St. Michael’s Hotel & Spa
Gyllynvase Beach Sea Front
Tel: 01326 312707
Sitting at the end of an enchanting pathway that winds through trees and sub continental plants you will find the entrance to St. Michael’s Hotel and Spa. The view from my room which has it’s own patio with a table and chairs is across Gyllyngvase Beach. The sun is just starting to dip and the weather is mild for November.
I’m here for a couple of days to unwind and make the most of what the hotel has to offer. I’ve already had a good afternoon tea with homemade cakes and excellent fully filled sandwich fingers and scones with cream and jam. This was taken in the lounge area next to the restaurant; The Flying Fish, I positioned myself in the corner to afford super views of the sea. This all bodes well for dinner later.
The style here is nautical without being clichéd. The most impressive reference is the reception desk that is in the shape of a small boat. This is not only fun but sets the tone, relaxed, informal and stylish. The theme continues with the WC’s taking on the form of beach huts, table lamps made from beach pebbles and little shell shaped plasterwork on the pelmet in my bedroom.
The Spa’s offerings are quite comprehensive, it also has a large indoor pool – this and other facilities are free to staying guests, other treatments are priced individually. I’m having a ‘Man’ massage this afternoon, 60 minutes St. Michael’s Back Bliss. This is a busy and popular Spa with a constant flow of custom even in November. With rooms starting at £59 it’s not hard to see why you wouldn’t spend a few days here.
I visited Matthew Stevens & Son’s fish operation in St. Ives. Andy Smith the head chef at The Flying Fish accompanied me on a tour of the processing plant. We saw all number of fish and crustacean being prepared for export and restaurants up and down the country. The skill displayed by Matthew’s workforce was incredible. I saw a sardine perfectly filleted and butterflied in less than eight seconds. Hake, Plaice, John Dory, giant Salmon were all being expertly handled and prepared for the likes of Rick Stein, J Sheeky’s and The Ivy restaurants. This is as good as fish gets, Matthew said “I don’t like anybody else doing anything to the fish so we do it all here, we control the quality of preparation and distribution that way we can guarantee our fish are the best they can be” This is demonstrated by the likes of restaurateur Rick Stein spending over £1.5 million each year with Matthew for his restaurants in Padstow. All the fish served at The Flying Fish is from there as well.
Nigel Carpenter is the owner proprietor of St. Michael’s I asked him what makes it such a special place ” It’s Falmouth really, this place is very special, the view, the buzz of the place always has appealed”
I had the good fortune to eat a couple of times at The Flying Fish. Head chef Andy Smith has worked here for six years and runs the kitchens with dedication and a passion for quality customer experience. This extends to extensive training of waiting staff. I was looked after by Will who initially trained to be a lawyer but now he enjoys the hospitality industry and specifically St. Michael’s so much that he has changed career and dedicates his time to keeping guests happy. A good man, he will go far.
I’m going to tell you mainly about the Cornish Taster Menu, which at £29 for five courses and petit fours and coffee is outstanding value. Artisan breads and oil appeared. Of these the focaccia with rosemary and giant crystals of salt was by far the best, fresh and crunchy with the salt hitting home.
A little starter of angels on horseback came with a twist. The twist being it was Falmouth Bay oyster wrapped in smoked bacon, grilled and served on a shiny oyster shell. Tasty and crisp, certainly tasting more of the land than the sea it was gone in a trice. Next up Newlyn landed cod that had a lovely tempura covered cauliflower, new potatoes, fresh black truffle oil and strangely smoked bacon again, I’m not sure why it appeared in two consecutive courses. The cod had a good skin, the textures of the dish worked well.
Earlier I had taken the plunge and signed up for a 60-minute assault on my back, neck and head. The Spa was very busy but as I entered the treatment room all the hustle and bustle was left behind and for the next hour I was pummeled, pushed, stretched and left very relaxed and just a little bit sore. This I’m assured is quite normal and as the evening passed I began to unwind, although it felt as if my body had been put through its paces and run a marathon.
As the cod went a bowl arrived with chef’s special sorbet. This could have been a good idea as a palette cleanser is always welcome. But this was a sweet blackberry sorbet sitting in a sweet coulis. It tasted fine but was out of place as it was far too sweet – make it a second pudding and they might be onto something. All change for the next dish, which was the star of the show; duo of Primrose Herd pork. This was up there with the best, a great crackling, succulent meat with a splendid surprise of a whole apple stuffed with pork. The cider and sage jus kept it all together and a confit shallot added a new layer of sweetness. This was an excellent plate of food. It’s available on the a la carte if you are not going for the tasting menu. The dessert was a chocolate lovers delight. A dark chocolate mousse with a salted peanut praline and a bitter chocolate ice cream. This was technically perfect but a touch rich for me. The salt was a pleasant contrast to all the richness; I would have been tempted to replace the chocolate ice cream with another lighter flavour.
The meal for me was completed with a good plate of Cornish cheeses. This tasting menu has all the potential of putting The Flying Fish on the map. It offers super value and with the odd tweak can only get better. I recommend you try it. The Flying Fish is open to non-residents and is well worth seeking out. On another occasion at The Flying Fish I had another couple of cracking dishes. A pan roasted pigeon breast sitting on red cabbage with celeriac pomme puree and a port jus was really tasty. The pigeon was perfectly cooked and the presentation makes this dish unavoidably attractive, it is also served as a main with a cunning chilli and chocolate sauce. The other standout superstar is Cornish duck, a smooth parfait in a Kilner jar with pickled mushrooms and apple jelly and slices of smoked duck breast. This is inventive, pretty and brilliantly tasty. Head chef Andy Smith has a wealth of talent in his team and is keen to prove himself.
St. Michael’s Hotel and Spa is a well-run friendly hotel that carefully crosses the hybrid. You don’t see too many people wandering around in dressing gowns. The swimming pool is large enough to have a good swim and the treatments are very popular (if not effective)! The Flying Fish is a bit of a hidden gem that sings quietly about what it can do but really should be shouting about it. The bar, a cool experience with its large round form is at the centre of things or you can sit at quieter seats around the room. They can knock up a pretty good mojito or turn their hand to an espresso. It feels a friendly place to stay where there is genuine concern about your comfort and a loyalty to its proprietor Nigel Carpenter. Nigel has big plans for the future, there is a large vacant site next door that has been purchased and will be turned into an extension of the spa with a larger pool and extra rooms and at least one more eatery over the next year.
My visit was in mid November and it was very busy, so my advice would be to book a table and a treatment. I walked to Falmouth Station, as it’s only seven minutes walk on a mild evening. You would never know there was such a hive of activity nearby. St. Michael’s Hotel and Spa is a bit like a swan on a lake; graceful and elegant but under the surface the legs are paddling away to make your stay relaxed and very comfortable.