Tucked away on West Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsular, the harbourside town of St Mawes is an idyllic seaside hideaway packing a culinary punch.
Dating back over 100 years, The Idle Rocks hotel is as engrained in the town’s history as its local fisherman, sailing club, and community spirit – saying hello to everybody will become your new normal. Part of the Relais and Chateaux group since 2016, The Idle Rocks is a luxurious coastal hangout, with friendly staff, captivating views and an award-winning restaurant – it’s everything you need for a quintessentially British seaside escape.
The restaurant at The Idle Rocks has always been a hit – back in the 1950’s it already boasted 2AA rosettes for its French cuisine. Nowadays, the cuisine is closer to home and focuses on the best of Cornish. Back in February the hotel appointment Dorian Janmaat as Head Chef – it signalled the end of his eight years spent under Raymond Blanc at two Michelin-starred Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. Janmaat and his team have brought more Cornish suppliers on board and the menu reflects their efforts – all meat, fish and dairy are from Cornwall as well as most of the vegetables. For those feeling particularly adventurous, the hotel offers guests the opportunity to ‘fish for their dinner’ (more on that later).
The Idle Rocks might be a foodie destination in its own right, but the rooms are equally impressive. Perched on the rocks at the Eastern end of town, the hotel offers spectacular views of the Fal estuary and the small St Mawes harbour just outside. For a memorable night’s sleep, leave the windows slightly ajar and allow the gentle sounds of the water nuzzling the seawall below to lull you into a deep and peaceful sleep.
Serving up the best Cornish produce
“I’m very happy here”, declares the elderly gentleman to his wife, their table just across from ours at breakfast. Happiness and The Idle Rocks seem to go hand in hand, especially in the restaurant. The tables are positioned to face the water and it’s the perfect setting in which to enjoy some of the county’s best ingredients.
Breakfast is included in all room rates and non-residents are also welcome. Cold breakfast items are served buffet style on a hefty wooden table – the sort that would mean upsizing a few times just to fit it into your dining room. The spread includes local cheese, yoghurt and pastries. Juice is made to order, just choose your ingredients from the fruit and veg box, pop your selection into a wicker basket and the staff will do the rest. Larger items can be ordered à la carte, including a Cornish Breakfast – with black pudding, white pudding and local sausage – and the highly recommended grilled Cornish Kippers, with brown butter.
The Idle Rocks is the go-to place for dinner in St Mawes, so ensure you book ahead. The vibe is coastal chic and unpretentious, and staff are relaxed but attentive. We visit on our second night – the first was spent eating fish and chips, what else? Shortly after we’re seated, bread is brought to the table, but this isn’t just any bread, this is a doughy pretzel, still warm and perfect for slathering with house whipped miso butter. It was a truly sumptuous combination and set the tone for the rest of the meal.
Starters of Cornish confit cod with a saffron rouille and crispy onion topped steak tartare were promptly followed by the mains; pan-seared brill, with mussels and a punchy peppercorn sauce, and a perfectly pink duck breast drizzled in an orange curd and served with a potato cake. The menu was thoroughly Cornish, including our wine; a fruity, dry white from the Trevibban Mill vineyard in Padstow.
After dinner, we retreated to the lobby for a digestif. A storm had rolled in, and we sipped Bourbon next to the fire whilst listening to the rain and wind howling outside – a perfect way to end a memorable evening.
Feeling adventurous? Guests at The Idle Rocks can also ‘fish for their supper,’ with local fisherman James Brown who’ll gladly take you out on his boat for a spot of mackerel fishing. If you’re lucky – or patient – enough to catch something, chef Janmaat and his team will happily prep and cook it for you at dinner.
Come for the food and stay for the views
Expect to become well acquainted with the windows at The Idle Rocks – did we mention the view? The two window nooks in our Grand Seaview room were perfect for an afternoon of reading whilst snuggled under a fluffy blanket. The waves lapping softly over the rocks outside were the perfect soundtrack.
All 19 bedrooms at The Idle Rocks are individually designed, and our room was decorated with muted tones of whites, creams and light blue hues. The thickest curtains we’ve ever felt kept the chilly draft from our windows at bay. All Grand Seaview rooms have spacious walk-in showers, while some boast large roll-top baths. All toiletries at The Idle Rocks are supplied by luxury skincare brand, Aromatherapy Associates.
Framed swimsuits from years-gone-by serve as a nod to the hotel’s historic roots, and bold, quirky artwork dotted around the hotel (painted by Cornish artist David Pearce) keep things fun and informal.
The downstairs lounge area feels more like a homely living room than a hotel thanks to the framed family pictures, leather-bound books and large seashells adorning the bookshelves.
Spending your entire trip relaxing at the hotel won’t be frowned upon (idleness is encouraged), but if you do fancy exploring the local area then staff are more than happy to recommend local walking routes. Dubarry wellies and umbrellas can also be borrowed for muddy rambles. Post-walk, head to the lounge and warm up next to the fire with a cocktail or two – the Springs and Neaps made with Tarquin’s Cornish gin comes recommended.
The sister property – St Mawes Hotel
In the heart of the town, you’ll find the boutique St Mawes Hotel – the sister property of The Idle Rocks. Its casual vibe attracts a younger crowd, who flock to sample the Sourdough Pizza’s and popular Sunday Roasts (Dorian Janmaat oversees the kitchen here as well).
A small hidden cinema which seats 25 can be found on the first floor and shows independent films, blockbuster classics and live sporting events. Tickets start at £10 pp and include popcorn.
For more information on Cornwall, including the town of St Mawes and the Roseland Peninsula, visit https://www.visitcornwall.com/