Hand-picked places to eat, stay, shop & cook in the South West

Where to feast this festive season

Published on September 23, 2016
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Pulled the short straw this year and left planning the Christmas get-together?

Don’t sweat it. Whether you’re looking for the perfect family retreat, a festive lunch with the girls, or somewhere a little quirky for the office noel knees up, we’ve pulled together some of the South West’s finest dining destinations and got the low-down on their seasonal offerings

Festive feasting

Fistral Beach Hotel, Newquay

Covering every occasion, from a seasonal afternoon tea with the girls to a restorative twixmas retreat in the spa, the Christmas elves have been working hard to create a fabulous foodie line-up at Fistral Beach Hotel in Cornwall this December.

An impressive restaurant with Instagram-worthy views over the beach below make the sleek hotel a must visit at any time of year, but would you really want to miss out on the Christmas cocktails and all inclusive house party? We thought not.

Visit for …

A badass Boxing Day brunch. Keep the party going with bottomless mimosas, Fistral’s own bloody mary, and all the eggs, avo and smoked salmon that your holiday hangover requires. And with salty sea air on hand to blast you back to full strength, you’ll want to return the following week to join in the New Year’s Eve celebrations, no doubt.

Don’t visit for…

The post-Christmas / pre-New Year detox; it’s continuous feasting from the big day through to January 2. Amen.

Menu must-haves

The baked camembert with apricot and sage chutney starter poses the annual conundrum: is it possible not to order the baked camembert? While the choice between the chocolate and brandy parfait with seville orange compote, and the raspberry cranachan isn’t so simple.

www.fistralbeachhotel.co.uk

The Rams Head Inn

The Rams Head Inn, Dolton

If you’re going to celebrate Christmas away from home, there are few better places to spend the big day than a cosy country pub. And with roaring fires, a bar stocked with the finest beverages and a top chef in the kitchen, north Devon’s The Rams Head Inn ticks all of our festive boxes.

Visit for …

Fantastic food and a ruddy good knees up on New Year’s. If you needed an excuse to don a sharp suit or fabulous frock, executive chef Alex Pallatt will be creating a bespoke menu for the occasion, sourcing some of the South West’s very best produce for his seven course line-up. Think pan seared duck liver, Exmoor beef with slow roasted garlic, tonka bean pannacotta and plenty of the fizzy stuff, natch.

Don’t visit for…

A super pricey blowout to impress the in-laws. At £24.95 for three courses, the festive menu is a seasonal steal.

Menu must-haves

You won’t find a turkey on table at The Rams Head’s Christmas Day dinner this year, instead guests have the tricky job of deciding between roasted venison, stuffed partridge, poached halibut and a lentil and spinach wellington. The festive offering in the run up to the big day is just as intriguing with lime-cured cod, poached pear gratin and a chocolate fondant with white chocolate peanut ganache making appearances on the party menu.

www.ramsheadinn.co.uk

Howards House Hotel

Howard’s House Hotel, Teffont Evias

Having transformed an old coach house in its grounds into a sleek and contemporary space for private events earlier this year, Howard’s House Hotel in Teffont Evias has become an enviable venue for the country-chic Christmas party.

Talented head chef Nick Wentworth has been perfecting an anything-but-traditional menu for the proceedings, plus there are a stable of cosy rooms in the Grade II-listed country house in which to seek shelter after an evening of fine food and great wine in the rolling Salisbury hills.

Visit for …

The excuse to escape the merry mayhem. Put turkey timings, presents for picky aunts and the never ending list of chores to rest for a few days and indulge in a pre Christmas break in the idyllic Wiltshire countryside.

Featuring three nights in a luxury room, a half bottle of champagne on arrival and dinner each night in the elegant restaurant, the charming hotel’s festive getaway is the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time with the better half before the in-laws – and resulting seasonal squabbles – arrive.

Don’t visit for…

Party hats and dodgy jumpers. Instead, revel in the excuse to throw on a posh frock or dust down a sharp suit.

Menu must-haves

As with all of Nick’s menus, the festive line-up at Howard’s House will change with the seasonal supply of local produce which arrives in the kitchen. Though guests will be kept guessing, they can look forward to the likes of home-smoked goat’s cheese with caramelised dates, seared fillet of wild turbot with braised oxtail and peanut butter and chocolate fondant.

www.howardshousehotel.co.uk

Rosewarne Manor Festive

Rosewarne Manor, Hayle

Don’t be fooled by the grand manor house setting and refined two AA rosette restaurant, there’s plenty of fatal fun to be had at Rosewarne Manor in Hayle this December.

Those who bask in tradition will get their fill with the impressive Christmas lunch and dinner menus from esteemed head chef Phil Thomas, but for seasonal party-goers in search of something different, the murder mystery evenings are a must.

Visit for …

A case of murder on the dance floor? Round up a few friends for a Christmas party with a deadly difference and reserve a table at one of Rosewarne’s infamous murder mystery dinners. Enjoy all the usual thrills of a fabulous three course meal, with interludes of mystery and intrigue from actors who’ll call upon diners’ finest ‘whodunnit’ skills throughout the evening of entertainment.

Don’t visit for …

Lunch on the big day – you’ve got to be quick to bag a seat at Rosewarne’s Christmas Day feast and this year booked up super fast, sorry!

Menu must-haves

The chef’s selection of five mini seasonal desserts is the answer to sweet-toothed and eternally indecisive eaters’ prayers, there’s also an enviable cheese board for those who want to sample some of Cornwall’s finest. A crown of West Country turkey with chestnut seasoning and kilted sausage will go down very well with the traditionalists too.

www.rosewarnemanor.co.uk

The Scarlet

The Scarlet, Mawgan Porth

This sleek spot perched on the rocks above Mawgan Porth is a favourite with city slickers in need of some R&R in the luxury, natural spa. And with its high flying hospitality standards comes a first-class food offering, making The Scarlet a surprise contender in the Christmas venue stakes.

Cornish crab, thick slabs of sirloin and fresh-from-the-ocean lobster make regular appearances on head chef Tom Hunter’s exclusively seasonal menus. The option to retire in one of the lavish bedrooms after a phenomenal feed making the hotel’s festive offerings even more tempting.

Visit for …

The ultimate festive dinner party, minus the mess the next morning (avoiding the post-party hangover, however, cannot be guaranteed). Offering bespoke private dining packages, The Scarlet’s terrace not only boasts unrivalled views across the coast but makes the perfect venue for an intimate Christmas get together. Call ahead and devise your one-of-a-kind menu with the team of talented chefs, before rocking up – stress free – to a sumptuous supper with up to 20 of your nearest and dearest.

Don’t visit …

With the kids in tow. This is one just for the grown-ups so make sure to book in a baby-sitter or head over to sister venue, the Bedruthen Hotel, just over the rocks for feasts with the whole family.

Menu must-haves

That’s up to you. Let the chefs in on your must-haves and menu-misses and they’ll create a bespoke bill of dishes using the best seasonal produce available on the day. Guests will have three starters, mains and desserts to choose from or, if you’d rather, the table can be laden with feasting style sharing plates. Know your wine? Let in the in-house sommelier design a wine flight to match your menu.

www.scarlethotel.co.uk

The Llawnroc Gorran Haven

The Llawnroc Hotel, Gorran Haven

The glass fronted bar and contemporary bistro may create a slick city feel at The Llawnroc, but the laid-back dining style and enviable views over the coast channels the hotel’s true Cornish character.

With winter warmer packages, a cracking Christmas party menu and chic celebrations lined-up for the New Year, the boutique hotel has all the bases covered when it comes to celebrating the holiday season.

Visit to …

Welcome in 2017 with a dose of Cornish glamour. Pack a posh frock and your favourite person for two nights of cocktails, canapés and festive celebration with The Llawnroc’s New Year’s Package.

Suited, booted and ready to party, guests can look forward to a glass of something bubbly before enjoying a bespoke five course feast in the dining room. Just before midnight, head to the terrace – or the beach if you’re feeling brave in heels – to see in the New Year with a fabulous firework display.

Don’t visit for …

A fleeting visit. With 18 luxurious rooms, gorgeous sea views and some of Cornwall’s best attractions – take the The Lost Gardens of Heligan and The Eden Projecton its doorstep, you’ll want to put aside a couple of days to make the most of your trip to Gorran Haven.

Menu must-haves

The simple salmon starter is cranked up a couple notches of creativity in head chef Cliff Burt’s sous-vide salmon, heritage carrots, kohlrabi, torched cucumber and mussel essence first course. The winter vegetable and Cornish gouda strudel with leek fondue, and pear tarte tartin with salted caramel ice cream and raison tuile to follow on the Christmas menu are equally as eye catching.

www.thellawnroc.co.uk

Cary Arms

Cary Arms, Babbacombe

Views over Babbacombe’s wildly wintery bay from the window? Check. Cosy nooks and crannies to enjoy something cheeky from the wine list in front of the fire? Check. A top chef in the kitchen whipping up some lusciously local seasonal fare? Check.

Yep. South Devon’s Cary Arms certainly ticks all of our boxes when it comes to finding a fabulously festive feasting venue.

Visit for …

The ultimate coastal Christmas getaway. Whether you’re looking for a pre-Christmas, the Big Day or a New Year’s getaway, the swish seaside hotel has a top-notch selection of gourmet breaks to seduce any serious foodie – or serial scorcher – from the oven this year.

If the culinary line-up (think festive cream teas, topside of West Country roast beef and champagne receptions, natch) doesn’t tempt you from hosting duties, the promise of leisurely afternoons in the shiny new spa, stomps along the coast path with the littles ones and cocktail parties for the bigger ones should do the job.

Don’t visit for …

The work Christmas party. This isn’t your venue for a few too many proseccos, table top dance offs and moments-you’d-rather-forget with Colin from accounts behind the Christmas tree.

Menu must-haves

Festive fish options don’t get much better than locally caught, pan fried fillet of sea bass with champ mash and a mussel and crayfish chowder from head chef Ben Kingdom. The starter of spiced butternut squash soup topped with cinnamon and good dash of cream is like Christmas in a bowl, and the dark chocolate and amaretto tart is the epitome of calories-dont-count-at-Christmas.

www.caryarms.co.uk

The Mill House

The Mill House, Tintagel

The Mill House may be located down a classic Cornish country lane, yet the but-I-drove-last-time saga will certainly be worth it for the marvellous meal that awaits at its end.

Edged between the cliffs and the countryside of the north Cornish coast, this 18th century mill complete with traditional bar and contemporary dining quarter, is the classically cosy Christmas venue. Get the family together over a long weekend lunch, or bed down for the evening following the annual catch up in one of the charming rooms above the inn.

Visit for …

A creative Christmas line-up that’ll please both the adventurous diners and those firmly rooted in their culinary comfort zone (we’re looking at you mum).

Chef Andrew Grills has craftily created a menu which oozes tradition while playing with tastes, textures and flavour combinations to please intrepid palates. As with his seasonal menus, high quality local produce drives Andrew’s festive offering. Expect the beef in the slow roasted brisket and the crab accompanying the grilled fillet of bream to be sourced from the South West, among other regional delights.

Don’t visit for …

A quiet one. There’s always something lively going on at this popular pub, from the steak and folk evenings to the local bands playing indie rock.

Menu must-haves

The Cornish blue crème brûlée with roasted figs, toasted walnuts and pomegranate molasses is set to blow any oh-great-it’s-goat’s-cheese-again veggie starter out of the water. Whereas the turkey escalope with a pine nut, cranberry and sage crust is a curve-ball for the traditionalists. Oh, and did we mention the sticky toffee pudding with stout toffee sauce?

www.themillhouseinn.co.uk

Best Western Plus Centurion

Best Western Plus Centurion Hotel, Radstock

Christmas lunches are all well and good but by mid-December and your third helping of Christmas pudding, getting together over a three course meal can feel like a bit of a drag. Enter stage left the Centurion Hotel’s festive afternoon tea package. With a sweet line-up of fabulous finger sandwiches, pretty pastries and seasonal scones, taking tea in the stylish lounge makes the perfect alternative Christmas dinner numero nine. The £15 price tag is an added bonus.

Of course, the smart hotel on the outskirts of Bath also offers a stellar festive feasting menu. The classics are accompanied by Coln Valley smoked salmon, Cornish hake and chocolate cookie cheesecake on head chef Sean Horwood’s impressive – and great value – menus.

Visit for …

A work Christmas party that doesn’t compromise on taste or style. Gain massive office brownie points and book the team into one of the hotel’s party nights which kick off on December 2. With a three course meal – and a DJ cranking out all the classics – it’s sure to be a night to remember (or not).

Don’t visit for …

An intimate meal. Round up the family or get the old gang together and head to the the popular dining destination for a sociable soiree.

Menu must-haves

Forget turkey and all the trimmings, it’s all about confit duck leg with decadent dauphinoise potatoes at The Centurion. And for the veggies? The notoriously bland nut roast is swapped for a plush polenta cake and a tangy tomato fondue that even the meat-eaters will be envious of.

www.centurionhotel.co.uk

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