I’m vigilantly negotiating a damp, grassy slope, in near-gripless Converse trainers, while wind and rain thrash my face.
My ‘shortcut’ to the charming pebbled beach near southeastern Cornwall’s Talland Bay Hotel is turning into an odyssey. A very wet odyssey, and one that’s going to age me several years, or simply wash me away completely. In short: not your standard afternoon constitutional.
When I finally make it to the shingle beach, I’m humbled and terrified by the sight of the choppiest sea I’ve ever seen in the UK. Nevertheless, I conclude with disappointment that it’s too rainy to safely take pictures.
I turn on my heels and scurry back to the cozy, homely hotel to hunker down for the rest of my stay. As the drama of the ocean recedes into my memory, I wonder: without pictures, did my face-off with nature even happen?
Truly, there’s no better sign of a successful mini-break than one enjoyed despite miserable weather. Such was my experience at Talland Bay last year.
Here, I spent almost an entire weekend in solitary confinement watching the wind, rain and sea through the french windows of my large, comfortable room. It was almost as if this gorgeous 16th-century cottage belonged only to me. I also drank endless cups of English breakfast tea, read entire newspapers from cover to cover, and watched Spiceworld. It was bliss.
Indeed, although this luxury four star boasts an enviable location near the small fishing village of Porthallow, you need never leave the grounds to enjoy.
In fact, I think I only otherwise emerged from my room to eat. Albeit at every available opportunity. The food here is exceptional; definitely the best I’ve had in the UK outside of London. (And better still than a lot of what I’ve had in London).
I may well consult the Talland Bay website the next time someone abroad asks me that most perplexing question: what exactly is British food? I mean, beyond beans on toast and fish and chips? Or what should it be, at its best?
Of course, no two British dishes are as crowd-pleasing as the English breakfast and the Sunday roast. At Talland Bay, both are rich, hearty and incredible.
Especially the loin of Cornish spring lamb I opted for on the second day of my stay. I usually avoid lamb because I find it chewy. But I saw someone else with it and it looked amazing, so I tried it. I’ll probably never have such succulent lamb again.
Indeed, all of head chef Nick Hawke’s menus here read like love letters to the West Country and the surrounding waters. At dinner, local venison coated in parmesan battled for my attention with macadamia-crusted hake. The hake – served prettily with purple sprouting, a smooth potato puree and an intoxicatingly dense crab bisque – won out.
From scallops and mackerel to cider pork belly, beef and blue cheese, virtually every item is fresh and local. Even the desserts seek to epitomise Cornwall. The Pink Lady apple tart was served with ‘Cornish Orchard Cider Sorbet’, while the cheese plate is a ramble around the best of the county.
While the food was flawless, the only element of my stay I can critique would be the temperature of the water in my bathroom. It was too tepid, once I’d filled up my standalone tub, to bathe in for longer than five minutes.
I’m not sure what the issue was. But to be fair to the hotel, I didn’t take it to the excellent staff as it wasn’t a big deal to me, and I was so enjoying being unbothered. Lastly, Talland Bay is also dog-friendly, which is of course totally fine – just don’t trip over someone’s Chihuahua like I did.
Rooms at Talland Bay Hotel cost from £220 ($298, €251) per night on a B&B basis or £295 ($399, €336) including a three-course dinner in the Terrace Restaurant. Stay this May on a special Spring Break rate from £230 ($311, €262) per night including dinner and a cream tea on arrival. For more information and to book visit TallandBayHotel.co.uk.