Merchants Manor Hotel review: sweet temptation on the Cornish coast
Prepare to be whisked away for a seaside jaunt in luxurious comfort
It's often said that the very best hotels seduce you.
Done right, they tempt you to return time and time again and become a permanent fixture in your life, as important as your favourite book or restaurant. In fact, some estimates suggest up to 15 to 20% of total hotel revenue comes from returning guests.
So it was a good sign that the snippets of conversation we overheard during our first few hours at Merchants Manor suggested this was a place people had visited before or planned to return to.
One woman stopped the irrepressibly gregarious hotel manager Will to relay how she had enjoyed her stay earlier in the year so much that she just had to bring her sister this time around. While later we hear a couple describe in great detail their joy at a previous dining experience in the restuarant.
By the end of our stay, we felt a growing loyalty of our own, as throughout our stay we were continually met with a warmth and conviviality normally reserved for old friends.
Situated on top of a hill overlooking Falmouth Bay there are some fantastic views to be had from the hotel grounds. The location is pretty much perfect, set out from the town’s main drag, everything nevertheless remains within a 15 minute walk. In one direction it’s a ten-minute stroll to the town centre, while in the other it’s just ten minutes to Gylly beach, the most beautiful of Falmouth’s beaches - then a further five minutes gets you to the smaller cove of Swanpool.
The hotel itself has undergone extensive renovations since Sioned and Nick Rudlin took over six years ago. Starting with a new name and a fresh concept, the pair have revamped everything from the spa treatments to the cocktail menu.
Interiors mix contemporary with vintage aesthetics, and from the maritime-inspired treatment rooms to the local ingredients on the restaurant menu, the Cornish coast is an obvious inspiration for the new owners.
The main building is extraordinarily grand, featuring high ceilings and long corridors but it is credit to the team that you are never far from a friendly face or, even more pleasingly, refreshments.
At the start of this year, to complement the array of guestrooms on offer, the team launched two boutique self-catering apartments. The Lookout and the Landlubber are both set away from the main hotel but guests staying in them canb still enjoy all of the facilities in the main hotel - from the well-equipped Technogym to the relaxing spa treatments.
Designed by award-winning interior designer Helen Hughes, both apartments have their own unique personalities. Inspired by the fresh Cornish countryside, each residence offers a spacious retreat for up to four guests with two bedrooms that are flooded with natural light. Each apartment also has two bathrooms complete with hand-tiled wet rooms as well as a kitchen/living space and private terrace with jacuzzi hot tub.
The Landlubber - where we found ourselves - is a celebration of tropical plants, inspired by the botanists who travelled far and wide to bring exotic plants back to Cornwall. The two bedrooms - a super king and a double - are cosy and inviting with crisp Egyptian cotton sheets and large double doors that lead out onto your own private terrace.
Attention to detail is evident everywhere. In the fridge there was homemade jam, local butter topped with crushed sea salt and a jug of fresh milk. While on the counter-top every guest receives a truly exquisite ‘Lady Killigrew’ sourdough loaf, baked by the hotel chef and intricately wrapped in brown paper and tied up with string.
The residences radiate liveability. Though we were lucky with the weather throughout our time at Merchants Manor, we found ourselves excitedly making plans to return to the charms of the Landlubber almost as soon we’d left for the day.
Where hotel restaurants in other countries are home of high-end cuisine, the UK has been relatively slow to catch on. More recently though, with the advent of iconic spots like The Pig, British hotels have stepped up their game.
Merchants take matters one step further with their restaurant Rastella, headed up by South African chef Hylton Espey, drawing in diners from across Cornwall and beyond with high-quality food. Hylton is clearly passionate about the ingredients he uses, as well as the local businesses that he sources them from. In conversation with him, it's easy to see the pride he has in the culinary experience Rastella is producing, and rightfully so.
What sets Rastella apart is the variety of flavours and textures as well as the ingenuity of the dishes. Locally foraged vegetables are the star of a starter called TR11 (named after the local postcode), while the meatier options such as my dining companion’s hake with celery five ways are so artfully put together that it’s almost a shame to devour them.
The charm and character of the hotel is faithfully replicated in the restaurant. Our wait staff were knowledgeable without being overbearing and hotel manager Will’s dual role as the restaurant’s sommelier resulted in a pitch-perfect wine pairing.
Breakfast is a decadent affair, with real thought having gone into the options available, both hot and cold. In fact from the small touches in our residence to the dining experience each evening, the overall impression is of a hotel team that is constantly thinking about the guest experience.
If hotels aim to seduce, Merchants Manor had us at hello.
The apartments are available to book for £300 per night (minimum 3-night stay) and from £1,900 for a week stay.
Merchants Manor is located at 1 Western Terrace, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 4QJ. For more information visit www.merchantsmanor.com or call 01326 312 734.