Hotel Review: Salcombe Harbour Hotel & Spa, Salcombe in Devon
When you mention Salcombe to people their faces often light up, you can see them conjuring up images of family holidays in days gone by, trips to the waterside town that stands out in an area of outstanding natural beauty, brimming with boats, fine sand beaches and a constant stream of gorgeous blue water flowing past.
Quite possibly the best place to enjoy all that Salcombe has to offer is the nautical inspired, yet sumptuous Salcombe Harbour Hotel and Spa. This 50-bedroomed establishment on the water holds, arguably, the finest views I have experienced from a hotel. The spectacular scenery encompasses the flowing estuary, which wiggles its way up towards neighbouring towns and villages and down towards the sea, the beaches of East Portlemouth on the other side of the water and the hills, which are scattered with a few fields but are predominantly coated with thick, luscious green trees.
On arrival I enjoyed a complimentary welcome drink on the outdoor terrace and could have easily been forgiven for thinking I had been transported to a Balearic Island. The weather was at its best and the light terrace, with glass fronts, low sofas and white tables and chairs, was reminiscent of a Ibizan rooftop bar. If the weather is on side you can sunbathe on the upper level, enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail or lunch there with those panoramic scenes, with blankets available to warm you up when you can’t tear yourself away on those long summer nights. The view is obscured slightly with some lodges at the waterside of the hotel but the higher the room you have, the better the view!
First thoughts of my room were that it had the best views from the whole place. A balcony ran the length of the room and had space for a lounger, two chairs and a small table, accessible by a patio door, which let a lot of light into the room. It was very stylish and smart, filled with top quality fabrics and furniture and lots of extras designed to make the stay as enjoyable as possible. A basket by the patio door contained a blanket for cooler evenings outside, binoculars and slippers, while white fluffy dressing gowns hung in the wardrobe, a laundry service was offered along with a well-stocked mini bar and a rather impressive amount of gin was ready and waiting for me to taste.
The décor reflects the rest of the hotel with an upmarket beach vibe that offers a relaxing, sumptuous space to spend some private time. White, pale greys and pale wood furniture fill the room while the walls are dotted with images of Salcombe in days gone by and large mirrors. A desk with chair, armchair and small table by the window and table under the TV, which holds an espresso machine and the gin, as well as a spacious built in wardrobe, offer up plenty of space to store items.
The airy bathroom holds a bath with a shower over it, with White Company toiletries and a window with a view too, while the lighting throughout is high-tech with plenty of options, but requires patience! The thick curtains do a great job of blocking out the sun in the morning and the large, cushy bed and pillows are wonderfully comfortable and you just sink into them. It’s lovely to sleep with the door open and listen to the gentle lapping of the water, quite simply, it’s idyllic.
Breakfast in The Jetty offers a nice selection of continental bites (the usual supply of fresh fruits, cereals, pastries, cured meats etc) as well as offerings from the kitchen including a full English, vegetarian option with halloumi and spinach, Omelette Arnold Bennet and pancakes with a choice of toppings. I went for the decadent option of Eggs Royale with lovely smoked salmon, eggs, English muffin and hollandaise sauce, which was a filling and delicious start to my day.
The are a range of menus that can be enjoyed at lunch or dinnertime (as well as an afternoon tea menu), consisting of quite a big selection of seafoods, meat dishes, vegetarian and vegan options, and predominantly British, Italian and French-inspired dishes within a set menu and specials offering too. There’s also a bar, lounge and terrace menu offering salads, sandwiches, light bites, main meals, sharing platters and desserts, which I was told I could choose from too. It’s great to have plenty of choices but I think there may be a bit too much on offer here.
Having said that I chose from the specials menu for dinner as the lobster Thermidor and West Country fillet steak sounded delightful, and they were. I shared this indulgent offering with my dining partner to create a ‘posh surf and turf’ as we called it, and we paired it with Bernaise sauce and seasonal greens, while fries and a salad came anyway. It was a delightful combination with gorgeous quality meats, perfect side dishes and plenty of flavour. I must also mention my starter of cheese soufflé, which was utterly divine. It was light, fluffy, cheesy, but not overpowering, just delicate, with a slightly crisp outer of melted, grilled cheese. I am very nearly drooling just thinking about this. Dessert was a raspberry mille feuille with layered puff pastry, Chantilly cream, fresh raspberries and a raspberry coulis. It wasn’t as sharp as I thought it would be with an almost salty pastry adding a savoury element but it was pleasant enough.
Upbeat, modern music plays across the open plan restaurant to aid the contemporary and relaxed nature of the place. Diners chat away and the good views are there – albeit with the terrace in the foreground – with floor to ceiling windows covering as much of the space as possible to give hefty glimpses of the estuary, beach and hills. Dark wood flooring, low wood tables and chairs, with pale blue banquet seating offer comfortable place to dine for the evening.
A marble bar sits at the back of the restaurant and, behind this, you’ll find the bar and lounge areas, where a pre-dinner drink can be enjoyed upon a dark blue soft velvet sofa. The area is softly lit with lamps and spotlights and large black and white images of people enjoying the local beaches and water in past times are displayed on the walls.
Before you even leave the walls of the hotel to discover Salcombe you’ll find plenty of ways to while away the hours. The bar/lounge offers a relaxing place to spend a few hours on a rainy day with a selection of books, magazines and board games. If you fancy a dip, there’s the spa with a host of treatments, with a small pool, sauna, steam room hot tub and comfy loungers in pairs with curtains to draw if you’d like a little privacy. I found it very relaxing by the pool with a magazine after using the facilities.
There’s also a cinema with 4 showings a day and the hotel hosts tribute nights, cocktail masterclasses, yoga, local gin and beer tastings as well as the opportunity to partake in a Salcombe landscapes painting class. Salcombe is a great place to explore, from the shops in town to the stunning countryside beyond, and it wouldn’t be right without a trip out on the water.
During my stay I visited the Salcombe Gin distillery, which is a ten-minute walk from the hotel, to learn about the gin-making process and sample some of the offerings. As a gin-lover, this was a great experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the history of the brand (very recent, it’s about three years old) and the gin industry as well as sampling the varieties.
I couldn’t pick a favourite of the 7 but of the three limited-edition versions (created with top chefs, Monica Galetti, Michael Caines and Mark Hix) I was surprised to enjoy the one with fennel and samphire hints, created with Mark Hix, which tasted better than it sounds! I love the clean and crisp nature of the original Start Point version and also the recently launched rose which was delicately fruity, it was very nice indeed. I would certainly recommend a visit here if you’re a fan as you can take in a tour and even create your own bottle to take away with you.
PLAN YOUR SALCOMBE VISIT
For tips and advice on places to stay, beaches to visit, where to eat, things to do, events, festivals and attractions in and around Salcombe, go to salcombeinformation.co.uk or call 01548 843927.
IN A NUTSHELL
In a town full of second homes, indulge instead in a visit to this luxury hotel, where you are well taken care of, the food fulfilling, the amenities plentiful and the location unbeatable.
Address: South Devon Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Cliff Rd, Salcombe TQ8 8JH
Phone: 01548 844444