Bristol Post Review

Autumn breaks in Cornwall at Budock Vean Hotel and Spa

We enjoyed reading this review of Budock Vean and what it's like to spend an Autumn short break here by the Helford River in Cornwall. Published in the Bristol Post, you can read the full article by following this link: https://bit.ly/2RwvAt2 or we've included the text, below.


Bristol Live: Travel: The perfect Cornish weekend filled with rest and relaxation

Pip Larkham heads to Cornwall for a weekend at Budock Vean

We thought we were going to be kayaking along the river Helford towards Frenchman’s Creek on Sunday morning, but the forecast of 45-mile-an-hour winds and persistent rain put paid to that.

Apparently the inspiration for the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, Frenchman’s Creek is said to be serene and calm, and would have looked stunning surrounded by the red and gold autumn leaves that dressed the trees during our early November visit. But, alas, it was not to be, on safety grounds of course, which is perfectly sensible.

However, we weren’t going to let a bit of rain dampen our spirits and were excited to swap city life for the countryside and the coast for a couple of days.

It was roughly a four-hour drive from our Bath home to Budock Vean Hotel in the village of Mawnan Smith, on the outskirts of Falmouth in Cornwall – a word of advice  – follow the signs for the village of Mawnan Smith and Trebah Gardens after Truro, otherwise you’ll find yourself heading into Falmouth.

We (hubby Ian, and I) were booked into the newly decorated room 6, and it was lovely. The new bathroom and separate en suite are stunning and very modern. The shower is huge with a dinner plate-size showerhead. There’s a bath, too, with a TV screen built into the wall, so you can watch and soak, as well as luxurious Elemis products to use, so there’s no need to pack your shampoo and conditioner.

The number 6 suite has a bedroom and separate lounge which felt cosy and comforting on a very grey November afternoon. Lovely features include a window seat, sofa, a huge (and extremely comfortable bed), two more TV screens, oodles of storage space, and wardrobes that have lights in them so you can actually see and find things!

The spot was perfect for an autumn walk

Food and drink

We quickly unpacked and headed down to the hotel bar for a cream tea. Available daily from 3pm to 5pm, it’s a self-service tea where you choose from plain or fruit scones as well as a selection of delicious cakes, and as much jam and clotted cream that you can scoop on to your plate.

I can’t quite believe I managed to eat two huge scones piled high with jam and cream, but I’d only had a couple of fruit pastilles for lunch, so it’s probably not that surprising.

A wide range of tea and coffee can be ordered from the bar to accompany your cakes, and the waiter will bring the drinks to you.

We chose to sit in the conservatory, however you could opt for the bar or the comfy lounge where a real open fire was keeping things nice and toasty.

After tea we decided to relax in our suite for a few hours before dinner which we had booked for 8pm (you can pick any time to dine from 7pm to 9pm and change this on a daily basis if you wish by simply letting reception know).

There is smart dress code in the restaurant, with men asked to wear shirts and jackets to dinner.

Appetisers are served in the bar half an hour before your dinner reservation. We were offered tempura prawns, cheese straws and little duck tartlets with sweet chilli dip – just don’t be tempted to fill up on them!

The restaurant menu changes daily giving guests plenty of choice and costs £44 for three courses.

The hotel is in the village of Mawnan Smith, on the outskirts of Falmouth.

Head chef Derren Kelly and his team like to source as much local produce as possible, making sure the majority of their suppliers are Cornish.

The menu is varied with plenty of fish options – on our first night Ian went all out fish with a starter of pan-fried scallops with orange, shallot puree and rocket, while for his main he ordered wild John Dory with spinach, crab, parmesan mash and chive butter.

I decided to explore veggie and meat options, with a starter of pear salad, cubed blue cheese, chicory, watercress and walnuts; followed by thinly sliced duck breast with celeriac puree, puy lentils, sherry and thyme sauce.

The dishes were tasty and fresh, served with impeccable presentation every time.

Unsurprisingly, we couldn’t manage a dessert on our first night (I blame those huge mid-afternoon scones), but when we returned the following evening we were definitely ready for three courses.

Ian stuck with the fish, this time ordering monkfish, tiger prawns, spinach and crab bisque to start, and picking grilled plaice fillet, with rainbow chard, sauté potatoes, crab and chervil butter for his main.

I went for veggie and meat once more with a starter of galia melon, plum compote and cream cheese, followed by chicken breast, with smoky potato mash, leeks, parsnips and sherry sauce. Again, presentation was superb, service was swift and it was also a nice touch to be seated at the same table for every meal.

We enjoyed a lovely bottle of New Zealand sauvignon blanc with our three courses, which were finished off beautifully with some delicious desserts.

Ian chose the baked chocolate mousse with white chocolate panna cotta, raspberry sorbet and pistachio nuts, while I opted for crème brulee with poached pear, orange rind and shortbread biscuits. Both were like two desserts in one; the crème brulee being the stand-out dish  – perfectly set, great texture, subtle flavour and not overly sweet – top marks.

Some people like the ‘full-board’ option when they go away and, indeed, lunch is served at the hotel between noon and 2pm, while sandwiches can be ordered throughout the day. However, ‘half-board’ is preferred by many, including us, so while we may have skipped lunch, we certainly didn’t miss out on breakfast.

Served from 8am until 10am, there is table service for your choice of tea, coffee and toast as well as your cooked-to-order breakfast from the hot food menu.

'Perfectly scrambled' eggs with smoked salmon at Budock Vean

I chose smoked salmon with some perfectly scrambled eggs, while Ian ordered a ‘fry-up’ and picked what he wanted from a choice of sausage, bacon, eggs, fried bread, tomatoes, mushroom, beans (you get the picture).

Kippers, poached smoked haddock and porridge are on the hot food menu too, while there is also a self-service a buffet bar with a selection of cereal, pastries, juice, fruit and yoghurt.

You also get a copy of the hotel’s daily newsletter on your table each morning with a weather update, the lunchtime specials, available spa appointments, details of what’s on locally and more.

Things to do

The best way to deal with any hearty breakfast is a good walk which is exactly what we did. You won’t be disappointed at Budock Vean, the hotel grounds are stunning – vast swathes of countryside, wooded areas and paths take you down to the Koru Kayaking pick-up point, or up and around  the golf course and down to the coastal path.

Tennis is also an option for guests, along with golf, and there were plenty of people playing both despite the grey November weather.

Red and gold autumn leaves dressed the trees during our early November visit

A short, 10-minute walk out the main entrance and down to the right will lead you to Trebah Gardens.

Open daily all year round, you can wander around acres of sub-tropical gardens, set against a coastal backdrop. You could easily spend half a day exploring here or you can be a bit more speedy and cover it in around an hour and a half.

You’re given a map on admission so it’s easy to find your way around, and make sure you don’t miss a quick trek on to the beach at the far end of the garden – a wonderful spot to hear those crashing waves and breathe in the salty sea air.

We stopped for a sandwich and coffee on our way out at the relaxed Trebah Kitchen – the service and food was spot-on and the roast dinners looked very tempting.

However, as we wandered back to the hotel, the rain was really starting to get going and we were looking forward to a relaxing end to the day at Budock Vean’s Natural Health Spa.

We had treatments booked in for 4.45pm so there was just time for a quick swim in the huge indoor pool beforehand. The pool is housed in a building connected to the main hotel with a beautiful wooden beam ceiling – something nice to gaze at as you float around on your back (wouldn’t want to do anything too strenuous in a spa pool). There’s also a sauna, showers and a table tennis table (which surprised me) to the side of the pool, while double doors take you outside to the hot tub.

Ian and I booked in for a couple’s treatment, which basically means you share a treatment room with your partner – you can still have different treatments. Ian opted for a personalised massage (which helps pinpoint any aches or pains you may have), while I had a massage and facial – the treatments lasted an hour and were so relaxing. It was the perfect end to our stay.

It seems no matter what the weather throws at you, there is plenty to enjoy at Budock Vean.

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