Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Holidaying in Contemporary Cornwall
We recently spent the pre-Easter week in the highest grade accommodation that we have ever experienced in the British Isles. There are plenty of stories in the press about 'boutique hotels', which are the new breed of place to stay. When it comes to self-catering however, contemporary is not the preferred style in the holiday letting industry, whereas twee usually sells. But diligent searching on Google by my wife brought us a quality of holiday that we could only have dreamt of a few years ago.
The Valley at Carnon Downs near Truro is a secluded development of cutting-edge designed houses around a small central complex of swimming pools and restaurant/bar. In fact it looks like a small hamlet, but from the pages of an architectural magazine rather than one that you might come across in the wild. The place we stayed in had an open plan ground floor with luxury kitchen, ample dining space and comfortable seating area with v-shaped bay with french doors. In summer you could throw these open to commune with nature and down the complimentary mead as you watch the sunset.
Upstairs, were two designer styled bedrooms with luxury ensuites. The master double had full length windows leading to a small triangular balcony: the smaller twin-bedded room was large enough for the children's needs. The whole effect was a million miles from the usual hastily converted outbuildings or whatever that usually passes for holiday cottages. These were all purpose built for the twenty-first century's needs - consumers want a lot more from their holiday these days. The development was small enough to maintain a village-like feel and the whole effect was like modern-day Portmeirion. I resisted the temptation to shout "I am not a number..." you will be glad to know.
The fact that the place had facilities appealed to us, and of course we had to try the restaurant, more of which later. You will not be surprised to learn that the outdoor pool was off-limits but looked like it would be a popular attraction in the summer. We ventured into the indoor one and found it to be large enough to get some decent swimming in, but would probably get a bit short on space if four families used it at the same time. There was a small gym, which we didn't try, and a games room with bar-billiards and pool. We spent an enjoyable half an hour trying to remember the rules for bar billiards, which used to be all the rage in pubs in the late seventies and early eighties, but which got phased out in favour of Space Invaders and the like.
So what about that restaurant? Again it was a contemporary space with large windows overlooking the pool, whitewashed beach-hut like ceiling and up-market tables decked in white linen. We think they had missed a trick by only being open in the evening, but maybe this changes in the height of summer. The welcome was warm from the recently hired staff who were obviously still getting to grips with the basics of service, but meant well.
The target market for this operation is clearly the reasonably affluent, as the menu was quite top-end with prices to match, but the food when it came lived up to expectations in the taste department, if not quite justifying the price. A typical dish was the slow-cooked rack of lamb, which was melt in the mouth. Our second visit to the on-site eatery was on the Wednesday, which was "posh fish and chips night". This being Cornwall, the county surrounded by the sea, you would expect decent fish, and we were not disappointed. To cap it all, the price was much more reasonable. OK, so we did have fish-cakes, but these were full of different varieties of fish and seafood, which reflected the plentiful supply.
We don't usually go back to places, as we work on the premise that there is lot of world out there and only a limited time to explore it, but we just might return one summer.