Words by Hannah Tapping
A clifftop haven where the cuisine takes centre stage.
Cornwall’s popularity has seen a meteoric rise in recent years. When foreign travel was banned, people discovered that it was a place on home soil that could offer all of the delights that we seek on a holiday, without leaving the UK. As the county’s coastal towns burgeoned with visitors, there was an out-of-the-way place where the pace of life remained calm, the vistas were uninterrupted and those in the know could find peace and tranquillity away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist hotspots. The Roseland peninsula, is not unsurprisingly designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, its lush green rolling landscape dipping down to meet meandering cliff paths, white-sand beaches and the deep blue ocean beyond.
At the heart of this peninsula, in the hamlet of Rosevine, you’ll find The Driftwood Hotel. Bought by the current owners, Paul and Fiona Robinson some 20 years ago, the hotel is immersed in south coast charm. It occupies a breathtaking position, offering visitors a secluded escape, and it has built an enviable foodie reputation. The house itself harks back to the seaside splendour of the 1930s, its blue façade a nod to the ocean beyond invoking the feel of a New England beach house. The 14 bedrooms, all but one of which have sea views, have been given the elegant touch by Fiona’s interior designer skills – think understated coastal elegance; seaside chic without the fuss. There is also a rustic cabin with two small bedrooms and a sitting room, perfect for small families or for those wanting a complete retreat. The hotel’s elevated east-facing position affords guests with the gift of glorious dawn sunshine and unrivalled views from rooms, terrace and the highly acclaimed restaurant until dusk.
The food at The Driftwood is inspired by the bountiful larder that surrounds it. Whether it be from land or sea, the provenance of ingredients lies at the heart of every dish. Of course, fish and seafood feature in abundance on the menu and why wouldn’t they with the ocean being so close? Working with Flying Fish Seafoods, fish and shellfish arrives on the plate within 48 hours of being caught. Cornish skate and mackerel from local waters feature alongside Porthilly oysters and St Austell Bay mussels, harvested just around the headland. Cheese comes courtesy of Hanson Fine Foods, whose local selection is driven to the kitchen door for tasting and selection, and honey comes from the hotel’s hives which nestle in the wildflower garden.
While the dining here is fine, there is no pretention. The food is imaginative and contemporary and allowed to speak for itself. Alongside the set menu, there’s a tasting menu which takes diners through a culinary journey from ocean to field, with matching wine flights available. Devoid of pretention each dish is perfectly balanced, with nods to Italian, Spanish and French influences, all underpinned by the Cornish produce at is heart. Cornish native oysters are treated to seaweed hot sauce and yuzu granita; cured Cornish mackerel is served with rhubarb kosho, pickled mooli, spring onion, wasabi cream and iced crab apple; and Tregothnan Estate deer has accompaniments of confit potato, Mora Farm beets, rainbow chard, blackberries and smoked bone marrow.
The menu changes with the seasons so as to ensure the ingredients are always of premium quality. The large outdoor dining terrace is the perfect place to enjoy a set lunch, an aperitif before dinner, or indeed dinner itself if the evening is balmy; all with an unrivalled view. On cooler evenings the chic dining room is softly lit by flickering candlelight, accompanying the gentle sounds of conversation and clinking of glasses, and with its large ocean-facing windows it’s a room with a view. The hospitality is gracious, setting guests at ease; service is attentive yet never overwhelming.
While the food is no doubt a draw here, guests also come for the unique location and away-from-it-all feel. In the seven-acre gardens, which overlook Gerrans Bay, out to Gull’s Rock and the Lizard peninsula beyond, you’ll always find a private spot to relax in one of the teak Adirondack chairs. Or, guests can wander down a private path to the secret beach below with a picnic – such is its romantic location that there has been many a proposal here. The beach offers safe bathing for cold water dippers, or simply paddle your toes as your feet sink into the soft sand. Rockpools lure little ones on coastal foraging adventures, working up an appetite before returning to the hotel for a special children’s tea. The climate on the Roseland is something of a microcosm.
The Gulf Stream brings warm winds ensuring warm summers and mild winters. The South West Coast Path runs in both directions underneath the hotel gardens and leads to the quintessential Cornish fishing village of Portscatho to the south and the beaches of Pendower and Carne to the north. The wider Roseland invites endless countryside walks, hidden coves at every turn and even its own car ferry which crosses the River Fal for further exploration. Although, once you’ve arrived at the Driftwood, you would be forgiven for never wanting to leave!
Bed and breakfast is available from £230 per night, including WiFi, towels, robes, slippers and toiletries, as well as access to the secret beach.