 37-room hotel seemed busy with guests during our stay (it never felt busy, I hasten to add, but it just seemed well populated), we never encountered more than two other people in the pool at any one time, so it always seemed peaceful. The pool area also has a beautifully tiled steam room, and a range of enormous beanbags and hammock-tents made for two, which are the most relaxing things ever to lie back and swing in.
As you would expect, all of the food at the Scarlet is locally sourced and prepared with the highest standard of care. We had a delicious dinner (three courses for £42.50 per person) in the restaurant on our first night, and I was delighted that the music included a few Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood numbers. For starters we had pork belly, and fillet of red mullet, both of which were perfectly presented, and just the right size to not spoil our appetite for the main course. I enjoyed the pan fried brill, and my husband had roasted cod with mussels, as it seemed only right to eat seafood so close to the Atlantic (which we gazed out at while we diend). Both were extremely tasty, and the variety of flavours across the plates complemented each other perfectly. The salsa on the side of my brill worked fantastically with the simplicity of the fish and the gentle flavours from the potatoes. We finished our meal with the apple jelly, crumble and custard, which was a charming alternative to the more traditional apple crumble. I sometimes find that a three-course meal can leave me feeling heavy and uncomfortable, but the choice of dishes and sensible portion sizes meant I left the Scarlet’s dinner table feeling comfortably full and very contented.

We rounded our evening off with a few games of pool in the adjoining library, which includes a growing collection of books sympathetic to the Cornish area, as well as some interesting scrapbooks showing the development of the Scarlet since it opened in 2009.

Breakfast, brought to our room, was equally delicious. I had the continental with pain au chocolat, red apple juice, and natural yoghurt with cinnamon and baked apples – which was divine. My husband had a cooked breakfast, which while looking like sausages, bacon and eggs, he assured me was one of the finest he had ever tasted. And that’s saying something.

With bracing walks on the beach an obvious distraction, we ventured down to Mawgan Porth several times, being a short 5-10 minute walk down the hillside from the path outside our room. We climbed over the rocks, bravely paddled barefoot in the Atlantic, and explored the beautifully shaped small caves around both sides of the bay… and watched the dogs being exercised on the beach. What was also noticeable was how clean the beach is, possibly the cleanest we have ever seen in England. Long may it last.
Our two night stay was short but sweet, and it was such a treat to have a little taste of heaven – who knew it was possible to have such a blissful seaside retreat in an typical English winter?! We will definitely be returning, and we will definitely be making sure our stay is a longer one next time. Wonderful. 

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