MAY 2017 - Francis Hedges
“I only remember one occasion when there was severe unrest here,” says an elderly guest staying at The Nare, a privately owned luxury hotel on Cornwall`s Roseland Peninsula. “A rumour went round that there was no more clotted cream, and everyone panicked…”
Mass revolt over a cream shortage may seem unlikely, but it says a great deal about the level of hospitality at The Nare that the idea of going without an essential component of afternoon tea could cause such shock among its guests.
The hotel describes itself as neither as “boutique” nor “designer”, but rather as “Cornwall`s most comfortable luxury hotel”, and it is that focus on comfort – reflected in everything from the chauffeur pick-up service to the daily selection of homemade scones and cakes served in the drawing-room – that keeps guests coming back every year. (The gentleman recalling the clotted-cream affair had, incidentally, visited the hotel more than 20 times, so clearly the temporary panic hadn`t deterred him from returning…)
My partner and I took advantage of the May bank-holiday weekend to spend four glorious days at The Nare, experiencing during that time both the best and worst of the unpredictable British weather. Fortunately, the hotel is equipped for either extreme; as the rain poured down outside in an almost tropical fashion, we withdrew to the lounge to sip Earl Grey tea and browse the plentiful stack of magazines; then, when the sun burst out from behind the clouds, we made straight for the outdoor pool, which on opening day (1 May) was already heated to a pleasant 26 degrees, expected to rise to 30 by the summer.
Having done enough lengths to justify our higher-than-average daily scone consumption, we migrated to the hot tub, which is cosily situated in the shelter of a beach hut overlooking Carne Bay. We could comfortably have stayed there all night were it not for the lure of an aperitif at the bar; our poison of choice for the duration of the stay was G&T made with Tarquin`s gin, a local favourite distilled near Padstow.
Next came dinner, which is quite the ceremony at The Nare. Guests can choose between going á la carte at the nautical-style Quarterdeck restaurant, where the atmosphere is more relaxed but the cooking is still excellent, or heading to the main dining-room for the full table d`hôte experience.
After initially raising an eyebrow at the formality involved – gentlemen are required to wear jacket and tie – we soon found ourselves embracing the pomp and circumstance, and enjoying the opportunity to spin out our evening with amuse-bouches, palate-cleansing sorbets between courses, pre-desserts and petit fours; because after all, if you`re going to treat yourself, you might as well take your time over it.
The pièce de résistance comes at the end of the meal in the for of the – truly splendid – dessert trolley, which is wheeled to every table so that guests can choose from the array of showstopping puddings (our favourites were the chocolate dacquoise, with its mirror-glazed finish, and the multi-layered summer-fruit pavlova).
Clearly, some gentle exercise was necessary to compensate for all that indulgence, and The Nare`s beachfront location made that easy for us. One evening, once the drizzle had cleared and the sun was setting, we embarked on the clifftop walk to Nare Head, taking in the incredible views over the sea and towards the harbour town of Portscatho. There are plenty of other nearby walking routes, whether you incline towards gentle stroll or a more serious hike, the sheltered terrain around the Fal estuary is particularly pleasant, thanks to its river footpaths and woodland scenery.
If you`d rather rest your legs, you can set sail on The Nare`s very own gentleman`s motorboat, Alice Rose, which operates scheduled trips or can be privately chartered for a bespoke experience. In what was surely the most genteel way possible to see the Cornish coast, we took part in a guided tour that gave us superb vintage points from which to admire St Mawes, Falmouth, the Helford River. At lunchtime, we laid anchor in a quiet inlet to enjoy The Nare`s splendid picnic provisions: think Scotch eggs, lobster cocktails and champagne jellies.
For those who fancy going further afield, some of Cornwall`s finest visitor attractions are within easy reach, including the Lost Gardens of Heligan (best in early spring, when the camellias are out) and the Eden Project, which has recently unveiled its beautiful new Australia Garden, bursting with exotic species such as grass trees, kangaroo paws and wax flowers. St Ives and St Michael`s Mount are within driving distance for a longer day trip, and the hotel can arrange chauffeured travel on request.
Some of the guests we spoke to had first started coming to The Nare in their youth, and were now returning with their own children or grandchildren, having carried their affection for the place through several generations. Who knows – I may yet find myself back there in my twilight years…