Perched on Falmouth’s waterside, with its own private pontoon, The Greenbank is a little piece of Cornish history in itself, originally serving as a lodging house for sea captains during the town’s maritime heyday before becoming a full-blown hotel (20th century guests included Florence Nightingale and Wind in the Willows author, Kenneth Grahame, whose most famous book is thought to have been based on letters he wrote while staying there).
Parts of the building date back to 1670 and the cosy, welcoming charm that comes with such heritage has been carefully preserved despite a recent overhaul. Walking through the main doors we were immediately struck by the view through tall windows that run along the front of the hotel – a beautiful riverside panorama that stretches right over to Flushing on the opposite side of the bay; arrive by boat and you can moor up at the hotel’s private pontoon.
Our room was in the old part of the hotel, at the end of a staircase that curls up from the lobby. The focus of the room was a huge bay window overlooking the river and two big squishy armchairs on which to sink and watch the boats tootling by. In fact we lost a blissful hour on arrival just staring out of the windows and listening to the water lapping. Super-comfy king size beds, crisp sheets, fluffy robes and a white-tiled bathroom complete with huge walk-in shower and White Company toiletries all added to the luxurious feel, as did the calm and muted colour palette, speckled with little flashes of sea-blue.
The Water’s Edge restaurant runs the whole length of the front of the hotel so it’s almost impossible to get a table without that view. It’s even more magical in the evening – try to get booking for sunset if you can and watch the lights on adjacent boats start to twinkle to life as the light fades.
When head chef Nick Hodges joined two years ago he switched the focus of the menu from traditional fine dining to a more relaxed approach with a spotlight on Cornish ingredients. Our starters of Fal river oysters and crab linguine were a celebration of beautifully fresh local fish. A simple sounding seafood hotpot was a cute individual cast iron pot of local bass, mussels and prawns with fennel and potatoes in a rich, deep-red bisque with saffron spiked rouille and warm crusty bread. A perfectly cooked tranche of hake was served with tender samphire and a buttery caper sauce.
There was magic at work in the pastry section here, too. We decided to split a pud and ended up with a kind of swanky take on a Jaffa cake; layers of sponge, chocolate ganache and orange jelly were topped with a zingy blood orange sorbet and little nuggets of honeycomb.
Breakfast is served in the same space and is equally impressive. If you don’t fancy a Full Cornish you can tuck into smoked haddock and poached eggs, eggs Benedict or porridge with Rodda’s clotted cream. Breakfast is served until 10.30am at weekends so you can fit in a bracing walk or just have a good lie in before you eat.
And if you don’t want a full restaurant meal there’s The Working Boat pub, which sits just below the hotel and is under the same ownership. This was part of the original 1700s inn but, like the rest of the hotel, was refurbished last year. A carefully constructed maritime tangle of storm lights, driftwood and rope now knot together its smart wooden tables and leather upholstery.
The menu here ticks all the traditional pub grub boxes: burgers, steaks and fishy classics, including fish pie, haddock and chips and crab sandwiches. On Sundays it also serves epic roasts all day. The suppliers are the same as those at the Water’s Edge so meat and fish are top quality. Drinks are well chosen, too, with regularly changing tap beers alongside a regular roster of beers from local breweries Skinners and St Austell, and the pub’s own Working Boat ale.
There is another big selling point for visitors to the Greenbank. While the pub has its own entrance from the street, hotel guests can access it through a little hidden stairway from the lobby. We found this a godsend on a spectacularly rainy Monday afternoon when a monsoon-like downpour meant walking and exploring was impossible.
Double rooms from £109 per room per night, b&b, based on two sharing; greenbank-hotel.co.uk