From snug boutique hotels and foraging, to worth-the-trip-alone tasting menus and award-winning wineries, here are our top picks for group entertainment in Cornwall
Where to stay and meet
Padstow and St Ives have dominated the must-go lists for tourists looking for their fill of Cornish tradition. But it’s the lesser talked about (but no less popular) town of St Mawes on this south-westerly cape that the Telegraph recently deemed ‘Cornwall’s finest getaway’ – and we’d be inclined to agree. With its shell-strewn beaches, lively boating scene and plethora of hilly walking routes, St Mawes has coastal character by the bucket load – and is also home to some of the UK’s most lauded hospitality outposts.
We checked into one of them: the blue-fronted St Mawes Hotel
that sits proudly on the town’s main road, facing the harbour. With only seven bedrooms, it’s homely in atmosphere, emphasized by its charming and comforting interiors (think walls clad in whitewash wood, log burners and vintage seaside ephemera). It’s not too homely though: lunchtime and evenings see locals and fisherman hunkering down in its Lower Deck Bar – if you want to meet some characters over a well-turned cocktail, this is the place to do it.
Of the septet of rooms, we stayed in the Superior Seaview Room which, unsurprisingly, comes with unobstructed vistas of the sparkling Carrick Roads, dotted with bobbing fishing boats. Inside, the neutral-hued bedroom comes with touches of luxury: Egyptian cotton sheets, a Hypnos bed and a wet room-style shower. The paired back design of all the rooms means that touches which nod to the surrounding area – such as wooden ornaments, exposed beams and blue details – really stand out. We particularly liked our freestanding bath – post-fishing soaks, sorted.
As well as entertaining locals and visiting tourists, The St Mawes Hotel
is also impressively set up for entertaining groups. If you’re used to meetings surrounded by drab interiors and in oppressive atmospheres, the Courtyard Room will be a welcome reprieve with its nautical details, daylight-flooding skylight and clean lines (not to mention all of that rejuvenating sea air coming through its French doors). This room can also be used for private burger and lobster dinners, pizza parties or drinks and canapé receptions.
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It’s real USP though? It has to be the attached Hidden Cinema. We were treated to a screening of the National Theatre’s Follies – complete with blankets, popcorn and booze – but groups of up to 25 people can also take it over the state-of-the-art spot for presentations, sports screenings or film nights. Fancy something more exhilarating? The hotel is teamed up with Cornwall Wildlife Trust so groups can bond over Wild Food Foraging, Rockpool Rambling and Survival Skills.
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Coastal-cum-country estate, Fowey Hall Hotel
in Fowey. Its Victorian façade makes the hotel stand out from the more traditional coastal properties and inside, 36 bedrooms are furnished with stately dark wood beds, gilt-framed portraits and period touches. The hotel’s event spaces are equally grand, featuring barrel-vaulted ceilings, and can be combined with the hotel’s lounges and terraces. Post-meetings, guests should head to the spa for a soak in the outdoor hot tub, complete with views of the sea.
Where to eat
While it may be best known for seaside favourite the Cornish pasty, Cornwall is also home to some of the UK’s most discerning restaurants. Of the cluster that inhabit the south westerly coast, it’s The Idle Rocks
that’s undoubtedly worth travelling for (it even made our UK Top 100 Restaurants
list this year at SquareMeal.co.uk
Head chef Guy Owen’s giddy enthusiasm for local ingredients and sustainability shines through not only in our meeting with him but also in his eclectic dishes. He has crafted menus that nod to his training in the kitchens of big names such as Gordon Ramsay and Michael Caines, but also bring an edge of inventiveness indicative of a chef who has honed his signature style of cooking – think French meets Asian. Before we forget to mention it, the setting is really very special. Positioned on the rocks of St Mawes, the restaurant’s views are not only as striking as the dishes, but are a window into the type of ingredients diners can expect to enjoy in the spacious and clean-lined dining room.
Cornish produce is the staple of all of Owen’s menus, with daytime offerings (which can be enjoyed on the waterside terrace when the weather is playing ball) being typically light and fresh with the likes of sea trout rillettes with avocado and wasabi, and grilled mackerel with Lebanese salad on the lunch menu. Having used our lunchtime as an excuse to tick the Cornish pasty box, we decided to visit for dinner to try the five-course tasting menu.
Dishes are seasonal, of course, but the use of luxurious ingredients and classical cooking techniques matched with touches of the unexpected is to be expected all year round. Lobster or crab tortellini with shellfish bisque will please traditionalists (and starts proceedings with a lightness of touch) while Japanese hints of umeboshi (pickled plums) and shokupan (a traditional pillowy bread) give familiar chicken liver parfaits the unexpected jolt Owen is known for. Deft use of spice is evident in a perfectly balanced curried hake dish but a traditional dessert of baked alaska brings the menu full circle (with a welcome spiking of gin). We’d recommend getting matching wines too, which range from South African chardonnays and New World pinot noirs, to local vintages from Padstow. Service is slick, garnishes are photo-worthy flourishes of bright colours and rich textures, and post-prandial cocktails in the restaurant’s adjoining lounge are a must.
Tasting menus start at £85pp with the option of adding wine flights for £45pp. Get in touch
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The Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth at No.6
in Padstow. This Georgian terraced house is an endearing charmer, and its kitchen delivers fashionable dishes spanning everything from a smoked haddock ‘quiche Lorraine’ to ‘all the rabbit’ with grilled bread and September damsons. Don’t miss Ainsworth’s famous ‘trifle Cornish’ flavoured with Tregothnan tea prunes and saffron.
Where to play
Miles of beaches and seemingly unending stretches of the blue stuff mean that water activities for groups are abundant in Cornwall. But, if you want to keep your feet on land (but don’t fancy being completely dry) we would suggest an afternoon of wine tasting to keep sea chills at bay.
Built into a hill and relatively hidden, just outside of Padstow, Trevibban Mill
started life in 2014. What had started as a restoration project and hobby for husband and wife team, Engin and Liz, has turned into a working vineyard and winery which produces in the region of 24,000 bottles of the good stuff a year as well as cider from its apples, and champagne cordials from its blackberry and sloe hedgerows.
It is, of course, the wine that groups should visit for though. The winery produces still white, rosé and red wines, as well as white and rosé sparkling wine (the latter of which has had a spike in popularity in the last year). We tried the Grand Walking Tour
which takes groups around the vineyard, orchard and lake to learn about the varietals of grape grown on the estate, as well as a history of the land and a glimpse into what it takes to run a working vineyard (not to mention a chance to meet the resident Southdown sheep who graze there).
After the ‘hard work’ is done, groups are dispatched to The Winery Bar which is in the main building – a strikingly contemporary structure that, against the traditional Cornish countryside backdrop, makes for a seriously impressive spot. There, they can enjoy a light lunch and, naturally, seven of the vineyard’s wines. Our favourites? The Blanc des Blancs (2014)(which really stands up to the big boys of British sparkling wine) and the punchy Black Ram Red (2015). Top tip: book a transfer.
Grand Walking Tours last up to three hours and start at £35pp with an additional cost of £100 per group. Get booked in
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Rick Stein’s Cookery School
. Having been open for over 20 years, the school is primarily set up for amateur cooks looking to venture into the world of professional kitchens. However, parties for groups are also an option. We like the ‘Cook your own dinner’ party where groups of up to 16 are treated to demos before perfecting two dishes and sitting down to enjoy them.