Between Rock and … Polzeath: St Moritz Hotel, Cornwall

Mark Bibby Jackson travels to north Cornwall to experience the St Moritz Hotel, and takes some time to chill.

Beaches, Europe, Gastronomy, Luxury Travel, Outdoors, Reviews

Mark Bibby Jackson travels to north Cornwall to experience the St Moritz Hotel, and takes some time to chill.

I must admit to being a bit of a Poirot fan – particularly the David Suchet series. It is an addiction that came on relatively late in life, and I am afraid there is little known cure, but I am working on it – ITV3 has a very handy helpline.

So, when I was offered the chance of staying at the St Moritz Hotel on the north Cornish coast I could hardly decline. According to the hotel’s website the St Moritz is Miami-inspired, but never having visited Florida even in my imagination – Miami Vice flew past me – for me, St Moritz lies firmly in the mould of inter-war Poirot.

St Moritz Hotel Cornwall
St Moritz Hotel Cornwall from its gardens

History of St Moritz Hotel

Indeed, the originally property was commissioned by a couple called the Underwoods in the 1930s. During World War II, it became a boarding school to house evacuees. It was not until after the war that the couple decided to open a hotel.

It was when Richard Underwood visited the culinary school at St Moritz Switzerland, where he was suitably impressed, that they came up with the name. Politicians, poets, clergy and even the Queen have stayed here. In 2008, the original construction was replaced by the stunning art deco-inspired building that awaits me as I pull into the driveway, just like Captain Hastings carrying his somewhat pompous companion in a racy red sports car, sadly mine is a grey Mazda.

St Moritz Hotel Cornwall
St Moritz Hotel Cornwall – art-deco inspired masterpiece

An Art Deco Masterpiece

It is the brilliant white architecture that dazzles me as we enter the reception area. This is a bold statement. Our excellent, friendly and efficient receptionist Lyria – “my mother made it up” – leads us to our rooms.

There are hotel rooms and hotel rooms, and then there is my room at St Moritz. Spacious is an understatement. The bedroom leads onto my garden, which in turn leads back to my en-suite kitchen-cum-dining-room-cum-living room-cum-everything-else. If you think the previous word was long, you should see the size of my accommodation.

This is somewhere you could easily spend a week or a month, just chilling and listening to the birdsong, deliberating how long you can delay your return home – and then stay longer.

St Moritz Hotel Cornwall
The bedroom in my apartment at St Moritz Hotel Cornwall
Sunday BBQ at Mowhay

However, I am only in my room for minutes before my incurable wanderlust possesses me.

Shortly before arrival I noticed a small establishment at the corner of the road that announced it was holding Sunday Sessions. It being a Sunday, I thought it would be rude not to pop into The Mowhay. Soon, I am eating some wonderful BBQ mackerel and drinking the local lager, while chatting to its owner Dave.

There is a great sense of community here, although there are even more young kids running around than in an Islington park in summer – which is where I feel most of them emigrated from during or immediately post-lockdown.

Daisy, Dave and Dante at the Mowhay during Sunday Sessions
Daisy, Dave and Dante at the Mowhay during Sunday Sessions

Mowhay (pron. Mo-wee) is Cornish for a cowshed. Six years ago, Dave was given the opportunity to run the place by its owners, who live next door and whom he has known for years. Despite running at a loss during the winter months when holiday homes are vacated, Dave stays open all year round. Judging by the standard of this tasting, he deserves great success. The food is excellent.

Dinner at Shorecrest Restaurant

As is the dinner at the Shorecrest restaurant later that evening, as we return to the St Moritz, albeit with a suitable interlude during which I laze beside the outdoor pool and try to navigate my way around my suite-cum-apartment. A map would be handy.

After a quick G&T on the terrace by the bar, we are escorted to our seat by our waiter James.

There starts our feast.

Brown crab soufflé at Shorecrest Restaurant
Brown crab soufflé at Shorecrest Restaurant

The food is as impeccable as the service; all the more impressive considering the remarkable Vicky is working alone in the kitchen this evening.

We both start with a brown crab soufflé which is extremely light and fluffy, yet full of crab. It impresses, but pales in comparison with our mains, a seafood fricassee packed with trout, cod, octopus and mussels served in a brown crab sauce, accompanied by a solitary potato fondant, and excellent samphire. The open-plan kitchen allows us to study Vicky as she fastidiously arranges the food, ensuring the perfect presentation of which even you-know-who would have approved. It is one of the best dishes I have tasted for months.

For dessert we part our ways, with my guest opting for the St Moritz Mess while I have an opera torte that explodes with coffee, chocolate and hazelnut flavours to round off the meal fabulously.

A Walk along the Cornish Coast Path

Polzeath Beach
Polzeath Beach

The following day, I decide to walk off my breakfast – crushed avocado in toast with a couple of poached eggs – by taking the short stroll along the Southwest Coast Path towards Polzeath Beach.

Here I see surfers standing around in the waters waiting patiently for waves to break, while I stroll along the beach.

Polzeath is a pleasant enough surfing town, but cannot compare with the foody havens of Rock, which is a slightly longer stroll in the opposite direction from St Moritz along the coast path, and Padstow.

St Moritz has an electric shuttle bus (introduced for this season) that runs between 10am and 6pm each day. Driver Jez, and canine co-pilot Megan, are happy to take you to either Polzeath or Rock. As I assail the steep hill from Polzeath back along the road, I start to regret not taking up Jez’s kind offer of a lift.

Lazy Monday Afternoon

Lazing by the pool at St Moritz Hotel Cornwall
Lazing by the pool at St Moritz Hotel Cornwall

Having exhausted myself enough for one day, I decide to make full use of the facilities at St Moritz, intermingling lazing around my garden with a trip to the sports centre for a sauna and jacuzzi, while cooling down in the indoor pool. There is also a well-equipped gym, as well as table tennis and croquet for those who like their sport less active.

After this, we have a very late lunch at the Seaside Café, with its wonderful views overlooking the sea. My mussels are excellent, as are my companions tiger prawns, served on bread covered in a curry sauce, which is so excellent that I heard all about it for the next twenty minutes.

After a nightcap in the bar, we settle down to watch a film on the widescreen TV in my room, which could have doubled up as a cinema if only there were some popcorn for us to munch on.

Mussels at the Seaside Café
Mussels at the Seaside Café

Cowshed Spa, St Moritz Hotel

Our quite wonderful mini-break in Cornwall is rounded off by a signature massage in the Cowshed Spa shortly after breakfast on our final day. This time the extremely accommodating staff provide me with spinach benedict royal – or poached eggs on muffin with spinach and smoked salmon which tastes as divine as it sounds.

My rejuvenating massage – how much younger do they want me to feel – concluded, it is time for me to bid adieu to my temporary residence in north Cornwall. A stay that would have satisfied even Poirot himself, apart from the lack of murder of course, but there again even world-famous detectives need time to relax.

St Moritz Hotel Cornwall Photo Gallery

St Moritz Hotel Cornwall

For more information on St Moritz hotel Polzeath, or to book a room, click here.

All photos Mark Bibby Jackson.

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Mark Bibby Jackson

Mark Bibby Jackson

Before setting up Travel Begins at 40, Mark was the publisher of AsiaLIFE Cambodia and a freelance travel writer. When he is not packing and unpacking his travelling bag, Mark writes novels, including To Cook A Spider and Peppered Justice. He loves walking, eating, tasting beer, isolation and arthouse movies, as well as talking to strangers on planes, buses and trains whenever possible. Most at home when not at home.

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