How do VIPs spend their weekends? Well, I’m pretty sure you won’t see Victoria Beckham vacuuming the house while David Beckham puts the laundry on. Time off is precious and if you’re constantly at home on the weekends then it’s impossible to ignore the domestic drudgery and truly switch off.
I’m a massive fan of the mini-break. When your summer holiday feels like a lifetime ago and you may not be getting time off again until Christmas, then all you need to do is add an extra day to a weekend and you have the time available to travel a short distance for some scenery that really doesn’t look like London.
I always think the perfect mini-break distance is a trip of between 2 to 4 hours. Any less than this (eg Brighton) and you get the hen do / stag do crowd and a fast-pace of life. The further you go away from London, the more laid-back the people and the more time you have to stop and look around you without having to rush, rush, rush.
The St Moritz hotel in Cornwall takes 4 ½ hours by train on average, which initially concerned me as too long a distance to travel for one or two nights. However, then I realised the train is a far more efficient way to travel than a plane. A four hour plane journey would involve an hour travelling to the airport either side plus extra time to go through security and passport control. Get on the train at Paddington, eat breakfast, read several chapters of your book, get a coffee and write some emails and suddenly the urban landscape of London morphs into green countryside and before you know it the train is practically travelling in the sea. (The train tracks are literally on the beach at some parts of the journey).
Off the train at Bodmin Parkway, I barely had time to stretch my legs before I was greeted by a friendly lady holding the keys to a 4 by 4. This is a complimentary service for all visitors to the hotel meaning you really do leave all your stress at London Paddington.
With the driving taken care of, I was free to stare out of the window at my first taste of Cornwall. Windy country roads where there was only one street in the village, signs for cream teas, tractors and the unmistakeable smell of the sea…I fell in love with Cornwall at first sight.
I have never been to Cornwall in the summertime so I don’t know how it compares, but Autumn is a beautiful time of year to visit. When it’s raining and windy and the waves are lashing onto the beach, it’s completely mesmerising. There’s something completely liberating about wearing warm and waterproof clothes and going out to admire the nature and then returning to the hotel for a warm lunch and a hot drink. At the St Moritz hotel, located between Rock and Polzeath, you don’t even have to go outside to admire the sea. At the Seaside Cafe, I feasted on the biggest king prawns I’ve ever seen served with warm bread and a slice of lemon.
As the setting was so beautiful, I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I was warm and cosy and my stomach was satisfied but I saw the words ‘chocolate brownie’ on the dessert menu. I can safely say that the warm cosy feeling grew to a feeling of near euphoria when this gooey brownie, served with salted caramel, came out.
I soon discovered that you can be as active or as lazy as you want to be. The hotel is within walking distance of Greenaway beach and the renowned Polzeath surfer’s beach. Nearby is a cycling trail, the camel trail, which is a traffic free 17 mile route alongside an old railway line. The hotel can give you information about where to surf and body board and advise you on jogging routes plus there’s a fully equipped gym and a heated indoor swimming pool (there’s an outdoor one for summertime too).
However, there are also amazing bedrooms with gorgeous big beds, powerful showers stocked with luxurious Cowshed products and, depending on what size room you book, most come with a sea view that’s a few minutes walk away. How can a view be a walk away? If you’re staying in a suite then the view is from you balcony but as the King Rooms are garden facing, these rooms come with their own beach hut. I was overjoyed to find a note in my room telling me that my bed was called Lobster, so after I had instagrammed my bed to make all my friends jealous, I weighed up bed vs beach hut and the beach hut won, obviously!
Inside there are two benches with cushions, a scrabble board, a monopoly board, some blankets and a lamp. I sat there on my own for a bit, just looking at the sea and feeling a million miles away from all the constant demands of life in London. No laptop, no phone, just me and the view.
I’d been booked in for a massage so I tore myself away from the scenery to walk to the spa, located in the main building. There are 48 rooms in the hotel, as well as self-catering cottages and it was originally built as a private house after WWII. The main building houses the spa, bar and restaurant while the rooms are in an annexe. This is good as you don’t feel like all the holidaymakers are living on top of each other.
Anyway, back to the massage…I may well have walked into the room grumpy at having to tear myself away from looking at the sea. I may well have been sceptical about the pressure the masseuse would be able to give after seeing her petite size and as a runner I’m used to getting sport massages from some powerful people. And I may have been jaded by Cowshed products as I’ve used them before at Soho House and Shoreditch House. All the products are named after a mood then ‘cow’ so ‘grumpy cow’, ‘moody cow’, ‘horny cow’ etc. When the masseuse explained this to me, I may have failed to laugh in the appropriate places as I’d heard the joke before.
I laid down on the bed, prepared to have a gentle rub down but after a couple of minutes I felt her work out the knots on my shoulders. This lady knew what she was doing. I felt the tension ooze out of my shoulders. My legs, which were in pain from a long run, began to loosen up and I was able to walk out of that massage room a different person. Coated in gorgeous rose scented Horny Cow oil (which smells better than the name suggests) there was just enough time for a quick sauna and steam and a dip in the gorgeous indoor pool before dinner. VIP life or what?
Dinner at the St Moritz is a gastronomic journey. The main restaurant and the seaside restaurant are both headed up by Jamie Porter, a local Cornish lad. With an open plan kitchen, you can watch the man at work. It seems to be a calm, organised kitchen with everyone clear on their task as there was no Gordon Ramsay style shouting.
Some of the fish on the menu come from Jamie’s dad’s fishing boat, Sparkling Line. I later found out the menu changes every day, depending on what fish were caught that day. Just like at the main hotel – where you can be as active or as lazy as you want – the restaurant menu allows you to be as adventurous or as safe as you want. I love trying new things so I went for venison carpaccio to start. The colours on the plate were just as varied as the flavours in my mouth – it was very good. The white stuff is mushroom ketchup. I wish it was bottled up like Heinz as I could eat that with every meal.
However, there are also oysters and butternut squash soup and my friend’s Padstow mackerel with chorizo and sweetcorn looked delicious.
For main, I chose a fish dish that was served with lobster ravioli (at the top). It was almost too pretty to eat but once I started I finished every mouthful, scraping every last bit of sauce off the plate.
But the proof is in the pudding, right? I cannot begin to describe how heavenly the chocolate fondant was, cooked to perfection with a healthy amount of molten chocolate lava oozing out. Perfection!
Retiring to the bar with a dessert cocktail, I spent the rest of the evening chatting to my friends and actually listening to their replies. It’s hard to do this in London when there are so many other distractions and things to stress about. The hotel’s bar isn’t rowdy or busy in Autumn but we weren’t the only people in there. I spotted a few other couples that were clearly after the same kind of break as us. Flushed from a glow of healthy Cornish air and a full meal, most couples were looking each other in the eyes as they talked, playing board games or sharing insider jokes. Away from the stresses of real-life it’s easier to remember why you fell in love with a person. You don’t have to nag them to stop leaving towels on the floor or make the bed because there’s someone else to do that for you.
I don’t know if it was the fresh air, the fine dining or the bed but I slept better than I have done in months. When it was time to return to London, I closed my eyes as the train left the station and made a promise I would be back. Maybe I’ll try it in the Spring next time… Here are a few more photos I took of the Autumnal scenery:
For more information about booking and room rates, visit the St Moritz hotel website.