LITTLE touches can elevate a stay in a hotel to something special and unique. Even if you don’t use the binoculars and blankets which are tucked in a basket for use on your room’s balcony, it makes you feel cared for, just knowing someone has given thought to every detail of your stay. One of the first things I’m told after being shown my room at Salcombe Harbour Hotel is: “The lemon and ice are doing the rounds.”
Lemon and ice? Then I spot a decanter of gin on the table, along with a decanter of sherry and indeed, a short while later the lemon and ice arrives. There’s enough time before supper to fetch a tonic from the mini bar then sit on the balcony, relax and take in the view. And what a view! The hotel sits on the water’s edge so you can follow the gulls as they fly down the estuary out to sea, or look back upstream and across towards the woods and fields of the South Hams countryside.
I’m already reaching for the binoculars… Salcombe Harbour Hotel is one of the Harbour Hotels group and, like its sister establishments it has Alex Aitken as executive chef. With Aitken’s now fabled stint as a trawlerman in his youth, and bearing in mind the coastal location of many of the group’s premises, it’s no surprise that there’s a big emphasis on high quality seafood, whether it’s pre-dinner treats like pickled cockles and oysters, or the wonderful Jetty Bites seafood sharing selection, or the skilfully cooked monkfish and seabass mains. You’re encouraged to pick and choose from the menu, which is helpful and means you can order to suit how you want to dine; but leave room for one of the beautiful desserts – which of course has to include ice cream from Salcombe Dairy.
The Jetty restaurant is large and spacious with the cocktail bar forming an island between the dining and lounge areas. Stuffiness is off the agenda, it is a delightful hive of activity and there’s a real buzz, helped by an army of front of house staff. Notable is the mix of ages and range of diners, from couples to larger groups and families and it’s clear this is as much a place for locals as it is for holidaymakers. It feels cosmopolitan, but with the restaurant doors opening out on to a large outdoor decked area, there’s never any danger of forgetting the unique coastal location.
Being in the town, the hotel is well situated for wet weather activities; it has invested a lot in its spa facilities and there’s even a cinema room with its own popcorn-making machine. It’s yet another of those thoughtful little touches. And I do end up making use of the blanket, ending the evening wrapped up in it, lounging on the balcony, listening to the sound of lapping water and the cry of seagulls as I read a seafaring short story in one of the books, very thoughtfully, left in my room.