“We don’t want to be show offs,’ says Guy Owen, new head chef at the Idle Rocks in St Mawes, joining us for an espresso one sun soaked afternoon, his lunchtime service complete.
‘All we’re here to do is showcase Cornwall.’
That means beyond fabulous ingredients cooked simply though having spent the last decade cheffing in Michelin restaurants you can be sure there’s some complicated techniques at the root of it.
Our lunch of Porthilly oysters, beef carpaccio, mackerel salad and fishcakes was utterly perfect: it was that much flaunted yet seldom realised thing where the ingredients speak for themselves.
We drank a glass of very cold Cornish sparkling wine from a nearby vineyard and it reminded us, all over again, how good the best West Country wines are - this one a sure match for anything French.
Added to that was our sublime location, overlooking the harbour with a couple of kayakers right below and the St Mawes ferry chugging by and a cheeky seagull swiping (warm ) bread right off my daughter’s plate. There was even the drama of a brave grandpa capsizing with his grandson in a canoe (cue Guy and staff rushing to the scene to make sure they were alright).
Back in the day, before David and Karen Richards took it over, we used to come here for sub-standard sandwiches simply because of the view.
‘This could be the most amazing hotel,’ we used to say.
Well, that day came in 2013 when the Idle Rocks reopened with luxurious bedrooms, a hipster, martini-toting bar and a beautiful restaurant with to die for views. Instantly the seaside hotel experience was redefined.
Two years on, with Guy Owen at the helm (formerly sous chef at the Driftwood Hotel who began his cooking career at the Rising Sun pub literally across the way), the emphasis in the restaurant is on immaculate sourcing and purity of ingredients.
That means you can rock up for a sublime steak, but it will have been hung for 60 days rather than 40 (one of Guy’s passions) –‘it has a strong iron flavour, it’s absolutely beautiful.’
Guy says: ‘We want you to understand what it is you’re eating rather than the 50 clever things that have been done to it.”
Our children had burgers and raspberry mocktails and when a wind began to blow off the sea they wrapped themselves in blankets.
We lingered over coffee and a perfect creme brulee and wished we could have stayed a little longer. Fabulous food, spectacular views, immense people watching - it's the kind of place where you want to stay all day. Next time I'm booking in for the weekend.