Located in the centre of Falmouth, our gastronomic wellness experience at Merchants Manor was a much needed getaway from London. The views from the Merchants Manor are filled with sights of the glistening sea as the humming from the birds starts this gastronomic wellness weekend in style.
Merchants Manor is a beautiful and richly decorated manor house where the spa treatments, restaurant and rooms are based. Just below the entrance is ‘Land Lubber’, one of two carefully and exquisitely decorated residences. This became my home for this gastronomic wellness weekend. It is a place of harmonious peace and security.
Walking through the glass doors, you enter the open-plan kitchen, dining and living room. Fully stocked with what any house may need, from a Nespresso coffee machine, champagne and even Monopoly.
You then enter the master bedroom. The glass doors lead to the outdoor patio where the very inviting hot tub lives. The king-size bed is the at the centre of the room, allowing you to take in the beauty of the sunrise as your natural alarm clock. The en-suite is just as gorgeous, discreetly but carefully decorated in Cornish bits of history, adding to the Cornish feel. The whole lodge will make anyone swoon, sure to make any loved one love you that little bit more.
A TASTING MENU EXPERIENCE AT RASTELLA
As the day went on, the wait for the tasting menu became harder and harder. But, walking into the restaurant, Rastella, you are guided by welcoming and profession staff and the tasting menu experience began.
Starting off with a glass the gorgeous local Polgoon sparkling rose, I was ready for some food. The first of seven plates arrived on the table where a crispy monkfish croquette lay alongside a Davidstow cheddar tartlet. Both small taste bud dazzlers. The monkfish was firm and tender, cooked with complementing flavours of lime and coriander hitting each area of the tongue to be hit with an explosion of taste. The tartlet was punchy and rich, but exactly what you need from a cheese tart. Beautifully filled, the centre was smooth unctuous gooey cheese.
Swiftly came the next plate, named 6 year old bread. I was intrigued. Along came a warm heritage grain sourdough loaf paired with a cultured salted butter. The first urge was to eat all at once, but I knew the morsels I would save would be the perfect accompaniment for the next dish, the mackerel.
Slices of radishes and gooseberry were carefully and perfectly placed in a scale like pattern on top of the fish. Sat next to the mackerel were extra slices of gooseberry and an elderflower puree. The whole plate together sang in harmony and this was easily my favourite dish of the evening.
Next, I was greeted by four organically green asparagus stems, smoked potatoes, rapeseed, and a generous portion of a garlic aioli like creation. Feeling like I was back in springtime, I was transported to when the first bits of vegetables are ready in your garden in those first few days of April. For elements which are sometimes side sides, the chefs have been able to create an incredible and memorable plate by harnessing the natural flavours of asparagus.
Over halfway through, next came the Black Pig. A char sui pork belly with steamed greens and spring onion. With one slice, the pork was cut, proving how well for it had been cooked. The pork just melted in your mouth and with the flavours of five-spice, honey the barbecued pork was heaven.
Moving on to the final two courses we had started the sweeter end of the night. A rhubarb custard with vanilla and ginger was the focal point of the bowl. Reminiscent of school puddings, this custard dessert has been elevated far beyond those canteen lunches in school.
Lastly, a dinner would not be over without a little bit of chocolate. Arriving in front of my was a chocolate cremeux with Olfactory coffee and a yogurt quenelle. The simplicity of this last dish was its pure beauty. The richness of the chocolate cremeux was cut by the tanginess of the yogurt and the subtle background hints of coffee took you to a new dimension with a mixture of smooth and crumbed textures. This was a heavenly way to end dinner for a chocoholic like me.
Opting for the matching wines as our dinner commenced, each wine was chosen to complement the flavours of the dishes, whether it was an Ascheri to match the sweetness of dessert or the sweet yet spicy notes of a Chardonnay to counter the acidity and freshness of the mackerel.
I shouldn’t have been hungry after the spectacular feast eaten the night prior, but I was. Walking into breakfast you are again greeted by the lovely staff who guide you through the process of breakfast. Being able to order a hot meal and small plates of pastries, fruit, granola and other daily snacks you might want to accompany your breakfast.
I opted for the poached eggs on a bed of smashed peas and harissa all on a grand slice of sourdough toast. The peas bought a freshness to the plate matching well with the rich gooey eggs and the spice of the harissa oil with draped over the whole dish. Not only did it help bring life back to me, but it made me want to have smashed peas on toast as my regular breakfast. It is a simple yet impressive summer dish.
THE WELLNESS EXPERIENCE
Quite possibly one of the best massages I’ve had. I headed to The Temple Spa in the main building of the hotel. A quaint room, lit with candles and filled with relaxing and inviting smells. Setting the mood for a peaceful hour consisting of a full body massage. Gently transcending into a new world of harmony, a lavender aroma therapy oil is subtly wafted below your nose in the first few moments of placing your head down.
The whole massage was multisensory and allowed you to completely forget everything for the whole time your eyes are closed. Starting with warm massage oils at the feet and gradually moving up the body and patiently easing out the tension from each extremity and focussing areas with greater stress. As she moved to the head for the final part of the massage was where tranquillity hit. The firm scalp and neck massage alleviated any trauma from the past few days, weeks, and months. I left feeling completely weightless and almost angelic with the amount of serenity I had felt over the 60 minutes.
To conclude my spa experience I ventured downstairs to where the gym and pool reside. Deciding to make some room for what I was expecting to be a sensational and filling dinner to end out gastronomic wellness weekend, I pushed myself into a workout in the weights room. I couldn’t wait to plunge myself into the pool for some hydrotherapy laps. The pool area was calming and large enough for many people to be in and not to bump into them. Nothing topped it off better than a quick walk back through the paradise spa for all guests and climbing into our private hot tub for a long and restful soak, accompanied of course with a few glasses of the local Polgoon sparkling rose.
OUR AL LA CARTE DINING EXPERIENCE
Evening came around again and again I was filled with anticipation for what would be on the main a la Carte menu for this gastronomic wellness weekend. Even on first glances, I knew it was going to be a difficult decision. Everything sounded gorgeous so we decided to ask for all three starters. Pulled venison croquettes, a cauliflower velouté with crispy onions and chilli and lime scallops. All three plates were empty within minutes. The croquettes were rich and crispy, and the venison was tender and cooked to perfection. The cauliflower velouté, smooth and creamy, dressed with crispy onions on top it. It was enough to fall in love with cauliflowers. Finally the scallops which were certainly my favourite. They were buttery and sweet and the addition of the chilli and lime complements the freshness of the scallops with the zesty lime taste and then a distinct kick of chilli to cut the natural sweetness of the scallop.
For mains, I opted for the hake fillet with potatoes, grilled leeks, and a salsa verde. The pan seared fish was meaty and tender and tasted like butter. Each component added a new taste to the dish, allowing each natural taste to be fully enjoyed. The vibrant salsa verde added brightness to the fish cutting through the meatiness of the hake.
The steak was the other dish we finally settled on. With three large cuts of beef, circled by elements like a grilled onion and potatoes and a creamy, punchy peppercorn sauce. The steak cooked to your choice was delicate and succulent. The fat perfectly rendered; I was left speechless at the cookery skills it took to create the two dishes we were served. Whilst these dishes looked simple, you could tell the amount of attention it had taken to think about the classic combination of flavours and textures had been a long and thorough process.
Pushing through the realms of complete fullness, we shared the chocolate dessert. Unlike the chocolate finisher the night before this was a chocolate mousse with a hazelnut caramel praline and a clotted cream quenelle on top. Not too rich, the elements in the bowl were perfectly balanced for a harmonious mouthful that was the only way to finish the remarkable dishes we had moments before. Not only has the head chef, Aiden Blakely-May and his team proved to be incredibly talented with every little detail thought through and accounted for, but the front of house staff make you feel welcome and really at home.
Making you feel as though you are in a tropical hideaway whilst still in the centre of the quaint seaside town, our gastronomic wellness experience was memorable. Making sure every moment can be made into an unforgettable memory, your whole experience at Merchants Manor is thought through and no matter how many nights you decide to stay or if it’s just to experience Rastella, you will be wanting to return within days of leaving this Cornish paradise.
To discover more, visit: merchantsmanor.com
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All imagery courtesy of Merchants Manor.