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Hotel Review: The Idle Rocks, St. Mawes in Cornwall

LLM travel editor Natasha Heard checks into The Idle Rocks, a 108-year-old hotel on Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula.

By Natasha Heard  |  December 23, 2021
Idle Rocks Hotel
Image Credit: Drew Gibson

Sometimes you find a part of the world that works its magic on you, whether that’s transporting you entirely, relaxing you to the maximum or simply making your heart happy, and the Roseland Peninsula on the south coast of Cornwall seems to have the perfect recipe to encompass all three.

Maybe it’s something to do with the close proximity to water, the peaceful time of year in which I have visited the area, the well-known Cornish hospitality that is in abundance or perhaps all of the above, but a stay in this part of the world always has me instantly relaxed and ready for a stress-free couple of days.

Of course, the accommodation always plays a big part in how much you enjoy your travels, and for my November visit to the pretty coastal village of St. Mawes, it was the luxury, waterside boutique hotel, The Idle Rocks that would be my host.

Hotel

The Idle Rocks terrace views
Expect sublime views of the water and picturesque village harbour everywhere you go in the hotel

Boasting 19 bedrooms, an award-winning restaurant, a stylish and comfortable lounge and sun terrace at the water’s edge, this Relais & Chateaux hotel promises a welcoming and refined place to spend some time on the Cornish coast, as it has done for over 100 years.

Built on the site of the old local bakery in 1913, the hotel became well known as a luxury coastal retreat in the early and mid-30s, with good food having been part of its fabric for decades. Over the years it has changed hands, and seen extensions and refurbishments, with the latest having taken place eight years ago by current owners David and Karen Richards.

Visitors to The Idle Rocks today will find a charming retreat with waves lapping at its feet outside, while inside there’s a place to enjoy excellent food, relaxing afternoons, and cosy nights, all with sublime views of the water and picturesque village harbour.

Room

The Idle Rocks room
Room 15 is haven, providing enviable views, cool décor and a stand-alone bathtub at one end of the room.

I was staying in room 15 and it was treated to an ‘oh wow’ from me the second I entered it. Sweeping views of the water and harbour through the two sash windows, a stand-alone bathtub at one end of the room, and the spacious and light feel with the upscale nautical décor all married together to create a very welcoming space.

I immediately felt comfortable, and after unpacking my case in the separate dressing area, swiftly fell asleep on the bed with the sounds of the oh-so gentle waves lapping below. Absolute bliss.

All rooms are individually decorated and this one was treated to a cool palette with mid-blue tones, top-quality furnishings and eye-catching artwork. A touch of nautical with a striped blanket at the foot of the bed, blue sofa and light wood furniture, the room was also complemented with thick curtains to block out the light and feather pillows and duvet to add to the luxury feel.

I liked the little dressing area around the corner with its second aspect window and desk/dressing table and chair, with mirror, occasional chair and wardrobe. Hanging and shelf spaces looked after my clothes neatly and an espresso machine, tea tray, fridge with water and fresh milk, safe, radio and hairdryer all came in handy.

In the shower room, accessed through a clouded sliding door, there are additions such as fluffy branded robes and Aromatherapy Associates hair and body products in refillable tubs, as well as the spacious shower and plenty of useful shelf space to store toiletries.

Little touches like a bottle of local sparkling wine from Knightor Winery and local sticks of rock only serve to add to the whole experience, and housekeeping did a fantastic job. This is a place where you’ll want to stay for much longer, lounging on the bed or sofa with eyes closed, listening to the gently lapping water below and gazing out at the view from the luxury of your bubble bath.   

Food

The Idle Rocks restaurant
The elegant restaurant provides the ideal setting to sample the excellent Cornish treats that are served up

The lounge offers a welcoming spot to relax with a cream tea, pre-dinner cocktail or post-meal coffee by the fire. It’s a very inviting spot with chairs and sofas to sink into, plenty of windows to allow lots of natural light in and also let guests take in the views, while a cocktail by the fire to peruse the menu with is a must.

During my stay, I sipped on an English Garden cocktail in front of the fire while deciding which menu to opt for, and the signature tasting menu looked too scrumptious to pass up. After my guest and I were seated at our table in the restaurant, which runs along the water and has an outdoor terrace for warmer days, we took in our stylish surroundings. The long, elegant restaurant connects to the cosy lounge and makes full use of the views through its large windows. Nautical elements and pops of colour are brought in stylishly, and comfortable dining chairs, instrumental tunes filtering through, and cool tones make for a very nice and relaxing atmosphere.

Onto the food, and the signature menu created by executive chef Dorian Janmaat and team, which was a seven-course feast, at £95, full of seasonal produce creatively prepared.

After an amuse bouche of soft choux pastry with a melted cheese inner and truffle grated on top, we were brought a warm and delicate reef knot pretzel bread with rich miso butter and Cornish seaweed. Following on from these delicious introductions, we sampled the roasted butternut squash soup with olive, pickled shallots, seeds, kale and sage oil, which was colourful, flavourful and adorned with a little crunch.

Next up was a burst of flavours from aged beef fillet tartare with Jerusalem artichoke, lovage, pickled mushroom and dulse cured egg, with the delicate texture and delicious cheese crisp making for a moreish plate of food. This was followed by another texture-filled and sumptuous dish of Cornish monkfish with citrus bulgar wheat, roasted chicory, tempura cauliflower and yuzu beurre blanc. Next up came my favourite course of the evening – venison loin with celeriac, cavolo nero, blackberries and red wine essence – a lovely, hearty plate of food with meaty, rich and sweet autumnal flavours blending perfectly.   

Two sweet dishes were still to come, and these rounded off the signature menu nicely. First up was a creamy lemon posset with Cornish clotted cream, blueberry and lemon balm, and the second was a little bowl of tiramisu to fill us up if we weren’t already. After two bottles of pinot noir to accompany and a cappuccino and petit fours to finish, I can safely say that this was a decadent experience that I would happily repeat.

There is, of course, the a la carte menu to choose from when you don’t want to go all out on the tasting menu, but if you’re around for more than a few days and you fancy good food in another part of town, then St. Mawes Hotel – The Idle Rocks’ sister hotel comes recommended too.

Relaxed, friendly staff serve up lovely food in a casual setting – a pub with a focus on good food. Expect to see seafood, pork chop, steak, and pizzas on the menu, while soft jazz tones drift through the dining areas, of which there is one upstairs and one downstairs. From the autumn menu, I devoured the hand dived scallops with chorizo, lime aioli and cucumber; Philip Warren rump steak with slow cooked celeriac, jalapeno butter and local greens; and a delightful sticky toffee pudding with their homemade Roddas clotted cream ice cream and honeycomb.

Breakfast back at The Idle Rocks afforded us the opportunity to take in the scenic watery views from our table, and I tucked into the continental selection – with breads, cheeses, cured meats a full-sized croissant – along with sliced avocado and poached egg on sourdough.

The Idle Rocks lounge
The cosy and stylish lounge is a welcome place for an afternoon tea, pre-dinner cocktail or post-meal coffee.

To do

Don’t come to St. Mawes if you’re looking for an adventure-filled holiday. This small fishing village does a fantastic job of helping you to wind down, so make the most of this with a relaxing treatment in the hotel’s treatment room, with a wander around the village and up to the castle or on the surrounding coastal path. Younger guests are taken care of in the hotel’s kid’s room and the St. Mawes ferry runs daily to Falmouth if a little further exploring is on the agenda.

In a nutshell

Style, elegance and calm are the three words I would use to describe The Idle Rocks. This is one of those places where you’re here for five minutes and your shoulders are relaxing, your breaths are getting deeper and your mind starts to clear of its clutter. A calm-inducing place where you come to just forget about life and recharge, dine on fantastic Cornish food in the restaurant and just close your eyes and drift off to the sounds of that gently lapping water.  

Factbox

Address: Harbourside, St. Mawes, Cornwall, TR2 5AN
Tel: 01326 270270
Email: stay@stmawes.com
Website: idlerocks.com

All imagery provided by The Idle Rocks.

See snippets of my travels on Instagram @tashheard_food_travel