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??Back in my student days – most of which seemed to be spent around dinner tables talking rubbish and drinking – we used to play a game to stimulate conversation. We’d discuss each other’s perfect dinner parties. Where it would be, what you would eat, and, most importantly, who you’d invite.
It was never one of my favourites. I couldn’t get as excited as many others about having dinner with Nelson Mandela (I would have had no idea what to say), I was pretty damn sure Bob Dylan would have been AWFUL company, and if Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, or Pamela Anderson had turned up my all-boys-school education would surely have had me quivering nervously in the corner. Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and the real truth is that the best dinner parties one could ever have were those endless boozy student affairs, when everything seemed possible, and all the guests were friends blessed with youth, ambition and time.
Real life eats away at all of those, but after my most recent visit to Cornwall I want to play the fantasy dinner party game again. I have found the perfect venue for the perfect dinner.
And best of all I have found the place where you really can find time.
For more than 15 years The Nare Hotel has been the highest rated four star hotel in Cornwall. It bills itself as the country house hotel by the sea and from the very moment you arrive there is something about the comfort and warmth of this extraordinary family-owned business on the Roseland Peninsula that embraces you. You really do feel at home. We turned up with two dogs (they are very welcome) and it’s the sort of place where no one would even bat an eye if you pulled off your muddy boots in the porch and walked through the hotel to your room in just your socks.
In a world when ‘luxury’ hotels around the world almost monthly raise the bar to ever more preposterous levels, The Nare’s brand of luxury is a very personal one. It is traditional, it is warm, it is discrete, discerning and best of all it is utterly, and very proud to be, English. The public rooms are never lounges. There is a drawing room, a library, and a billiards room. All are immaculately furnished in the very finest English country house style – the sofas and chairs are there to be sat on not just to look good – there is enough interest in the books and paintings to wile away a week, and the log fires crackle in the homely and comforting way of the best country homes.
The bedrooms – or the suites – follow a similar style. Our sea view suite was large and easy and quintessentially country house. It had a vast bed, a comfortable sitting, television and reading area, and French windows leading to the garden and a route down to the beach. There are decanters, a writing desk, and, a real surprise, a hydraulic TV that emerged from the end of the bed for very lazy Sunday mornings.
Then there’s the reason for my fantasy dinner party. The dining room. It is here that all the finest qualities of The Nare come together. A menu that has been cleverly and expertly sourced almost entirely locally, a highly skilled chef, and staff whose levels of service are of the very highest standard. They combine discretion with personal service, good humour and charm. “Oh I would, sir,” were the cheeky but completely understanding words of advice as I wondered whether to follow my fabulous dinner and dessert with more beautiful cheese, “Oh, why not sir” the equally reassuring comment as I wondered over an extra helping of roast potato.
The main dining room at The Nare is quite simply like something from a movie. My dinner party would have James Bond and Judi Dench’s M. I would have Anthony Andrews reprising Brideshead’s Sebastian and Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder. I’m afraid Stephen Fry would be far too gauche, but I would have the actress Joan Hickson as Miss Marple, Agatha Christie herself, Hugh Bonneville as Lord Grantham and best of all the epitome of English ladies, Maggie Smith – as the Downton Dowager. I would have all their dogs, and mine, lazing in front of the fire, and we would feast upon the finest Westcountry fare that money can buy.
There would have to be a breakfast the next day too, as this is when The Nare’s dining room is simply groaning under great bowls of the finest marmalade, kippers, porridge, freshly boiled eggs, the best bacon, and anything any decent Englishman, or woman, might want in a breakfast to set them up for the day.
Once you’ve got through the food, the luxury of your bedroom, the indoor or outdoor pool and the soporific pleasures of the public rooms, you might just feel you want to go outside. If the views themselves aren’t enough to tempt you, then the prospect of making room for more food should do the trick.
The Nare sits prettily right on the South West Coast path. Turn left or right and you are on some of, no you are on THE, finest coastal walking in the whole of the UK. Nare Head is an obvious target as is the coastal village of Portloe. One of the gems you will find is Paradise Cove, and the name sums up just about everything you need to know about this section of the South Cornwall coast path.
If you are not feeling quite as energetic, Carne Beach itself will do. Carne is a Cornish word for walking, so the walking beach does exactly what is says on the tin, and you will never be more than a few hundred metres from your bedroom, a comfy armchair, a large scotch, or whatever it is that makes you want to wind down.
We were only at The Nare for two nights, but it seemed like forever.
Long walks, afternoon naps, proper breakfasts, and reading, writing and relaxing surrounded by comfort, elegance and tranquility. This is heavenly territory for a couple’s break, and a wonderful opportunity for a large family get-together. But be warned, The Nare is not cheap, but it will make sure that your special occasion is more special than you can imagine.
We didn’t get a chance to try at the Quarterdeck, the less formal dining room (where under-seven’s are expected for children’s supper), or the hotel’s very own gentleman’s motor launch or indeed its 22ft Cornish Crabber sailing boat. August 1, 2015
We didn’t get the chance to try the outdoor hot tubs, or the hotel’s Range Rover driver service – which picks up guests from all over the UK and chauffeurs them to their holiday.
The coast path and the spa absorbed most of our time so we didn’t have the chance to visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan, the beauty of Caerhays castle, Trewithen or Tregothnan – the largest private private botanical garden in Britain.
Having missed so much we might just have to visit again. “Oh, why not sir?”
As featured in the Western Morning News
Bill Martin was hosted by The Nare Hotel, a member of Pride of Britain Hotels – a consortium of 49 privately-owned independent British hotels. Located on Cornwall’s beautiful Roseland Peninsula and overlooking Carne beach, the traditional English country house hotel is surrounded by subtropical gardens. The hotel has two restaurants, an extensive wine cellar and leisure facilities which include heated indoor and outdoor pools, tennis and croquet. Prices start from £284 per night (two sharing) including a full English breakfast and complimentary Cornish cream tea. To book call Pride of Britain Hotels (0800 089 3929, www.prideofbritainhotels.com).
Picture: Dogs Molly and Indy enjoy the vast expanse of beach beneath The Nare hotel in Cornwall