Hotel and restaurant review: The Scarlet, North Cornwall
Read our review of The Scarlet, a luxurious Cornish getaway with spa, three-AA-rosette dining room, private hot tub and the most beautiful views
The only routine at The Scarlet, a hotel perching on the edge of Mawgan Porth, is the regularity of the tide: the cool waters pulling back to reveal soft golden sand and thousands of lead-coloured mussels that cling to the rocks as stubbornly as guests lie on the loungers a few metres above.
As water rushes from the River Menalhyl into the sea, so too does biodynamic wine, into seemingly bottomless glasses on The Scarlet’s terrace. For this is Cornwall’s luxury, eco hotel, designed just for grown-ups.
Every corner of the hotel has been designed with its location in mind. Floor-to-ceiling windows frame the views – meadow gardens, cliffs, sand, sea, the most dramatic skies, and sunsets of every shade.
Rooms, which are spread over five levels, come with their own outdoor space and open-plan bathrooms to ensure the connection with the view is never broken. The goosebump-inducing outdoor pool is naturally filtered with reeds, while the indoor pool is heated by solar panels.
Sea thrift covers, and insulates, the roof. Rain water is harvested to wash down salty wetsuits. Provenance is considered in every way at the hotel – from locally sourced ingredients, and even wine, in the restaurant, to the toiletries made in St Ives in the rooms and the Ayurvedic-inspired spa looking out across the Atlantic.
Dinner is served in a dramatically quirky three-AA-rosette dining room that makes most sense when the curtains are pulled back to reveal the views. Cornish ingredients are at the heart of the menu, which changes every day, with influences from around Europe.
One day you might have Cornish hake with lobster ravioli, cured ham, lobster bisque and cucumber, the next a twice-baked Cornish Crackler cheese soufflé with candied walnut and Devon Cox’s apple salad. Like the hotel as a whole, it’s well considered but far from formal.
The sommeliers are younger than some of the artisan and biodynamic wines on offer here but no less charming or knowledgeable. This is premium without the pretension. Superior without the snobbery.
Creep to bed, after a game of chess (yes there’s a games room – just for adults, remember!) and make sure you pre-order breakfast to arrive at your door in the morning. The only sound you’ll wake up to is the ocean, before that knock on the door.
Pick crisp Polgoon Cornish apple juice and delicate tea picked from Tregothnan Estate, grown a mere 45 minutes down the road and specially blended for Scarlet, alongside a classic (and less greasy than most) full English with local sausage, dry-cured bacon, black pudding, grilled tomato, mushrooms and butter-fried egg (yes, you read right, butter).
If you’ve (sensibly) booked a room on the ground level, you can go straight from breakfast on the terrace (or bed, we won’t judge), to a walk down to the shoreline in your pyjamas. Mawgan beach, below, feels like a secret, even though it has one of the country’s chicest hotels clinging to its cliff face.
There’s something wonderful about not driving here – letting the winds and your feet take you – but there is so much a short drive away if you have brought the car.
Head to St Michael’s Mount for a flight of real ale and reassuringly cloudy cider at The Goldolphin Arms; steaming Cornish pasties (no messing – just prime beef skirt steak, salt, pepper, onion, swede, carrot and potato in that golden-glazed pastry crust) from Philps bakery, all using the best local ingredients; and a pot of creamy local ice cream from the tiny gift shop, where shelves groan with knick knacks and tourist tat – I choose one studded with drunk rum-soaked raisins. Stay for the sunset – it’s nearly as beautiful as those at The Scarlet. Nearly.
Or stop by The Travellers Rest, a few minutes’ drive round the coastline, where fillets of fish so big they appear to leap off the plate (made with the crispest batter thanks to local Korev lager, and served with proper chips, mushy peas and chunky tartare sauce) are a must-order.
New owners Martin and Natalie took over just before Christmas and understand what makes a proper British pub worth pulling over for.
On our final day we head to Newquay, where we brave the waters for a spot of coasteering in the safe hands of the team at Newquay Activity Centre. (Tip: volunteer to jump first, it makes it easier, before you see all the grown men screaming as they plunge into the icy waters.)
The drive back to The Scarlet is made all the sweeter by a pit stop at the newsagents in the nearby village to pick up a bottle of cold Camel Valley sparkling brut (it’s better than most champagnes – it tastes like English summer – and made only 30 minutes in-land).
Warm up, like we did, and book a private sunset hot tub. The only interruption you’ll have is the natural landscape – birds, the ocean, the weather – oh, and maybe the staff to bring you a glass of something bubbly.
Rates start at £240 per double, b&b. For the best deals on rooms at The Scarlet, click here
Words | Laura Rowe June 2017
Images | scarlethotel.co.uk