Hotel lives up to the family-friendly hype
IF YOU asked me what makes a perfect Cornish weekend break I'd probably say tucking into delicious seafood while gazing over the glassy expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, being pummelled into relaxation at a spa and then chilling out in a luxurious hotel suite. There would also need to be a walk on the sand and a boat trip.
But that I think pales compared to what my 22-month-old-son Eliot has to say on the matter.
When it comes to offering an instant and devastatingly frank opinion on virtually anything, he is the master.
So it was with a slight feeling of dread that I sat down with Karen and Eliot for dinner in the plush restaurant on our first night at the St Moritz hotel, just across the water from Padstow in Trebetherick.
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I was obviously looking forward to tasting what chef Nick Osborne had to offer, but at the same time I feared Eliot would decide it was already past his bedtime and start asking for milk and his cot.
I really need not have worried. Karen and I had ample time to enjoy three delicious courses and most of a bottle of wine before deciding it was Eliot's bath time. He had a fantastic time chatting to the waitresses who were universally friendly, helpful and made Eliot – and therefore mum and dad – feel rather special.
We chose seafood for starter and main courses which were beautifully presented and tasted exquisite. A children's portion of soft grilled cod and crushed potatoes was extremely well received by Eliot.
The same warm welcome from every member of staff continued throughout the weekend and guaranteed the success of our visit.
Even before we arrived I received an e-mail from someone called Britt who was to be our "guest host" saying if there was anything I wanted arranging, it would be no trouble. Slightly naive about what a "guest host" was, I put her to the test.
The following morning Britt waved us off as we walked down the slipway to catch the foot ferry from Rock to Padstow. She had just shuttled us a mile or so down the hill in the hotel's trusty Land Rover and arranged for bicycles to be reserved for our hire when we reached the other side of the Camel Estuary. After towing a sleeping Eliot in a toddler trailer for a couple of hours along the Camel Trail we returned to Padstow and the boat home.
Padstow and its neighbours have enjoyed great popularity in recent years thanks to Rick Stein, a small constellation of Michelin stars, the growth of Newquay Airport and the patronage of a healthy crop of surfers and celebrities. The Camel Valley even has its own vineyard producing Cornwall's answer to Champagne.
At the end of February it is easy to find the tranquillity that comes with the gently ebbing tide of the silvery Camel Estuary as it wriggles between the low coastal hills of north Cornwall. There is still a sense of life taking its own pace here.
Our ferry trip back was rather later than we planned but our transport to the hotel was a phone call away and our driver had very thoughtfully let the Sea Side restaurant know we were going to be a little adrift of our 1pm lunch booking. Once again the three of us enjoyed a superb meal. We had no hesitation in ordering cocktails, a steaming bowl of delicious mussels in a coconut and lemongrass sauce to strat with steak and beef rendang for our mains.
This all left me felling rather pooped and now was the time to enjoy the smart, stylish and homely comfort of our roomy suite. Big windows, a glimpse of sea, and fresh decor inspired by the coast and the hotel's art deco style made this a very comfortable place to recover from the day's excesses. A fully equipped kitchen also gave us the option of rustling up our own supper and settling for a cosy night in.
We ended our weekend break with a dip in the hotel pool and treatments in the Cowshed Spa. The brand originated at Babington House near Frome in Somerset and has been exported to London, New York, Berlin, Miami and the St Moritz, where Cowshed products are on tap in every room.
While I had a back rub, Karen and Eliot were having fun in the hotel's well equipped playroom which had everything from building blocks to an Xbox. The new de-stressed me emerged to take over parent duties, leaving Karen to disappear for well over an hour to enjoy a glamorous pampering manicure.
All of this luxury doesn't come cheap, but the experience on offer at the St Moritz more than justifies the price tag. The pair of us felt relaxed and refreshed on our Sunday afternoon drive home. The sea, the sand, the food and the hospitality had all been immaculate. But best of all, our little passenger in the back seat had only one final word on the matter – zzzzzzz.