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A fine institution

Celebrating 30 years at the centre of city life, this urban eatery with rooms brings eclectic dishes with Asian and European influences to its tables.

Words by Lucy Studley

Any number of towns across this country would just kill to have a place like Mannings.” That was the verdict of food critic Jay Rayner – never one to bestow unwarranted praise – when a chance visit led to an unexpected review a few years ago. In an industry where new openings and the latest food trends are consumed with a ravenous appetite (and often quickly discarded in the original packaging) longevity and consistency are precious commodities. In the heart of Truro, Mannings has been serving up great food and drink, and welcoming hotel guests with warm hospitality, for 30 years – winning hearts and minds in the process.

Lynn Manning is the driving force, and she’s a force to be reckoned with. She runs the hotel with energy and a refreshing sense of humour, ably assisted by her sister Kim, daughter Nicky, and a host of loyal staff including Martin Edwards, who’s put in an impressive 30-year stint as part of the management team. She’ll deftly bat away any compliments, but Lynn’s ability to navigate change is really remarkable. She purchased the old hostelry on Lemon Quay in 1993 and, over the course of three decades, has honed her vision of a haven for weary travellers and locals looking for enjoyment and relaxation in the heart of the city.

The building dates back at least as far as 1797. Located on Lemon Street close to the river, the façade is of Truro’s most impressive landmarks and the site has Grade II Listed Buildings status. Truro was a bustling industrial centre during the early 1800s, dealing in tin smelting, pottery, tannery and wool making, and the port at Lemon Quay was vital for goods coming in and out of Cornwall. Mannings, then Pearce’s Hotel, offered hospitality to merchants, craftspeople, sailors and miners from far and wide – no doubt it was a bustling, colourful place!

The premises, with its large stables, would have been an important focal point for what was then still a town. A mail coach called in every day on the way to and from London, bringing news and visitors to the door from across the country and empire. Lynn transformed the old stables, where coachmen and horses would have been tended to, into spacious apartments in 2003, winning a Cornish Buildings Group award for the sensitive conversion of an historic site.

In 1846 the hotel became The Royal to mark a visit by no other than Prince Albert, although Queen Victoria chose to stay instead on the royal yacht which was moored on the river at Malpas. Later, in 1877, it was Queen Victoria who granted Truro city status. The Royal remained at the centre of life in Truro throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s, when the Industrial Revolution and rising tin prices allowed it to really flourish. During this period, wealthy tin mine owners built elegant townhouses in the city, including the Georgian buildings erected along Lemon Street.

It’s not difficult to imagine the great and good of Truro promenading down this terrace, which has a distinctly Jane Austin feel thanks to large quantities of Bath stone which was transported for its construction. No doubt they enjoyed themselves in elegant surroundings at The Royal, the city’s preeminent social venue, which was extensively restored early in the 19th century.

During the Second World War a different clientele whiled away their leisure time at the hotel; American troops were billeted here while they trained for the D-Day invasion. They enjoyed films, shows and dances in the old Regent Cinema, and the hotel bar would have been the scene of many a final drink before heading into the horrors of the Normandy landings. Many never made it home.

These days, Truro and its quayside is no longer a trading hub but a bright and busy modern city with cosmopolitan Mannings still in the centre of the melee. Lemon Quay was covered over in the 1920s, paving the way for the pedestrian space at the heart of the city today. Also, home to Hall For Cornwall as well as high street stores, an indoor market, cafés, and independent shops, Truro’s central square hosts everything from artisan craft fairs and food festivals, to parades and community gatherings.

“There’s always something going on just beyond our doors,” says Lynn. “For our business guests and people on holiday it’s a great advertisement for what a vibrant place Cornwall is.” Truro Farmers Market, which takes place every Wednesday and Saturday and hosts seasonal ‘mini-festivals’ throughout the year is extremely popular with Lynn’s guests, who love wandering through the stalls of local produce and artisan wares before returning to the hotel with their precious finds.

Behind the historic façade, 34 comfortable bedrooms – some with the original beams – a peaceful lounge, an elegant restaurant and an inviting cocktail bar await guests. Business travellers mingle with locals popping in for a drink or a great value lunch (the excellent value Market Menu is a favourite with office workers and shoppers), and later groups of friends gather for cocktails before heading out on the town. Theatregoers take advantage of special packages to eat and stay, while couples enjoy romantic date nights and laid-back Sunday sleepovers. For many Scillonians, a stay at Mannings is an annual tradition, an opportunity to enjoy Christmas shopping and the city’s amenities from the perfect base.

The food offering is chiefly the preserve of Scott Young, Operations Manager at Mannings these past 12 years. Scott grew up in Cornwall but spent many years in Australia, hence the Pacific rim influences of the restaurant menu, which also features Mediterranean and British classics. “When people ask me what kind of food we serve, I simply say – food you’ll enjoy,” enthuses Scott. “Our menu is undeniably eclectic and features dishes from many parts of the world, but they’re all big on flavour and pleasure, and everything is made on the premises with fresh ingredients.”

Head Chef Steve Coleman and his second-in-command Ricky Birch are two experienced hands at the tiller, responsible for the consistently excellent flavours, presentation, and attention to detail Mannings is known for. Two AA Rosette’s are a testament to the culinary excellence guests enjoy at Mannings, from the first-class hotel breakfasts right through to indulgent evening desserts.

The wine list has been carefully curated to offer options suited to the varied cuisine. Lynn and Scott work with St Austell Brewery’s dedicated wine team and Truro-based independent merchant Old Chapel Cellars to make sure there’s something for everyone. They’ve also just launched a Signature Cocktail menu, using many local artisan spirits to create masterpieces such as Nearly Home (Brandy, Pear, Apple, Caramel, Cornish Cider) and Cornish Trinity (Loveday Gin, Bergamot, Vermouth).

Each day the kitchen team serve a ‘Butcher’s Cut’ and a ‘Fisherman’s Catch’ featuring the best their suppliers (all seafood is from Matthew Stevens of St Ives) have to offer, priced by weight. “Our staff can show you your piece of meat or fish beforehand, and you can specify exactly how you want it cooked,” explains Scott. “It’s quite an old-school piece of culinary theatre but we’re proud to offer something a little different.” Lynn picks up the baton: “I think Scott has put his finger on something important there – the theatrical side of going out for a great meal. We carefully designed the restaurant so that it has a wonderful ambience. It’s somewhere our guests come to reconnect and keep the romance alive!”

She adds: “We don’t have aspirations to offer tasting menus or compete with Michelin-starred restaurants – our hotel guests can go elsewhere in Cornwall to enjoy that. We want our city-centre restaurant and bar to cater with flair for everyone who lives, works, visits, shops and stays in Truro. People know they can come to Mannings and enjoy beautifully cooked and presented food, a great bottle of wine, and friendly service without waiting for a special occasion to do so. I think that’s what Mr. Rayner was getting at when he said that every town should have a place like Mannings.” Lynn is justifiably proud that after such a long and eventful history, Manning’s remains the place to eat, drink, and lay your head in Cornwall’s city. We are indeed lucky to have such a place.


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