Photo of Tresanton

Review by Fiona Duncan, published 10th January 2010.

"That," said a fellow guest as we emerged into the fast fading daylight, "was the most perfect way of spending an afternoon I can imagine."

She was, like me, a lady of a certain age and, like me, she was positively glowing. Since we were weekend guests in an expensive hotel, you might imagine that we had just exited the spa, but you would be wrong. Tresanton doesn't have a spa (just a massage room) but it does have a Methodist Chapel. And when I tell you that five world-class musicians had just filled the elegant, intimate chapel with the sound of a Brahms piano quintet, you may begin to get the idea.

Set in what was a rambling former yacht club in St Mawes, with marvellous views over Falmouth Bay, Tresanton became something of a landmark when renowned hotelier Olga Polizzi opened it. While managing to be welcoming to all – from toddlers to grannies and from the trendy to the tweedy – it was the first truly fashionable, truly chic, contemporary British seaside hotel.

Eleven years on, it effortlessly holds its own but mercifully without any of the pretension of newer, glossier addresses. The bedrooms are as engaging as they are stylish, as is the all-white restaurant and the large ship's deck of a terrace, yet the hotel also has a cosiness that the others lack, underpinned by assiduous, professional service from waiters in smart white, gold-buttoned jackets.

You can bring your maiden aunt to Tresanton; you have to leave her behind at those other places.

There was a sprinkling of maiden aunts on that afternoon in the Methodist Chapel, along with many other types. They had all booked into Tresanton for a two-night package that included four chamber concerts from pianist Noam Greenberg and friends. Most of them had met at IMS Prussia Cove, also in Cornwall, where aspiring musicians gather to take part in masterclasses with the likes of András Schiff and Steven Isserlis. For his winter music weekend at Tresanton, Greenberg comes up with a different theme each year; this time it was "Between Budapest and Vienna", so we listened to Ligeti and Kurtág, as well as Beethoven and Brahms.

Out of season, Tresanton peps itself up with an eclectic selection of themed events, from chamber music, bridge and singing to help with curing bad backs and learning about wild food. In summer, the place dazzles, filled with families and people of all ages on their seaside holidays. There's a cinema for children, a bar for adults and a stylish drawing room for all. That's the only room I'm not so sure about: it's fine in summer, but in winter a rug on the polished wood floor would perhaps help to make it feel more inviting.

St Mawes (01326 270055; Doubles from £195 per night, including breakfast. Music weekend (first in November, 2010) from £370 per person, dinner, B&B ( Access difficult for guests with disabilities. IMS Prussia Cove ( More hotel reviews by Fiona Duncan at