Our lunch at the Hotel Tresanton was just one of an abundance of food-focused things we did in our time down in St Mawes. For other things to do if you’re planning a visit, check out my round-up of great things for foodies on the Roseland Peninsula here.
If you’re looking for a good test of how welcoming posh places can be, even if deep down they think you REALLY don’t belong there, I can suggest taking two Rottweilers with you.
I’m not talking about barrelling into a Michelin-starred restaurant with the dogs in tow if you’ve been told it’s not dog-friendly. That would just be silly. I’m talking about the places that use words like ‘relaxed’ and ‘welcoming’, playing the ‘we’re a place for the people’ card in the same way Boris and Nigel claim to hang around with us members of the hoi polloi, but somehow can’t help but turn their nose up at any clothing other than chinos and boating shoes or Gucci handbags and look on in horror when your 30kg beast on a lead walks towards them, suddenly declaring they actually don’t accept dogs.
Of course, I get that plenty of venues probably feel that way when the clientele they see before them don’t quite seem to be their target audience (of course, we shouldn’t judge books by their covers but come on, admit it, so many of us still do). But the real professionals are the ones who bite back the fear, disdain and deep-seated loathing to live out their claims of inclusivity whole-heartedly.
That, ladies and gents, is where the Hotel Tresanton shines. Owned by Olga Polizzi and tucked up at one end of the Cornish delight that is St Mawes, it’s the kind of place the very very well off go to enjoy. It’s got that understated casual look that is specifically designed to hide the fact it really is rather lovely. Like £300 a room night. It’s got a Mediterranean-style beach club that sprawls down the cliffside to the beach. It’s even got a blimin yacht – yes, I said yacht – that will take you out sailing complete with wine and picnic. In short, perhaps not the place you’d expect to wander into in shorts and flip flops with a few big dogs that most people love to hate in tow.
The first time we visited with some friends, we decided it might be a nice place for a cocktail on a grey afternoon. As you can see above, the Tresanton has a lovely deck that’s perfect for sunny days, but we found our way to the other dog-friendly area of the hotel – the aptly named ‘Dogs’ Bar’. If that title secretly means, ‘but only certain dogs because we don’t like the big ones’ then hats off to the staff at the Tresanton for making sure we would never have known.
The welcome we had was as warm as the room itself, which was the perfect place to shelter from the threat of rain. Whether they genuinely were okay with our slightly unkempt appearance and large hounds sullying what is a beautifully decorated, spick and span room, or were just being consummate professionals, I’ll never know – but isn’t that the point?
We wiled away and hour or so and enjoyed what are admittedly quite pricey cocktails, but I guess you’re not just paying for the drinks, you’re paying for the setting, the service and the chance to pretend you’re one of those people that goes out on yachts for a casual afternoon activity, rather than building sandcastles and sipping cider on the beach.
Given the beautiful setting and glorious views, and the fact that we discovered some other posh places in St Mawes don’t welcome dogs in quite the same way, or at all (the Idle Rocks folks for example – that terrace may look beautiful but don’t expect to be allowed on it if you’ve got your pooch with you), when the sun shone a few days later we headed back to try the food at the Tresanton.
Welcomed again by faultless waiting staff (some might say slightly robotic, but others would probably describe it as precision), we settled in a quiet corner (complete with shade for the dogs and some sun for me) and started with that simple joy that is fresh Rock oysters and a glass of fizz. Not to everyone’s taste, I know, but for me, this is a go-to treat when by the sea.
Jamie moved on to what was possibly one of the best dishes of the holiday (bar the Feast Night at the Hidden Hut, which he still raves around). Another simple yet glorious dish when you’re somewhere with great seafood – linguine with clams, chilli, garlic and parsley.
Pasta cooked just right, sweet clams complemented by the chilli and garlic, all piled on top of a fresh-tasting broth full of the taste of the sea and perfect for dunking some of their homemade bread in. Hurrah.
I opted for wild bass with mushroom croquette, spinach and mushrooms. A big chunky lump of fish, with the lovely sweet crunch of seared skin. The croquette was a delight, reminiscent of croquetas in Spain and packed with the earthy flavour of the mushrooms. A light, tidy, plate yet substantial. And rather nice when washed down with a rather nice wine from Puglia.
We didn’t have dessert, but sat in the sunshine finishing our wine and taking in the views, wondering what it must be like to live in a world where yachts are the norm. We didn’t feel out of place, or unwelcome, despite our lack of deck shoes and designer gear and the two large sleeping beasts sprawled out next to us.
You see, when it comes to real class, it’s not about what you’re wearing, the bag you’re carrying, or the dog you’ve got with you. And the truly classy establishments get that. They extend good service to everyone, valuing your money and your custom as much as the next person. That’s real service. The Tresanton has that, along with great food and spanking views. The cocktails might be a bit pricey and the service occasionally a bit wooden but I’ll take that in exchange for being welcomed the same as everybody else, despite my lack of yacht.
We paid in full both times at the Tresanton. They didn’t know I was a blogger.