Harlyn Bay is the newest addition to the eight-strong litter of hotels which entered the scene in 2011 when former restauranteur, Robin Hutson opened The first Pig at Brockenhurst. Hutson’s dream was to create ‘restaurants with rooms,’ a concept that might seem a little alien to us Brits, but is ubiquitous in countries like France, where diners are more inclined to travel.
The Pig at Harlyn Bay opened in June 2020, in what was retrospectively, not the best time for hospitality. But the hotly anticipated opening was enough to draw the crowds and the addition of the al fresco ‘Lobster Shed,’ made sure the new Pig was a hit with locals and tourists alike.
We arrive on one of those precious September days when the sea is a rich peacock blue and the air is warm and sweet. As we round the corner into the twinkling Harlyn Bay, the motorway fug simply melts away.
The main part of the hotel is situated in Harlyn House, which was once owned by Thomas Hellyar, who on more than one occasion, rescued ill-fated ships from the nearby Constantine Bay. The Cornish Stone building has a Georgian facade which hides a patchwork of styles from throughout the ages. Some parts of the building are said to date back to the medieval period and more recently, a state-of-the-art kitchen has been seamlessly added to enable its transition from family home to hotel and restaurant.
There’s a gentle ruggedness to the building… a touch of the ‘Poldarks,’ a whiff of the ‘Du Mauriers,’ and once inside, the difference in styles is noticeable. Panelled formal rooms interconnect with ancient smugglers’ corridors that are so thick with history that you can almost smell the moonshine! The interiors are decorated in The Pig’s signature ‘relaxed farmhouse’ style that blends the luxurious with the industrial, favours materials rich in patina and is always peppered with thoughtful touches. It’s a balancing act of contrast; Heritage-hued walls meet original flagstones, antique mahogany rubs shoulders with reclaimed panels and opulent velvets sit seamlessly alongside antique ticking. Above the grand Georgian staircase, in the main building, there’s a Turner-esque portrait of a stormy Cornish sea that reminds one of Hellyar’s seafaring rescues. I love it so much, I’d smuggle it out myself if I could only fit it in the car.
We bed down for the night in one of the hotel’s newly built Stonehouses. Not that you’d know it, as every inch has been painstakingly clad in authentic Cornish stone to match the main building. The room is spacious, with an enormous bed dressed in crisp white linens. There is a bath (that we don’t use because it’s 28 degrees) with a tiny antique mirror beside it – a perfect example of one of the aforementioned ‘thoughtful touches’ and is presumably intended for shaving or gazing longingly at yourself… I don’t know which, but I like it.
Hidden behind the bed is a panelled bathroom and shower area. It is here that I experience the best shower of my life. And whilst the Bramley apple shower gel is deliciously scented and the cubicle very well appointed, it’s the water pressure that’s the real hero. So much so, that I’m only exaggerating slightly when I say that ‘the plumbers responsible should be knighted for their work’.
Feeling incredibly refreshed… I sleep very well. Too well in fact… because what happens next is rather embarrassing and has never happened on a review before…I oversleep. My husband awakes with a start. ‘It’s ten fifteen’ he cries. ‘We’ve missed breakfast!’…
…following a quick sprint to the dining room, we are delighted to learn that the staff have kept some food for us. There are a variety of juices, flavoured Willy’s Apple Cider Vinegars and a selection of local ham, cheese and fruit. I start with a stiff black coffee, a bowl of homemade granola, yoghurt and fresh cherries. The Pig’s own sliced ham and tangy cheddar pair beautifully with apples from the orchard.
The Pig’s Restaurants are notorious for their farm-to-fork ethos. The collaboration between Gardener and Chef is at the heart of all they do: what they can’t grow themselves in the bountiful kitchen garden, they source from farmers, fishermen and foragers within a 25-mile radius.
We begin our dinner with a glass of the Pig’s own sparkling wine and some ‘Piggy Bits;’ a selection of pre-starters that include, Honey-Mustard Chippolatas, Crispy Pork Terrine and a Black Pudding Bon Bon – which is truly excellent.
My husband orders The Crab Caesar Salad to start, which turns out to be an ingenious reworking of a modern classic that he struggles to share it. But that’s okay, because the fresh Sardines on Toast are also very enjoyable.
For the main course, I have the BBQ Monkfish Tail which arrives steeped in a silky smooth brown crab butter. My husband has the Steak special which is incredibly tender and comes served with a side order of perfectly crisp thrice cooked chips.
For dessert, we share a Melt-in-the-mouth chocolate mousse which is served accompanied by perfectly piquant late-summer blackberries. And in case you were worried that we might still be hungry (we weren’t!) you’ll be pleased to know we pushed the boat out even further and enjoyed some of the very aptly named Piggy Fours. A piggy-themed selection of after-dinner treats that include a pillowy homemade marshmallow and delicate pig-shaped chocolates with a praline filling.
Out & About
Whilst there is plenty to see and do in this historic part of Cornwall including Tintagel Castle, the breathtaking Minack Theatre and the nearby town of Padstow, my suggestion is to simply stay put. Harlyn Bay has a golden sandy beach that is perfect for swimming and The Pig also offers a selection of aromatherapy-based treatments amidst the tranquillity of the walled garden.
The Best Thing
This is the seventh Pig I’ve visited and I’ve been delighted every time. Whilst each outpost has its own flavour, there’s a winning formula, that’s ubiquitous across them all. Perhaps it is as follows: 1. Romantic location; each one has something special, whether it’s jaw-dropping architecture, rugged coastline or a dingly-dell woodland; 2. Excellent restaurants. Talented chefs working closely with growers from the onsite kitchen garden and well-sourced local suppliers; 3. Luxurious bedrooms – don’t be fooled by their modesty, the bedrooms are by no means an afterthought!; and number 4. the last piece of the puzzle, which is perhaps one of the most important and hardest to get right… the staff.
Harlyn Bay, like the rest of The Pigs I’ve visited is run by an incredible team. They’re considerate, friendly, smart and work seamlessly together. You get the impression that they are happy in their jobs and well looked after. There’s a gentleness to the Pig; a kindness, that’s reflected in everything they do, but most importantly, in its people.
Rates start at £220 per night, room only.
The Pig, Harlyn Bay has recently joined forces with nearby Bodmin wellness centre, Cabila, to bring guests Ground & Grow, a truly nourishing two- or three-night weekend retreat. This is the first time THE PIGs have dipped their toe into a deeper restorative offering with the purpose of helping restore amidst the Cornish countryside. Booking is available on the website, Click here for more information.