Looking for restaurants in Falmouth? Read our review of The Kitchen or The Star and Garter, and don’t forget to check out our guide to Cornwall’s best foodie hotels.
Merchants Manor in a nutshell
An Edwardian manor house turned boutique hotel in a foodie corner of Cornwall, with 39 rooms, two luxurious self-catering apartments and a polished restaurant celebrating the area’s culinary riches.
As you pull up on the crunchy gravel drive, and negotiate your overnight bags between two stone hounds into Merchants Manor’s cosy entrance hall, your shoulders automatically drop. Despite the hotel’s century-old beating heart, the decor feels box-fresh – calm, muted tones, parquet flooring, wood panelling, ornate coving and snuggle-into arm chairs.
Which room should I book at Merchants Manor?
If there’s just one or two of you, book a room in the main house but if you’re craving space, or arrive as a gaggle of guests, go for one of the stand-alone residencies. Ask for the Lookout for the best sea views once the Cornish mizzle clears. Clad with reclaimed timber and home to two double bedrooms and two Pinterest-perfect bathrooms, it also stretches to a kitchen, lounge and dining area, plus a private hot tub. Arrive early so you can make the most of the welcome hamper, bulging with homemade scones, jars of clotted cream and jam, freshly baked bread, fudgy brownies, Cornish Furniss ginger biscuits and chilled fizz from Padstow vineyard Trevibban Mill. Even the tea (Tregothnan) is locally grown.
Ask for the Lookout for the best sea views
The food and drink
The hotel’s ambitious restaurant, Rastella, launched in 2016 with South African head chef Hylton Espey heading up a kitchen of keen surfers and foragers. The menu is guided by their mantra of “what grows together, goes together” with surprisingly good results. BBC Food and Farming 2019 Award winner Terras duck is cured in pastrami spices before being slow smoked in a wood-fired oven – it’s ruddy and tender, and comes with a spiced carrot cake purée, pickled ribbons of carrot, and super-sweet, maple-roasted carrot with crumbled, toasted pecans. It’s masterful. Another, ‘southernmost’ hogget rump and braised shoulder faggot, are joined by salty samphire and sea beet from the shoreline, chicory marmalade, and picked white crabmeat. The gamble pays off. A grown-up pudding of perl las (blue cheese) parfait, is crowned with sticky poached pears and walnut praline.
The menu is guided by the hotel’s mantra of “what grows together, goes together”
Let Will, the infectiously enthusiastic GM, guide you through the wine list – Cannonball chardonnay from California is a delicious hit with some sustainable prawns brought in fresh that morning and pepped up with Marie Rose sauce flecked with smoked paprika and roasted shell oil. Don’t leave without exploring the cocktail list, too – the Cornish Espress arrives siphoned off into a pretty teacup as a velvety blend of Belvedere vodka, Kalkar Cornish Coffee Spirit and Olfactory cold brew.
Rastella is a polished restaurant celebrating the area’s culinary riches
Breakfast is an impressive spread with as much attention to detail as lunch and dinner. With toast there’s local honey, Cornish jams and freshly ground nut butter. Overnight oats and homemade granola are offered with freshly stewed rhubarb and Trewithan Dairy yogurt, nuts and seeds while orange juice is swapped for Polgoon Cornish apple juice and a DIY bloody mary station. There are warm croissants, cheese and hams, plus a selection of hot breakfasts, including the classics and vegan options. The must-order, though, is buttery hot-smoked mackerel with chive butter, grilled tomato and poached egg.
What else can foodies do?
Pick up some vintage kitchenware in Falmouth’s many antique shops, then head over to Penryn to check out the new restaurant from olive chef award shortlistee Shellfish Pig, Bango Kitchen.
Is Merchants Manor family friendly?
This is a hotel exclusively for grown-ups, complete with a luxury spa. Bring your swimming costume!
Get chatting to head chef Hylton for the best surfing tip-offs.
Words Laura Rowe
Images Ben Mostyn