Hotel Review: South Sands Hotel, Salcombe in Devon
‘Devon is heaven’ as someone once said to me, and I have to agree. Luscious green hills, beautiful moorland and beaches that wouldn’t look out of place on a Spanish island, the county also produces some of the most delightful produce and is a great place to visit, and live if you should be so lucky.
I popped along to the dog friendly South Sands Hotel in Salcombe, an upmarket seaside town on the south coast where you can nab a four bed property for around 2 million, yes that’s right, 2 million. The appeal of Salcombe is the exceptional location – fine sandy beaches sit beneath dramatic coastline and the place is geared up for visitors with water sports and eateries aplenty.
It started raining as we arrived and, luckily, the room was ready so we dropped our bags off and feeling rather vindicated, changed our minds from a wet and windy walk to an afternoon in the bar. The bar and lounge area is packed with black and white photos of local people, boats and the area throughout time in blue or cream wood painted frames. Low brown leather sofas and chairs are huddled around thick wood tables offering a casual space for a drink or bite to eat and wood runs run through the public areas. We were sat on a seating area with dark blue seating pads lined with cushions with all the photos surrounding us. The bar itself is a feature with wood blocks making up the front and it serves local drinks including Salcombe Gin and Tarka lager.
Afternoon teas were just starting to be served so we ordered one along with some drinks, while we read the papers. A wooden stand appeared with a selection of goodies consisting of smoked salmon and cream cheese, cheese and chutney and ham with mustard sandwiches, plain scones with cream and raspberry jam and vanilla cake, chocolate brownie, fudge and a truffle. It was all delicious, an afternoon well spent!
The 22 rooms are all a little different and are split into categories named after sailing boats. We stayed in a dragon room, of which the hotel explains: ‘Defined in the sailing world as “a sumptuously designed craft with the perfect dimensions for savouring stunning sea views.”
Featuring a super king bed and some fantastic views of the beach and Salcombe Estuary, the room was modern, spacious and luxurious with neutral tones throughout. All the mod cons were there and the nautical theme continued in subtle ways. There was plenty of mid wood in the flooring, bed frame, door, wardrobe, bedside tables, while beige, cream and hints of blue finished the room. Two armchairs sat in front of one set of windows, which was the frame to the most stunning view of the water. My guest, Nick, and I feel at home near the water so we spent any spare minute sitting there and gazing at the view, listening to the waves and simply relaxing.
A claw foot bath in the room was a great feature and I made the most of it while using the supplied l’Occitaine products before slipping on one of the cosy robes. Vibrant images of the locality adorned the sandy coloured walls, while thick curtains with a bird design framed the windows. A handy ottoman sat at the foot of the bed, while tea and coffee and a safe could be found in the wardrobe and a small fridge in one of the bedside tables. The modern shower room had underfloor heating, a huge walk in shower with sandy coloured tiles throughout and a mirror with integrated lighting.
With 2 AA Rosettes under its belt and a top London chef at the helm, the resident restaurant has the striking setting and local produce as big ticks already. Executive chef, Allister Bishop joined in 2016 after 27 years in the business in the capital and said he is happy to be taking on more of a hands on role again in the kitchen, using the freshest local produce where he can. The style of cooking is simple with fewer ingredients being prepared in creative ways and presented artfully on the plate. Being such foodies, Nick and I were eager to try out the restaurant for dinner and I don’t think I’ve seen him happier about a plate of smoked salmon!
The a la carte menu offers 2 courses for £33 and 3 for £42. There are a good selection of British dishes incorporating fish and vegetarian options, making the most of luscious local Devon produce with 5 starters, 8 mains and 5 desserts. There are wine recommendations with most dishes, the menu is well written and sells the food well, describing the textures and all elements on each plate.
For my starter I opted for steamed Cornish monkfish, creamed leeks and parsnip crisp. Chunks of the meaty fish sat on a bed of finely cut, flavoursome creamed leek, which added a lot of flavour, while a simple piece of crispy, sweet parsnip was perfect.
Onto Nick’s revered smoked salmon, which was ‘citrus cured’ and served with pickled cucumber, cucumber sorbet and a black sesame pastry crisp. Nick described it as simple, colourful and elegant, while packing a punch, and proclaimed that he could not fault it. He said the flavours and textures were all there and it was an uplifting dish.
Next up he went for the Hope Cove (a neighbouring village) Closewool lamb duo – cutlet and braised faggot, red cabbage, heritage carrots and celeriac purée. He loved the deep rich faggot and the flavoursome lamb and summarised it as a hearty British dish, with tasty ingredients, cooked well.
We shared a side of lovely buttery mashed potato and it complemented my flavoursome duck dish very well. A piece of Sladesdown duck breast was roasted and served with savoy cabbage, caramelised cabbage purée and braised red quinoa. The lovely flavours came together to offer a gentle richness with lighter, sweeter elements. The duck was so tender and the quinoa had a nice texture to it. It was all very moreish and was delicious with a glass of the recommended Pinot Noir.
We both have a sweet tooth and are extremely tempted by a cheese board so we decided to share a selection of West Country cheeses and a white chocolate and pistachio marquise. The sweeter dessert was served with a milk chocolate mousse, espresso syrup, rum infused raisins and cappuccino ice cream. Altogether it was very nice with a lovely mix of flavours including the punchy raisins – the only thing lacking possibly was a crunchy pistachio biscuit or something similar to add a bit of texture but that’s being picky! The cheese came with pickled celery, grapes, chutney and crackers and consisted of a selection of 5 cheeses including a blue, cheddar and Brie.
The décor is fresh, modern, smart and has an upmarket beach style. The room is long and slim with the focal point being the beach and water, the view of which are accentuated with floor to ceiling windows and doors running along the length of the restaurant on a curved wall. There’s also plenty of seating outside on a patio, which I imagine is pretty inviting on warmer days. Back inside there’s a wood floor matching the table tops and we were perched on high back wicker chairs (which I didn’t find all that comfortable). Framed photographs of boats rested on the pale walls and the ambience was bolstered by music playing quietly and chatter of other diners filling the air, which is always a good sign that people feel comfortable in the space. Staff were really friendly and attentive and the food portions were plentiful.
Breakfast was served here and there were the usual buffet options (juices, pastries, cereals, cheese, smoked salmon etc) with some interesting items from the kitchen available including Eggs Benedict, French toast with Chantilly cream, waffles and the typical porridge, Full English and Vegetarian cooked breakfast options. Nick went for his favourite meat-filled Full English, while I deliberated over the French toast and waffles before settling for the waffles. There was no settling at all, they were delicious! Pieces of warm, crispy-edged chunky waffles were piled up and drizzled with a sweet chocolate sauce, syrupy soaked strawberries and had a generous dollop of cream on the side – an exceptional way to start my day!
A walk on the beach after checking out was a lovely way to appease any guilty feelings of eating dessert food for breakfast. We also headed into the centre of Salcombe, which is a 10 to 15 minute walk and offers up some gorgeous views of the coastline along the way. Near to the hotel is Overbeck’s, a National Trust Edwardian property with subtropical gardens and a collection of quirky items and the former residence of inventor and scientist, Otto Overbeck. Locally you can also sail, fish, walk, hike, golf, shop, swim or simply lie on a sandy beach.
IN A NUTSHELL
A stylish and contemporary hotel with a rustic, beachy feel, South Sands Hotel is in a superb location and offers delightful food at all times of the day.
Address: South Sands, Bolt Head, Salcombe, TQ8 8LL / 01548 845900