Chapel House, Penzance

If I owned a hotel I would want it to look like Chapel House. This beautiful, restored townhouse is on the corner of Chapel Street, one of Penzance’s most picturesque roads. With views overlooking the sea and St Michael’s Mount it is in an enviable position, but after years of neglect the building had fallen into disrepair. Previously the home of the Penzance Arts Club, new owner Susan Stuart saw an opportunity to renovate and refresh this grand historic building.

I have been visiting Cornwall frequently since I was a child and have always felt disappointed that the accommodation options don’t match the appeal of the destination, but Chapel House has changed the hospitality offering dramatically. Susan arrived in Cornwall in 2013 hoping for a change of lifestyle and profession. Almost by accident she came across this wondrous building and with her ambitious vision, a big budget and a team of local craftsmen she transformed the place.

After a scenic five hour ride on the blissfully easy Great Western Railway train from London Paddington we arrived at the last stop, Penzance, just a short walk away from Chapel House. The boutique luxury hotel has six double bedrooms to choose from, each one is light and thoughtfully designed; a mix of modern luxuries and characterful original details. We were in room six, on the top floor, with lovely views of the town. The bespoke beds were handmade locally, a unique elevated platform made from smooth soft oak wood. Reclaimed 1930s office lamps add vintage charm to the bedsides and fresh flowers add a fresh pop of colour. For convenience, each room comes with its own mini iPad, which guests can use to FaceTime for service or to look up tips on local things to do. Of the other rooms, room two was my favourite, with an Ashton & Bentley bath tub in the main room and lovely antique furniture.

The bathrooms are state of the art; contemporary and minimalist. Wherever possible Susan has installed an indulgent bathtub, or in the smaller room a walk-in rain shower. Natural light is given priority, and in our rooftop room the entire slanting bathroom roof opened to offer the option of a semi-outdoor bath. Toiletries are provided by Penzance beauty brand, Pure Nuff Stuff.

In the communal areas Susan displays artwork from the nearby Newlyn School of Art. It is a reminder of the building’s previous use, and adds colour and style to the crisp white walls.

Susan is an illustrious, thoughtful and hard-working host and when she’s not welcoming guests or locals through the door, she is found in the kitchen whipping up a seasonal dinner. The beautiful basement kitchen and communal dining table offers a homely place to eat. Susan concentrates her culinary talents on the finest local fish and seafood, picking up produce at the market that day for the evening meal. For just £22 you can enjoy a three course meal with an aperitif – I recommend the Cornish gin with tonic.

Our lazy Sunday breakfast was glorious, sitting in the sun-drenched kitchen, sipping caffetiere coffee and quaffing butcher bacon and eggs, whilst chatting away to the other guests. I could have sat there with a newspaper for a lot longer than we did, but the whole of Penzance was waiting to be seen.

Chapel House is reason alone to visit Penzance, the perfect place to escape London for a few blissful days by the sea.

More information and book a stay at Chapel House here.

Advance single fares between Paddington and Penzance are available from £29 each way. For the best tickets and offers buy before you board at www.gwr.com or telephone 03457 000125.

***My new travel book, CORNWALL by Weekend Journals is available to order here. Use the code TMM10 to get 10% off.***

The Shore Restaurant, Penzance

The food scene in Penzance is progressing at speed and many predict this town will soon rival more touristy Cornish destinations thanks to its innovative chefs and fine produce.

Bruce Rennie is leading the movement in Penzance with his new restaurant, The Shore. After gaining experience at prestigious restaurants such as two star Martin Wishart in Edinburgh, he moved to Cornwall to head up the kitchen at The Gurnard’s Head before opening his own eatery in September 2015.

The Shore quickly came to the attention of local and visiting foodies, who recognised Bruce’s keen eye for detail and loved his creative but simple plates of food. I was amazed to learn that Bruce preps, plates, bakes and cooks it all himself, and then does the washing up before he is done for the day. The table waiting is handled by his only member of staff.

The restaurant, which occupies The Old Buttery, is decorated in muted shades with seaside motifs. The space is small and cosy and has a fresh contemporary feel. Unfortunately there are no sea views but Bruce more than compensates with the flavoursome plates of food.

The Shore is particularly reasonable at lunch time when two courses cost £14.95 and three are £19.50. In the evening the menu is more pricey with a main course setting you back £18, but the dinner menu offers more choice and variety.

A group of us went along on a bright Saturday, and between us managed to sample most of the brief lunch menu. To start the Celeriac & saffron soup with croutons was a fragrant and comforting dish, perfectly seasoned with a lovely thick consistency. Primrose Herd pork belly with braised white cabbage and pak choi was a more luxurious choice, a generous portion of delicious pork with a vibrant tomato based sauce, with slightly limp green leaves adding colour to the dish.

For my main I opted for the Potato gnocchi with cauliflower, hazelnuts, parmesan, a textually exciting recipe that was beautifully presented. Gnocchi is often cumbersome and heavy but these little pasta dumplings were delightful with a hint of parmesan. Hake with brandade and sprouting broccoli was a suitably Cornish dish and Braised Ox cheek with mashed potatoes, hispi cabbage and horseradish felt very rich and special for a family lunch out, a superior piece of meat coated in a brilliantly balanced sauce and accompanied by creamy smooth mashed potato.

Of the two desserts the Lemon posset with raspberries was the obvious winner, an indulgently thick and creamy zingy citrus posset topped with plump fresh raspberries and a professionally made sorbet. Rhubarb & vanilla cheesecake with ginger ice cream was nice but not dissimilar to the plates of cake you would enjoy in an art gallery cafe… Satisfying the sweet tooth without leaving a lasting impression.

In a town that craves inspirational restaurants The Shore has answered many prayers offering food that is exciting and delicious. Most importantly Bruce Rennie champions the ingredients that this coastal area of the country produces in abundance, showcasing the best of Cornwall in his imaginative cooking.

More information about The Shore Restaurant here.

Advance single fares between Paddington and Penzance are available from £29 each way. For the best tickets and offers buy before you board at www.gwr.com or telephone 03457 000125.

***My new travel book, CORNWALL by Weekend Journals is available to order here. Use the code TMM10 to get 10% off.***