By Adam Raphael
Why has the Prime Minister decided to inflict cruel and unusual punishment on his fellow world leaders? The annual meeting of the G7 group of presidents and prime ministers has been summoned to a Cornish hotel for their next meeting in two months’ time. The Carbis Bay Hotel near St Ives is not just a trek for Macron, Merkel, Biden et al but it is an odd choice of venue. What the world’s most powerful politicians will make of their two day stay on a wind-swept Cornish beach is anyone’s guess but they are unlikely to feel warm about British hospitality. If only Boris had consulted the Guide.
What has prompted this sour note from me is that the reports of Carbis Bay Hotel that we receive from our readers do not inspire confidence. It has never had an entry in the Guide, and probably never will. One report in particular stands out from a trusted correspondent who wrote to us last year. This is what she wrote:
‘It’s quite hard to define what you expect from an expensive hotel – certainly not sycophancy or gold-tap luxury. But you want an experience where everything runs comfortably and smoothly and you feel at ease. Our favourite hotels can do this – it appears effortless but obviously isn’t. And then you get places which – somehow – don’t quite work. The Carbis Bay is one of these. Beautiful site -overlooking the sea, and a pleasant building, but…
We arrived just about at check in time. After six hours in the car, you just want to sink into your room – a broom cupboard would do at that stage. We arrived to an empty reception desk and a queue of several checking in couples. After slightly too long a wait, someone did come to reception. We were asked – bizarrely – to pay a refundable deposit on our debit card – a bit as though we were taking on a student flat. We had a complimentary upgrade to an apartment in the grounds – a nice surprise. But I asked if there were steps, which there were, and since for good medical reasons, neither of is supposed to lift heavy stuff, asked if someone could carry our suitcase up. Not an unreasonable request, I thought, but the receptionist seemed quite flummoxed by it. There was no one around to do that apparently. Anyway, we found our way to our apartment, and while my husband was struggling to access our parking space, which someone had kindly blocked, (parking is a nightmare here) I struggled to get the heavy case up the stairs. A nice housekeeper saw me, and kindly lifted it for me. Reception did ring about half an hour later to say that someone was available, but it was not a good start.
Later we went to the bar before dinner. Now the routine in posh hotel bars is that someone greets you, you get your drinks, they bring a menu and maybe a few crisps, give you time to enjoy your drink, then take your order and then show you to your table. And on the first night, that’s what happened. (though they didn’t know how to do a Kir.) But on nights two and three, we were ignored. Some people did seem to be having the menu-and crisps bit, but we were just left to decide when we felt it was time to go in. On night three, someone did bring a menu, but didn’t come back to take our order. After a while we took ourselves in to the restaurant and felt it would have been nice if the maître d had not felt it necessary to finish his conversation with the receptionist before noticing us. One morning at breakfast – we were the first there, having to make an early start, something had obviously Happened in the kitchen – the only waitress in sight was slamming down sugar bowls and ignoring us. We called after her departing back that we’d like coffee, and when it came, we then had to ask her departing back for breakfast. There were always plenty of staff milling about, but nothing seemed to be joined up.
In our room, there were no hotel information notes and reception did not have a map of St Ives. The central heating did not work for a couple of days, then it worked too well, only we didn’t dare ask anyone to redress this, in case something worse happened. My husband’s sensitive ears were hurt by loud and ghastly musak in the bar and restaurant, starting at breakfast and going on at night. Building works were going on all around, and vans and building blokes got in the way. There were good things about the hotel – our upgraded apartment was spacious, clean and comfortable, and the view of the sea was to die for. The food was very good – lots of local fish, imaginatively cooked. Breakfasts were good, and nicely set out. Apart from the cross breakfast lady, most of the waiting staff were smiley and friendly. But… yes, things could have been worse, but for the prices we paid, they should have been better. We had thought of staying on for a couple of extra days, but somehow did not want to. Just a place that needed proper management, we thought, then all the good things about it would have stood out. We wouldn’t go back.’
I have repeated this review in full because it won its writer, Frances Thomas from Hertfordshire. one of the Guide’s monthly prizes for the best review –a night’s stay for two at one of the Guide’s selected hotels. No doubt even excellent hotels, can have their off-days but her review is not untypical of others that I have read about Carbis Bay. It is expensive and luxurious, but just not good enough. So where should Boris have booked for the G7 jamboree? Security, size, luxury are essential pre-conditions for a G7 hotel but it has to be more than just a top of the market pile, it needs to be special. Here are ten recommendations, anyone of which would have done British hospitality proud, and brought a smile to even the President of France at his most curmudgeonly.
1.THE SCARLET, Mawgan Porth, Cornwall
2. HARTWELL HOUSE, Aylesbury Buckinghamshire
3. CHEWTON GLEN, New Milton, Hampshire
4. THE BLAKENEY, Holt, Norfolk
5. CLIVEDEN HOUSE, Taplow, Berkshire
6. THE LYGON ARMS, Broadway, Worcstershire
7. MALLORY COURT, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
8. THE DEVONSHIRE ARMS, Bolton Abbey, Yorkshire
9. BODYSGALLEN HALL, Llandudno, Conwy
10. THE GREEN PARK, Pitlochry, Scotland