Review: Inside the hidden-valley hotel that's Cornwall's best-kept secret

A private beach, a subtropical garden and Mad Men-chic decor: Inside the hidden-valley hotel that’s Cornwall’s best-kept secret (and it’s just five minutes from one of Britain’s most idyllic pubs)

  • The property, Hotel Meudon, just south of Falmouth, has a quite breathtaking subtropical tiered garden 
  • And mere yards beyond the Jurassic Park-style vegetation lies the hotel’s hidden private beach – Bream Cove 
  • The 300-year-old Ferry Boat Inn is just along the coast and is a contender for Britain’s most picturesque pub 

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I’m half-expecting some manner of prehistoric beast to lumber into sight – a notion that has taken me slightly by surprise considering I’m in the grounds of a hotel. In Cornwall.

The property, Hotel Meudon – in a hidden valley just south of Falmouth and around the corner from England’s most picturesque pub, which I’ll come to later – has a quite breathtaking eight-acre subtropical tiered garden that’s overlooked by the main crenellated 19th-century building and the bedrooms housed in a 1970s-built wing.

But venture down the pathways leading away from the hotel and into the very bowels of the vegetation and the botanical set-up becomes like a scene from Jurassic Park, with leaves the size of home cinema screens sprouting forth amid moss-covered exotic trees.

Hotel Meudon lies in a hidden valley just south of Falmouth, with a pathway through its gardens leading to a private beach - Bream Cove (above)

Hotel Meudon lies in a hidden valley just south of Falmouth, with a pathway through its gardens leading to a private beach – Bream Cove (above)

The main crenellated 19th-century building (pictured) and the bedrooms housed in a 1970s-built wing overlook a quite breathtaking subtropical tiered garden

The main crenellated 19th-century building (pictured) and the bedrooms housed in a 1970s-built wing overlook a quite breathtaking subtropical tiered garden

And mere yards beyond this jungle-garden lies the hotel’s hidden private beach – Bream Cove. It’s accessible only by boat, a path from the hotel and the South West Coast Path, and further enhances the vibe of Lost Island.

A paradise found, via the 8.04am express from Paddington and a hire car in Truro.

As I stand on the shoreline, gazing upon the sparkling sea, I consider that the remarkable garden and beach alone are worth the long journey from the capital.

Bream Cove is accessible only by boat, a path from the hotel and the South West Coast Path

Bream Cove is accessible only by boat, a path from the hotel and the South West Coast Path

'Venture down the pathways leading away from the hotel and into the very bowels of the vegetation and the botanical set-up becomes like a scene from Jurassic Park,' writes Ted

‘Venture down the pathways leading away from the hotel and into the very bowels of the vegetation and the botanical set-up becomes like a scene from Jurassic Park,’ writes Ted

Bream Cove (above) is accessible only by boat, a path from the hotel and the South West Coast Path

Bream Cove (above) is accessible only by boat, a path from the hotel and the South West Coast Path

Ted's daughter explores Hotel Meudon's jungly garden

Ted’s daughter explores Hotel Meudon’s jungly garden 

Yet Hotel Meudon – recently refurbished – entices on the inside, too.

We are impressed with the sixties Mad Men-chic decor, our eyes lingering longingly in the communal areas on striking lampshades, cool retro sofas and plump cushions with bold patterns.

The sophisticated throwback look continues in our garden-view room with balcony, which features a wooden Roberts radio, a striking brown wooden headboard (with handy plug points either side of the bed) and even a retro bin.

Though the Sixties feel tapers off in the rain-shower-equipped bathroom, where the aesthetics are plain, white and modern.

Ted is impressed with the Mad Men-chic decor. Pictured here is the living room, where light bites, including afternoon tea, and cocktails can be ordered

Ted is impressed with the Mad Men-chic decor. Pictured here is the living room, where light bites, including afternoon tea, and cocktails can be ordered

Funky seating in the hotel drawing room

Funky seating in the hotel drawing room

Our bedroom is a most relaxing room to be in and feels pleasingly luxurious, aided by a very comfortable king-size bed and quality linen.

However, the experience is cheapened a tad by the fact we can hear the guests above walking around.

A more welcome noise, after months of lockdown, is the sound of cocktails being shaken in the hotel bar, Freddie’s Bar, as catchy jazz tunes waft from the speakers.

There are two rooms in which to quaff expertly mixed concoctions such as aged negronis, golden sours and the Cornish Rose 75 (gin, lemon juice, Champagne syrup and sparkling wine) – a delightfully enticing bar room with rich red décor and the adjacent, inviting drawing-room, which features a log fireplace and funky seating.

Here staff also deliver afternoon teas and tasty light bites such as pollock in batter with crushed peas, wild halibut ceviche with tomato salsa and Fowey mussels in white wine.

Ted writes: 'A welcome noise, after months of lockdown, is the sound of cocktails being shaken in the hotel bar, Freddie's Bar [pictured], as catchy jazz tunes waft from the speakers'

Ted writes: ‘A welcome noise, after months of lockdown, is the sound of cocktails being shaken in the hotel bar, Freddie’s Bar [pictured], as catchy jazz tunes waft from the speakers’

Food and drink is served all day in the garden - an irresistible location for refuelling

Food and drink is served all day in the garden – an irresistible location for refuelling 

We love the food and drink flexibility, with both also served all day in the garden and in a lounge area connecting the main building with the bedrooms that has garden-facing sofas and banquettes.

For breakfast and the full dinner experience, one descends a flight of stairs – past some intriguing framed menus from renowned restaurants around the world – to the main dining room.

Here floor-to-ceiling windows afford guests pupil-dilating views of the glorious garden. Our favourite spot is in the top right corner, underneath a real grapevine.

Ted says his bedroom (pictured) 'is a most relaxing room to be in and feels pleasingly luxurious', with the throwback look in full effect

Ted says his bedroom (pictured) ‘is a most relaxing room to be in and feels pleasingly luxurious’, with the throwback look in full effect

The ensuite (pictured) in Ted's bedroom has aesthetics that are 'plain, white and modern'

The ensuite (pictured) in Ted’s bedroom has aesthetics that are ‘plain, white and modern’

At breakfast we enjoy (mostly perfect) boiled eggs with soldiers, premium croissants and big pots of proper fresh coffee.

My partner walks in for our dinner experience with her eyes half closed, having just had a ‘sublime’ massage in the hotel’s Sanctuary Suite spa.

Sparky maitre’d Steve snaps her to attention, though, with his excellent right-off-the-bat suggestion of Cornish fizz from the Camel Valley winery and fresh-off-the-boat oysters.

My kind of head waiter. And boy, are they great oysters. The wine also impresses.

After that it’s a delicious run of sweet potato veloute, fillet of gurnard and for dessert superb raspberry pavlova and strawberry souffle with strawberry ripple cream.

Ted writes that his favourite spot in the restaurant is underneath the grapevine (top of the picture)

Ted writes that his favourite spot in the restaurant is underneath the grapevine (top of the picture)

Ted's dinner gets off to a great start, thanks to Cornish fizz from the Camel Valley winery and fresh-off-the-boat oysters

The main course - fillet of gurnard

Ted’s dinner gets off to a great start, thanks to Cornish fizz from the Camel Valley winery and fresh-off-the-boat oysters (left). Pictured right is the main course – fillet of gurnard

The wine list is solid, if unadventurous, with all the classics present.

We opt for a pretty good Burgundian 2018 Pouilly-Fuisse.

The service? Convivial and attentive – and that goes for the entire stay. In nit-picking mode, though, some of the team could do with swotting the food and beverage offering, as the occasional order is met with a ‘what’s that?’ and a check of the menu.

Back in full-marks territory is the location.

Oh boy.

Hotel Meudon is in the vicinity of spellbinding twisty lanes roofed by gnarled tree branches, yet more hidden coves and secret beaches and, on this topic, a pub in the most magical, picturesque setting I’ve ever encountered.

The Ferry Boat Inn (to the right in the above image) sits on the waterfront in an idyllic cove on the Helford River estuary

The Ferry Boat Inn (to the right in the above image) sits on the waterfront in an idyllic cove on the Helford River estuary

Rustic Padstow, the Cornish St Tropez, charms with its cute harbour and boutique-y shops

Rustic Padstow, the Cornish St Tropez, charms with its cute harbour and boutique-y shops

In cod we trust: Hip Prawn on the Lawn restaurant offers finger-lickingly fine seafood

In cod we trust: Hip Prawn on the Lawn restaurant offers finger-lickingly fine seafood 

Prawn on the Lawn lies just outside Padstow - temporarily on a farm

Prawn on the Lawn lies just outside Padstow – temporarily on a farm

The 300-year-old Ferry Boat Inn is a five-minute drive from the hotel and sits snugly on the waterfront in an idyllic cove on the wooded Helford River estuary, with wooden picnic tables positioned right next to a tiny beach.

We perch on one and idly watch a dinky motorboat-ferry ship people back and forth across the estuary, lost in time and thought.

Another trip is to the north coast, to rustic Padstow, the Cornish St Tropez (or perhaps St Tropez is the French Padstow?).

This old fishing village charms with its cute harbour and boutique-y shops and there’s an abundance of top-notch dining.

We eat beautifully cooked fish and chips at a buzzy eatery called Greens, overlooking the bay, then walk along the coast to a hidden sandy beach for some paddling before a meal at hip Prawn on the Lawn restaurant, located temporarily on a farm just outside the village with stupendous views of the coast.

The tapas-y seafood offering is finger-lickingly fine.

But the catch of the trip is definitely our elegant base and its gorgeous grounds – and checking out after our four-night stay is a heavy-hearted affair indeed (there are actual tears from my young daughter).

Will we return? I bloomin’ hope so. The hotel’s website describes it as ‘Cornwall’s best-kept secret’, and I’m not about to argue.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Hotel Meudon, Mawnan Smith, Falmouth, Cornwall, TR11 5HT. Rooms cost from £119 per night bed & breakfast (based on two sharing a garden view room in low season), from £219 per night in June. Visit www.meudon.co.uk, call +44 1326 250541 and email reservations@meudon.co.uk.

Rating:

Booking.com offers car rental from over 160 countries in the world, with 60,000 pickup locations in the UK. For more information, visit www.booking.com. 

For more on Cornwall in general visit www.visitcornwall.com. 

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