Review by Clare Mann, published 26th June 2014.
Salcombe in the South Hams is one of the most sort after hubs on this beautiful and sheltered coast. This pretty, gentle-paced, boating seaside town with pastel-coloured houses, chic boutiques, attractive pubs and clotted cream teas is classic, picture postcard Devon
The Salcombe Harbour Hotel is the flagship of the award wining Harbour Hotels group with five boutique hotels in the West Country. Following an extensive make over and refurbishment the Salcombe Harbour Hotel reopened last summer. We arrived on a warm summers evening which enhanced the hotel's stunning position above the estuary. There are enchanting views of sailing and fishing boats on sparkling water, the pretty harbour, enticing sandy beaches, National Trust woodland on the opposite shore, the estuary mouth and the sea beyond. Vast glass windows, wooden floors, soft blues and yellows, airy and spacious, comfortable sofas, outside decking and smart sun loungers on the terraces, made us feel like kicking off our shoes and put us straight into holiday mode.
As parking is tight on the craggy hillside, there is instead a state of the art turntable outside the main entrance; we happily abandoned our car to Mike, who whisked it away. Our luggage re-emerged in our stunning estuary room, creams, greys and whites with huge windows onto a private balcony and those heavenly views of the estuary. The hotel has 50 beautifully appointed rooms, some family suites, with large, soft and comfortable beds to sink into. Bathrooms are suitably lavish; monsoon showers, deep baths, White House bath products, and of course fluffy bathrobes and slippers.
Every room comes with a complimentary ‘balcony basket’ with binoculars, throws for when the sun goes down, and a selection of thoughtfully chosen books including Thomas Hardy and Keats. Tempting decanters of gin and sherry are also complimentary. We had barely turned around when room service brought us fresh lemon and lime and a bucket of ice. Our mini bar was stuffed with goodies, tasty spicy nuts, apple and blueberry juice along with champagne and the all-important tonic water. Never has a gin and tonic tasted so good after a long drive, as we sat in the warm evening sunshine on the balcony savouring the tranquillity and scene: fishing boats returning with their days haul, sleek yachts gliding past looking for a mooring, dinghy’s buzzing about avoiding the kayaks and paddleboards, and on the beach opposite, families packing up umbrellas and gathering up children.
Menus are created by award wining chef patron Alex Aitken, together with head chef Tony Hole who deliver mouth-watering dishes. Alas, we were not in time for the ‘Catch it, Cook it, Eat it’ experience, where guests set off with the local fisherman and catch their supper. Another visit we promised oursdelves. While we mulled over the menu, finding it hard to choose, we tucked into Falmouth oysters and Jetty bites (tasty seafood nibbles). Finally we opted for scallops with chorizo and chunky Salcombe fish soup for our first course. Next up we chose cod with a crab and herb crust, which came with minty crushed peas and the ceramist mashed potatoes and the West Country lamb, deliciously tender, was cooked to perfection. We left just enough room to share a salt combe ice-cream with roasted banana in a dark fudgy sauce. Breakfast was a handsome affair with another menu to ponder over. Excellent grilled kippers with caper beurre noisette, and equally tasty was the smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. All washed down, depending on your mood, with chilled vodka shots and oysters, spicy Bloody Mary’s or a glass of champagne. Lunch is yet another treat: a seaside bar with array of Crustaceans on ice, or ask for a Jetty picnic to take out for the day. And of course afternoon tea is another speciality – only truly deserved it you have had an active day sailing, swimming or paddle boarding.
I loved the stylish and all enveloping Harbour Spa, spread over two floors, dark blue indoor pool, windows overlooking the estuary, poolside menu and detoxing mocktails. There are five treatment rooms, specialising in ESPA holistic body treatments, Jacuzzi, crystal steam room, pebble room, salt grotto and hydrotherapy pool.
And to round off the day there is the charming 16 seater cinema with a 93” screen, comfy vintage horse hair seats and a popcorn machine. Perfect for a rainy day or after a long seaside day, with a good choice of films to appeal across the board. Who needs sunshine when all this is offer?