Muddy Reviews: Talland Bay Hotel, Cornwall
Ready to be whisked away to somewhere quite extraordinary? The Talland Bay Hotel boasts a secluded stretch of Cornish coast, stand-out food, a wonderland vibe and the best views in the West Country. Intrigued? See what we thought when we checked in for the night.
Tucked away on a gloriously secluded stretch of Cornish coast in Porthallow, Talland Bay Hotel is sandwiched between Looe to the east and the fishing village of Polperro to the west. An award-winning destination (crowned winner for Best Boutique Stay at the Cornwall Tourism Awards 2018) the hotel claims to have ‘the best sea view in the West Country’, so the bar is set pretty high.
With 20 individually-designed rooms, many with ocean-facing views, this country house hotel also features a double AA Rosette-awarded restaurant. Family-run, it was taken over by Kevin and Theresa O’Sullivan back in 2015, and since then they have set about creating what can only be described as a unique getaway wonderland.
Talland itself is an alluring hamlet, consisting of a cluster of tucked away cottages and an ancient church that lead down to a beach cafe and two sheltered sand and shingle bays, which are dog-friendly all-year round if you are coming en-pooch.
Wind your way down the gravel track and the white-washed hotel opens out onto a truly gasp-worthy view – we’re talking shimmering sea stretching out as far as the eye can see fringed by subtropical gardens and scented pine trees. Forget your corporate coastal-chic tones, this extended 16th century house is something completely different, what you’ll find instead is something wildly eccentric.
The hotel and grounds are crammed with the kookiest oddities, from crazy curios to out-there artwork. This place is a maximalist dream! Mermaid statues, whimsical toadstools, giant budgies on a bench, the Mad Hatter’s headgear, mythical beasts, fairy-lore, a silver mannequin complete with a lampshade for a head and some downright, erm, cheeky art (quite literally).
Many of the works originate from a local gallery in nearby Fowey, and the outlandishness gives the place a wonderfully other-worldly feel. Any Lewis Carroll lovers or Tim Burton fans will be totally in their element here (plus you’ll never be short of something to chat about if conversation runs out!).
The open plan lounge and bar area are a riot of deep jewel tones and geometric patterns (we spent hours flopped on the giant and comfy zebra print sofas after one long walk). The crowd was a mixture of repeat guests who seem to come back year after year, families, weekend-awayers and locals popping in for the stand-out food and views. If you’ve got a dog, this has to be one of the most pooch-friendly places I’ve ever stayed, the Muddy dog was welcomed everywhere by the team and you can eat with them in the conservatory too.
SCOFF & QUAFF
The Terrace Restaurant is headed up by chef Glen Merriott, and the ethos is authentic Cornish fare. Seafood comes fresh off the local boats that you’ve probably just watched bobbing past, and seasonal, local ingredients are used in every dish. Whilst I was there in fact the restaurant was being assessed for a third rosette, so watch this space for more news on that one. Glen learnt the ropes from a Michelin-starred chef as well as picking up recipes in his own Cornish grandma’s kitchen, and the menu reflects that passion and authenticity.
I suspected this visit was going to be a belt-widener, and I wasn’t wrong. Hearty, locally-themed food, but with bold, playful touches is what you get here. The gastronomic joy begins before you get to the table. As we enjoyed some pre-meal drinks at the bar we were brought caviar-topped canapes, which were delicious. Dinner is no ordinary affair here either as it comes with a wine flight (paired wines with each course). I found this pretty thrilling, I’ll be honest, as I always drink the same tedious, dry white with everything. So to have a variety of global tipples matched with each course was such a treat.
After some tasty amuse bouche as get things going we ordered the starters, going for Looe scallops with cauliflower, granny smiths, pancetta and hazelnuts, and the spiced fish soup with red mullet, mussels and braised fennel. So far so wonderful, all were incredibly fresh, beautifully presented and super-tasty.
This was followed by Butter roasted hake with pink fur hasselback potatoes and crispy oysters (oh my, so good!) and my Muddy plus one went for the Plaice on the bone with Cafe du Paris butter, smoked prawns and crispy mussels. We couldn’t fault a thing, the flavour combinations worked so well, the fish was exquisitely fresh, and the kitchen were more than happy to take it off the bone too.
There’s no way I was letting the dessert menu go without a fight, so we ordered the 70% dark chocolate delice with salted caramel, coffee and popcorn, this was an absolute work of art on the plate, super rich, but needless to say it got demolished in seconds.
I went for one of the specials, Chocolate brownie sundae. When you book in you’re asked if you have any dietary requirements and I’d mentioned being non-dairy. It’s always the litmus test of a good hotel from a mediocre one, but it couldn’t have been easier at the Talland to be a bit ‘different’. It turns out the kitchen had prepared every dish as a non-dairy option ahead of me coming (something they do for all guests) including the sundae which was next-level delicious, even my full-on dairy-devouring date couldn’t keep his spoon away.
It’s a level of attention that really shone out during our stay. The service here is really exceptional, headed up by Talland’s manager Jack, everyone we came across was attentive, but without being overly fussy, and you constantly felt there was a smiling, friendly face wherever you went.
This boutique hotel features 20 rooms in total. These range from country view rooms and sea view suites with four-poster beds and sea facing windows, to family-sized garden cottages and the stunning Premier Sea View Suite. Luckily for us (you guessed it) we bagged this incredible room and it ticked every luxury getaway box you could dream of.
The room itself is huge and has a gorgeous Hollywood glamour vibe, but the best bit? It opens out onto a private terrace with a hot tub. I guarantee the view will take your breath away – looking out over Talland Bay with endless sea views. Watching the sun melt into the horizon immersed in bubbles, French bubbles in hand, I’d go as far as to say it was one of the best rooms I have ever stayed in.
There are White Company toiletries in the room and all the usual luxuries from tea and coffee making facilities to the most moreish Cornish baked biscuits.
There’s a large ensuite bathroom and backlit bath and a sumptuous super king bed to sink into. There’s even a large, separate dressing room area which the husband foolishly attempted to claim as a hot desk (he didn’t win). All of the rooms here are really spacious, bright, colourful and insanely peaceful.
OUT AND ABOUT
Clearly it’ll take superhuman effort to tear yourself away from the hot tub and panorama, but there’s so much to see locally you simply have to get out and explore. As well as being minutes from the South West Coastal Path, head ten minutes west and you’ll find the pretty fishing village of Polperro, with its little lanes, harbour, shops and galleries to browse.
Venture another 20 minutes (we did and loved it) and you reach Fowey, Ready Money Cove, and the National Trust’s Lantic Bay. We took the little ferry over to Polruan from Fowey to explore the village and castle ruins which was great fun. Want something buzzier? Head west to Looe, a short hop away, with its shops, sights and Heritage Centre to explore. Feeling active? Find Adventure Fit Southwest at The Old Sardine Factory here, perfect for a spot of climbing, kayaking, paddleboarding or canoeing. And of course, there’s Talland Bay itself, two minute stroll from the hotel, perfect for walking and exploring the rock pools any time of year.
Access to the area is straightforward. It takes about 1 ½ hours by road from the M5 at Exeter. High speed trains reach Plymouth from London in approximately 4 hours and 2.5 hours from Bristol.
The legendary Talland Bay Afternoon Tea! You can choose from Tipsy or standard, I loved the sound of Gin & Tonic Afternoon Tea and Fizz Afternoon Tea (with a chilled glass of Louis Roederer Champagne) but we had to drive home so we went for non-alcoholic version. everything about the Tea is local including the gin which is distilled at the local Colwith Farm Distillery – the first ‘plough to bottle’ distillery in Cornwall.
Once again, I was given completely non-dairy alternatives – all of which were amazing – from Coronation chicken sandwiches to Smoked salmon and St Ewe Egg Mayo and Cornish Brie for the standard one. The freshly baked scones and delicate cakes were next-level. It’s not often I get beaten by a a food review but I had to take half of it away in a box I was so full – you get really generous helpings here. All in all it’s tremendous value for £26 per person.
I thought it was lovely too that your drooling friend isn’t forgotten. The pups get a look in, with their own special plate of pooch-friendly cupcakes.
Talland Bay has quite the starry following (the likes of Mick Jagger, Julie Walters, Judi Dench, Jools Holland and Chris Evans have all reputedly stayed here). And of course famously Richard and Judy have a house in the Bay too. But despite it’s catnip-like attraction for celebs this area remains really unspoilt and the Talland Bay Hotel itself feels like one of the most down to earth hotels I’ve ever stayed in.
Rooms cost from £210 per night on a bed and breakfast basis. Dogs cost from £15 per pup per night. Children are very welcome, under 14’s are charged £45 per night bed & breakfast.
The dinner menu comes in at £75 per person, but that was for five fine-dining standard courses. The wine flight is an extra £70 per person which sounds steep, but if you’re here for a special occasion it’ll make it a night to remember (or not, depending how much you quaff!) and I highly recommend it. The lunch menu has more standard prices for hearty local Cornish dishes, with mains such as locally sourced fish and chips starting from £18.
If captivating sea views and blissful tranquility are your beach bag then book in. Perfect for couples, weekend away-ers and longer breakers as there’s so much to do locally. Younger kids will love the space to run around in and the kooky decor. Perfect for romantic breaks and anyone travelling en-pooch – it’s incredibly dog-friendly.
Struggling here, but anyone not wanting to share their space with furry friends, or, if you prefer a corporate feel or minimalist Scandi-vibe, Talland Bay is quirky, eccentric, expressive and unapologetically itself.