When I arrive at the Scarlet, the staff greet me like a long-lost friend who’s been on a worldwide trip and this is how I’m treated until the moment I leave. The staff are here for you, only you, and nothing, and I mean nothing is any trouble. Welcome to excellent service without attitude, this is hospitality the Cornish way.
No wonder then that this hotel is known all over the county as the place to get away from it all. There are no chatting staff manning a reception desk, you walk through the door, cameras pick up your arrival and, Mr-Ben-like, a receptionist appears and sits you on a Missoni sofa and takes down your particulars. I immediately embark, on a show-and-tell or should that be wow-and-tell with the lovely Chris. Every twist and turn in this place enhances the senses, from the inside out. I see the sea, become immediately calm, feel my shoulders drop and it’s apparent I’ve left the City far behind. I feel myself relax, and let me tell you, for a highly-strung journalist this is a near miracle. Art installations that would give any London gallery a run for its money, a magnificent sea view, and an amazing looking spa would make it impossible not to. This place is Bond-meets-Tate Modern-meets-Mary Portas. It has a license to thrill, art that makes you go ooh, and style and good old-fashioned service that’s given freely and without compromise.
I start thinking about the expanse of sand and how great it would be to have a dog to walk. Jasper no less, is the house pooch and he’s available for walks if you’re in need of four-legged companionship. It’s this sort of added value that sets the Scarlet apart.
My room is something else. The designers have thought of everything and it comprises of a ground floor space where I have a massive bed, oval bath, wardrobe space, separate rain shower and a double sink. There’s a spiral staircase that leads to an upper ‘pod’, which has a huge beanbag in front of a picture window with a killer view. I even have my own garden, which I’m not expected to weed, simply to enjoy. Sadly it’s the seagulls making the most of it but it’s great to see them enjoying the weather.
I’m a total sucker for products, ask my man, he gets so frustrated with me squirreling them away in my bag in the hope for more, but I just love them for travelling and for me their a guilty pleasure. Here it’s no exception, but just one night means sadly one set and lovely they are too. Tri-Dosha is formulated from wild grown ayurvedic herbs, hand blended to preserve their quality and active ingredients. I later find that these products are used in the spa and are available for sale here too. The double bonus is that they’re also great for the environment. There are the ubiquitous hotel finds from a hairdryer, computer leads and iPod leads which connect through to the television. I couldn’t find a Bible in any of the drawers, but I did find the ‘Rough Guide to Happiness’ that just about sums this place up. Even the lighting panel has an A-Z of moods. I hunted high and low for a candle, surely there has to be one somewhere (there isn’t, but I guess that’s more to satisfy the HSE than a miss). I also love the cordless phones. I sit in the bath and call reception, and the helpful Holly attempts to get the spa phone answered. It doesn’t for some reason so she trips down to the Spa and books me a session in a hot bath herself. Do you see what I mean about no bother? Staff here wear no name badges but a very distinctive and funky, practical uniform.
The lack of a mobile signal is another clue to the remoteness of this place and if you’re looking for one forget it unless you like a hilltop climb each time you wish to contact the office. I suggest you leave it at home and totally escape. It will feel like you’ve lost an arm for the first hour or so but how liberating is it that absolutely no one can contact you but you can contact them?
I also liked the fact that there are no tea and coffee-making facilities in the room, simply because they love looking after you so much here, they make it for you. What an imposition you may think but there’s no awful mini-bar buzz, no kettle over-spill or plastic milk pots to contend with. Anytime you fancy a hot drink, just call reception and a smiley person delivers you a tray. And, it doesn’t stop there. If you need a button sewn on a shirt, your car Eco-washed, your shoes cleaned or your laundry done they’ll sort that too.
There’s an outdoor natural pool, just like swimming in a mini version of Hampstead ponds. It’s a fresh water pool purified by reed vegetation and it was a positively blood curdling 15 degrees. A cowardly shivering toe snapped out as quickly as it dipped in.
I mentioned the hot bath earlier. These are large, bright red plastic teacups that sit on an outcrop looking straight out to see. They’re filled with water, and heated by a wood burner. It was raining sideways when I got in mine and the wind was giving me the 360 degree whipping treatment but there I sat and watched myself slowly prune. It made bathing indoors seem so old-fashioned. The couple next to me had a seaweed teabag in theirs, I was waiting for someone to drop off large chunks of tofu and give them a ‘Miso soup treatment’ but that definitely wasn’t on the spa menu. The lovely Julia brought me ginger and lemon grass tea and a bath sheet and robe when my forty-five minutes was up.
Long-term rejuvenation is some claim but they like a goal here at the Scarlet. And in their spa you will find no quick fixes but age-old and proven ayurvedic treatments combined with Cornish ingredients. They want you to leave here with a spring in your step and a new sense of purpose – bold, brave and very Scarlet.
Then there’s the food. It’s as quirky as the setting. Take the anytime, anywhere menu for instance. If you fancy a picnic on the beach when the weather’s better that’s not an issue. Want to eat in your bath? Fine. In your top floor pod? Easily taken care of and if you want to chow down in a lounge or bar that’s fine with them too. The restaurant is large and has a massive picture window and a wooden terrace for sunnier days and summer evenings.
I sat down to eat at quarter past eight and the place was rocking, bearing in mind this is a Monday night. The set menu had a wide and excellent choice, was seasonal and there were wine pairing suggestions. Water is filtered on the premises, is free, and you can choose from still or sparkling, this was a sign of good things to come and I wasn’t disappointed. The servers were of all shapes, sizes and ages and I loved it. Liz, the Restaurant Manager is excellent, she was attentive and I watched her as she buzzed between tables and boy does she know her stuff. From the wine list to the sourcing and way the chef prepares the food. She knew the menu back to front and took great pride in explaining to the guests what to expect in each dish. She’s also trained her staff exceptionally well.
There’s also natural wine on the list; produced by small artisan growers working sustainably, organically or bio-dynamically.
I apologise in advance for the quality of the next few food pictures. It’s really difficult to be discrete when you pull out a large camera with a blinding flash. So, I used the Bloggie, which has no flash and relies on the light available. The quality is pretty poor but I’d rather you see my attempt to show the dishes then not – sorry Chef – they did look much better than these pictures portray.
I chose an asparagus veloute sous vide hen’s egg with granary toast to start, which was served with a mixed leaf and petal salad. Cooking sous vide simply means the egg is cooked in a low temperature water bath. The idea is that the yolk is totally runny whilst the white is set. Unfortunately mine arrived sans yolk so I can’t comment on the dish as a whole, which is a shame. The veloute I can comment on, however, and it was everything I expected. I was delivered a creamy, dish of summer in a bowl. There was a simple citrus dressing on the salad and that was all that it needed.
My main course was a total surprise.
A crispy turbot was served on a bed of sea-salty spinach. The sweetest, slow cooked tomatoes sat beside a pile of sea-fresh, grit-free mussels held in fishy herby liquor. Pillows of gnocchi ensured I swept up the majority of the sauce and for the first time in a long time, my taste buds began to fight each other in the most perfect way.
Now the dessert choice is always a hard one if the main has been amazing. Torn between Cornish cheeses, and a banana tarte tatine I order the latter. A difficult dish to pull off even with apples and I’m wholly of the belief you shouldn’t mess with the tatine. I’m an apples or bust kind of girl. The best banana dish I’ve ever eaten was the original Banoffi pie conjured up in the kitchens of ‘The Hungry Monk’ in Jevington, near Eastbourne so it had to take some beating. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Bruised inch long chunks of fruit sat atop a wafer thin puff pastry but the idea that the fruit is a replica of the art installations outside didn’t quite do it for me. Pleasant enough, not inedible, but far too much banana, and not enough pastry to carry the fruit and for me it wasn’t sticky enough, but the lightly spiced ice cream was very nice indeed.
Breakfast was a total joy, great coffee, freshly toasted bread and home-made jams and marmalade, home-made muesli, followed by a doorstep Croque Madame given the pan-fried treatment and of course that amazing view. After the quality of the dinner photographs I decided to bring out the Canon, the difference is very clear to see.
I could write pages about the Scarlet from the comfortable luxury at affordable prices to the chic mecca that it is no doubt becoming. I’ll definitely be coming back along with the hundreds of other satisfied customers who have written in the Visitor’s Book. Whether it be with the man, a girlie weekend or a special treat for Mum everyone at some point in their life should experience the Scarlet before everyone does.
Up to date prices and details on how to book a room here can be found on the website http://www.scarlethotel.co.uk