A sea view does so much to lift the spirits. Crashing waves or serene waters, blue skies arching over deep green water or storm-battered spray, either way I find the ocean is the most soothing and intoxicating balm. Both depressed by London, M. & I head out to Cornwall for a very short, but much needed escape overnight at Bedruthan Steps hotel. 4 1/2 hours on the very comfy seats of a First Great Western train and bingo, we were greeted with the cool drizzle and vast swathe of pancake-flat sand of Mawgan Porth’s beach, overlooked by a higgledy-piggledy mass of cottages, a pasty shop, surf shack and obligatory old man pub, and the square 50’s architectural oddity that is Bedruthan Steps hotel.
Inside is all family-friendly warmth and welcome – I love the slight melancholy of off-season places, it is all sweet post-holiday wistfulness but everyone smiley and helpful. Our room is big and comfortable with a giant, divine bed and that glorious view across the cove. The hotel itself is decorated using local textiles and has won all sorts of fantastic Sustainability awards and accolades that it well deserves.
We’re here for the hotel’s harvest, real ale and cornish song festival. And we’re in Cornwall. Hard to go wrong for me. Neither was the prospect of delicious food and ale dampened by a couple of hours splashing about in the Bedruthan Spa’s jacuzzi and sauna like two fat, contented sea lions (one brown, one deathly white).
The whole hotel is divided up into “family” space (i.e – screaming kids most welcome) and “romantic couple” space (i.e – pretty much anyone else). This did not mean we escaped the clown show in the bar – which I warmed to after two very generous gin martinis. Another downside is the non-existance of any space for smokers to go out and enjoy the view and a cigarette. Despite it being off season, and the availability of an enormous grassy terrace overlooking the sea that was empty as the Sahara, M. had to walk to the car park behind the hotel for a fag, which apart from adding an unecessary guilt factor to the whole thing, also ruins the “let’s go and watch the sunset on the terrace” possibilities for two adults who happen to like a ciggy once in a while with their drinks.
Dinner was preceded with a local ale tasting courtesy of Wooden Hand brewery based in Truro. Their small, but perfectly formed offering of five ales comprised two pale ales, a bitter, a reddish hoppy ale and a delicious chocolatey bitter “Black Pearl” which oozed velvety, oystery flavours. The yellowy “Pirate’s Gold” also deserves a mention as it is rather a fruity little number and therefore right up my street.
Onwards to dinner and the harvest menu – my slight disappointment at the lack of seafood (no crab, no oysters!) was easily compensated by a very good dish of mackerel stuffed with cracked wheat, currants and pistachios that was both interesting, super fresh and with good texture. M’s rather tiny cauliflower fritters with lime yogurt didn’t exactly light the braai-man’s heart on fire, but I thought they were very tasty and that I wouldn’t have minded seeing more of them on the plate.
M. moved on to some serious meat, a stupidly melty-in-the-mouthy ale braised beef with roasted salsify and horseradish dumplings that were punchy and filling. I had pollock, which I know Gordon Ramsey likes to rave about: “unchampioned fish!” It’s not my favourite, but it was well accompanied with pistachios and fresh chard and had firm, sweet flesh. Lots of fresh local veggies were served on the side and we washed the lot down with a good, spicy South African wine.
Dessert (not usually my forte) had me wibbling with happiness. Plum and lavender tarte tatin with a thick glop of clotted cream ice-cream. M. went for the baked apple (not so wow) with apple sorbet (mahumba!) and caramel (naarm! sugar-high!). By this point the Cornish singers were out and I got all whimsical as they played the sort of folksy, fisherman’s shanties-type music my Grandad would cry to and which I secretly collect on my iTunes.
The following morning we trekked up to Carnewas and the jaw-dropping spectacle of Bedruthan Steps beach following a fantastic breakfast – excellent work chaps – of every kind of meat imaginable and a fantastic cloudy apple juice from a nearby farm in Liskeard. We swam in the water pretending it was not ball-numbingly cold and played boules by a cave. Then we sadly packed our bags to go home to the big smell of London.
Escape while you can, book a break at Bedruthan.