It was dark when I arrived at the Llawnroc Hotel in Gorran Haven, a tiny fishing village close to Mevagissey and as I drove into what looked like a community centre car park I began to panic. Not only had my satellite navigation given up on me because it couldn’t get a decent GPS signal, I’d been driving around in circles and now it looked as though I’d booked badly. However, as soon as I walked into the reception my fears were put on hold. Fiona was the receptionist who greeted me in what is a most stylish and totally unexpected reception area.
I later discover that the hotel is built facing the sea, and there’s simply no room to build a majestic sweeping drive which this place so richly deserves. This was once a run-down inn and now it’s been given the retreat treatment. It’s situated at the most eastern point of the Roseland Peninsula and this place is an unspoilt Cornish coastal village, at the heart of which is fisherman’s cottages nestling around a secluded cove.
There are 18 guest rooms fitted to an incredibly high standard and it’s clear there has been no corner cutting anywhere. I had the smallest and cheapest room in the hotel, Room 17, (£100 per night with breakfast) the words ‘compact’ and ‘bijou’ spring to mind, but the room was as good as any design hotel I’ve stayed in. Not getting sea view room meant I overlooked the car park but I was here for just one night and it didn’t matter greatly. I had a large bed, a pillow menu, a Playstation with games and DVDs available at reception.
There was an alarm dock for my IPhone and a digital safe. What wasn’t so good was the connecting door. Ideal if you’re a family wanting to share everything but bad if you’ve no interest in listening to the second-hand noise of the television next door. The room was also below the kitchen or doors which were used a fair amount and were allowed to bang shut. These two issues need addressing. The other issue I had was not being able to turn off the main ceiling spotlights once I’d settled in bed. It was a trip to the door to turn off the main switch. No bath, but the powerful rain shower made up for that. There was an additional hand held shower too for those wanting to wash through hair. It would have been good not to stoop down to the floor to pick up the toiletries and an extraction fan would be useful to force steam to clear as there is no window. There was a shaver charging point for my toothbrush. Large fluffy towels and deep pile bath robe but no slippers.
The hairdryer is powerful, but the cord too short to reach the mirror, and if you need to style hair like me, you’ll need to unplug the Playstation. The check out is at 11:00 and if you want your breakfast in bed they won’t charge you a penny to deliver it there. Room service starts at noon and ends at nine. If you want to go to the lovely sandy cove for the day then you must remember to pack a beach towel. The hotel asks nicely that you don’t take their deep pile, white bath sheets out of the room. Suites are much, much larger with an awesome sea view, and sitting room, again with all mod-cons (£210 per night with Breakfast, off peak). All prices include a 30% discount until the end of this year.
I loved the fact that the landline room phone was cheap to use. The mobile signal was next to useless but the hotel didn’t take advantage of that fact and charged reasonable rates – between 1p and 7p for landline calls and 11p and 5p for mobiles per minute, dependent on times. Beware the room phone acts as a very useful night light but you can’t pull it out of the wall so you may want to cover it up.
The Gwineas Bar and Bistro takes its name from the rocks, just off the shore and it’s here they offer good food at a reasonable price. It’s relaxed with no dress code. The bar and restaurant is filled with a mix of hotel guests and locals whom seem quite at home but as this feels as though it is at the end of the world I’m hardly surprised.
The menu is varied with lots of fish lobster, shrimp, prawns, fish and chips, steak. I sit by a bi-folding door which clearly opens to a garden room (the outside) where there’s a paved area with tables and chairs making it the perfect spot for summer lunch and dinner. The restaurant lighting is dimmed, the mood is set and I love that there’s no frippery on the table, vases with those dust collecting dried flowers, just cutlery and a rock with the table number.
The menu is fish poetry and I spy local mussels steamed with Cornish cider and served with brown bread but I order a half pint of prawns with aioli (£5.25) and this comes with those awful ready-to-bake rolls. A little brown soda bread would have been such a better complement. The prawns are delicious and their freshness speaks volumes.
For my main course, it’s a toss up between the plaice with the brown shrimp and caper butter and the Cornish mackerel nicoise but I order the special of the night, the Pollock with brown nut butter, and it is exquisite. The waiter was very pleasant but I felt needed to know a little more about the food on offer. He kept running away to ask chef questions but a little training could straighten this out. The steak was dense and cooked very well. I love it when Pollock is on the menu, I far prefer it to cod and it’s sustainable seafood we should all champion. It sat on a base of baby vegetables, stolen at just the right time from earth, and was a perfect marriage of land and sea. Turnips, parsnips, carrots and pygmy beetroot were sweet and plentiful. The brown nut butter provided a lovely glaze and worked well with the dish as a whole. A plate of three massive new potatoes came and were left by me. Simply too much food for one dish, and I personally didn’t feel I needed more vegetables. A group of locals and holidaymakers are enjoying the beer battered fish and chips (£10.95) and I watch as empty plates are taken to the kitchen.
When you have the sea as a larder you take advantage and I’m glad to see the chef here does and even better he has the cooking of seafood down to a fine art. Shame then that I hear he’s off to Holland. I’ve simply no room for a dessert but there are good choices from Cornish cheeses to Eton Mess, lemon possett, to ice cream sundaes. For the non-fish lovers there’s steak; summer pea risotto; pork chop; Ploughman’s, chicken Caesar salad with anchovies and pancetta (£7.95) burgers and the kids meals are breaded chicken, sausages and mash and pasta (£4.95).
The next morning I wander the hotel and realise that attention to detail is a key feature everywhere and the colour purple is a recurring theme. The bar, the beautiful breakfast room-cum fine dining restaurant, the lounge, absolutely no expense has been spared in any part of this hotel and the designers of it have a great eye.