Hotel Review: The Headland Hotel & Spa, Newquay in Cornwall
The prospect of a stay at The Headland Hotel and Spa always makes me smile, memories from previous visits and an intrigue as to what may have changed in the restaurant, for example, fill me with hope and excitement.
With a blustery Atlantic breeze and a spot or two of rain accompanying our weekend away, Nick and I certainly didn’t let the weather get in the way of our plans at the Victorian hotel. In fact, it is very well suited to a stormy situation – the spa, restaurant, brasserie, main and small lounges, bar and comfortable rooms all offer an escape from whatever the weather is playing at outside. We made full use of all indoor facilities during our stay with Nick returning from a massage in the spa more relaxed than ever and us both filling up with lovely food from both eateries.
We had a very foodie weekend and made the most of Samphire Restaurant and The Terrace. In the more formal dining space of Samphire, there’s an a la carte and a larger menu to choose from – the latter ties in with a dinner, bed and breakfast rate.
The large, comfortable low lit room, with a wall of windows looking to the ocean, embodies a grand and formal, yet relaxing dining experience with instrumental piano music playing softly in the background and Art Deco touches creating a welcoming space.
I’m a bit of a cheese fiend so I went for pickled beetroot, whipped goat’s cheese and hazelnuts and enjoyed the gentle pickling, nutty crunch and light and creamy cheese on the plate. Nick chose seared scallops with bone marrow, sea vegetables and sake bullshot from the a la carte menu at £14 and he like the fact that the dish had lots of moisture and gentle textures.
My main course of ox cheek rissole and beef feather blade, parsley garlic sauce and pommes soufflés was as tasty as I had hoped, with delicate meat and lovely puffy potato crisps. Nick’s main of ‘Filet Rossini’ – seared foie gras, perigueux sauce and frites (£28) had rich, deep flavours that filled him up nicely, with “soft and beautiful” foie gras. I was rather intrigued by the sound of the dark chocolate lime bar with avocado ice cream for dessert and I enjoyed the combination of the smooth textures and soft, sweet and tangy flavours. Nick cannot resist the cheese and biscuits and he was pleased with his selection of three cheeses.
Feeling supremely chilled and suitably stuffed, with a few glasses of wine in us, we took our drinks to the spacious lounge area and chatted the night away.
With each visit to Samphire we see an improvement in the creativity of the menu and the standard of the final dish produced. I had mentioned in a previous write up that I felt the restaurant didn’t quite match up to the quality of the hotel but it has certainly improved since then. Under the leadership of executive chef, Christopher Archambault, and with 2 AA rosettes now in place, the improvement is there for all to see.
Another evening meant another dinner and why go elsewhere when there’s a second eatery in the hotel? The Terrace, which holds one AA Rosette, offers a more informal space for dinner but with the same quality of food with dishes from all over. The room faces the ocean and Fistral Beach and has the feel of a beach house (though a very smart one at that) with floor to ceiling windows covering two walls, mid wood tables and flooring, wicker chairs and pale blues.
Brunch, lunch, coffees, afternoon teas and dinner are served here and there’s a coffee bar at one end and a large terrace outside. The menu is plentiful with seafood, salads, meats and vegetarian choices aplenty. I opted for ham hock, celeriac and toast (£8) followed by preserved duck leg, Asian noodle salad and peanuts (£14), while Nick tucked into whitebait with tartare sauce and lemon (£7) and The Terrace cheeseburger and chips (£14). My dishes were both very flavoursome and filling with the tender duck leg and rough ham hock both being well complemented with their accompanying ingredients and flavours. Nick loved his simple whitebait – “just as it should be” – and his wholesome burger and chips with all the trimmings. We were far too full for dessert and we thoroughly enjoyed the more casual approach to dining, which fitted in so well with the hotel’s relaxed nature.
We also found time before and after dinner for a drink in the bar where the jovial bar staff whip up gorgeous cocktails, serve a good selection of gins and other spirits (which are not as important to me as gin but I’m sure rather delicious to others). The bar area reminds me a bit of a Kandinsky painting with bright, bold primary coloured furnishings brightening up the pale walls and wood floor.
WHAT TO DO WHEN IT RAINS
Apart from eating (and drinking) there’s actually much more to be done at The Headland Hotel. The basement spa attracted (or distracted) Nick for a morning, while I chilled out in one of the side lounges reading. He very much enjoyed his 30 minute Elemis deep tissue massage on his neck, back and shoulders. Ebony was his masseuse and he said she listened well when he asked for lighter pressure so that he could enjoy a relaxing massage, which absolutely did the trick, leaving him very content. He said the relaxation room made him want to fall asleep and he returned for a dip in the pool and hot tub and a visit to the sauna and steam room too.
Meanwhile I was very happy in Little Fistral, one of the homely lounges and many seating areas where you can sip a drink, play a board game, read, chat and relax. There is the main lounge, which offers plenty of seating, two smaller side rooms and Fistral Suite, which could hold a smart private dinner and on the first floor there is a spacious area with a fantastic model of the hotel displayed in a case and wallpaper to look like bookshelves.
You’ll get wet anyway so try out the surf school if you’re not a seasoned surfer or stay dry with a themed afternoon tea – I heard of an upcoming aptly themed The Witches one coming up – you won’t be bored, unless you want to be, of course!
With this visit we stayed in a lovely soft green and floral themed room with a beautiful and supremely comfortable dark wood four poster bed with soft pillows and an array of cushions aiding this. In fact we liked the bed so much we considered buying one just like it and opted for a lie in over breakfast one morning. A sage green carpet and cushions and floral curtains, cushions and bed drapes blended well with dark wood and browns, and the view to the ocean was sublime. The room was just the right temperature, there were coat hooks by the door (many hotels surprisingly lack this) and the long, thick curtains kept the light out in the mornings perfectly. A chandelier tinkled from above and pictures of hot air balloons graced the walls, while a mini fridge hummed away. You can opt for a number of packages to be delivered to your room during your stay from ‘The Headland’ – a classic selection of soft drinks, red and white wine, gin, tonic and savoury and sweet snacks for £60 to ‘Wholesome Hamper’ – elderflower and cloudy lemonade and hearty treats including olives, oatcakes and seeds for £20.
The Headland Hotel has something very special to offer that I can never quite put my finger on – it’s not a room, sauna or meal but a feeling of comfort and welcoming that you get when you are there. Of course there’s more to talk about – the colourful history including a near flooding by a famous actor, but I’ve said it before and perhaps you’ll have to go for yourself to discover all that the hotel, Fistral Beach and Newquay have to offer.
IN A NUTSHELL
Fit for a foodie getaway, and a spa break too, don’t let the weather put you off this ocean-side haven. There’s plenty to do, drink, eat and see and the iconic hotel will welcome you with open arms and wave you off a more relaxed version of your former self.
Address: Fistral Beach, Newquay, Cornwall TR7 1EW
Phone: 01637 872211