PUBLISHED: 10:00 23 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:00 23 January 2014
Photograph by Emily Whitfield-Wicks St.meva 9 Beacon road Bodmin Cornwall PL31 1AR Mob.07841 293030
Lesley Double discovers a sustainable place to stay in the Isles of Scilly that has been brought back from the brink
St Mary’s Hall Hotel is a jewel in the Isles of Scilly - but it wasn’t always that way. Five years ago it was in adminstration and its owner Clifford Freeman and his staff have worked hard to bring the it back from the brink.
Sitting amongst its Mediterranean gardens, St Mary’s Hall Hotel couldn’t be in a better place to base yourself while exploring the sub-tropical paradise that is the Isles of Scilly. The idyllic setting is further enhanced by its proximity to the island’ natural beauties. Just two minutes walk takes you to the island’s Porthcressa beach and its five minutes to the quay.
Perhaps this is why, looking around the stunning surrounds today, it is hard to see anything other than a successful hotel, which deserves every one of the awards spilling out of its trophy cabinet. Among them are awards from Visit Britain and Considerate Hoteliers, and one of their proudest from last year comes from the Sustainable Restaurants Association (SRA) who awarded them with three stars.
The hotel’s restaurant is called Spirit, where the chefs use local, seasonal and ethically sound produce, which the waiters and waitresses are happy to serve.
But achieving the SRA listing stands out as a major achievement in the journey to recovery. “We had to show that we were doing our best to buy local produce, recycling and getting rid of our waste.,” says Clifford. “We had to monitor the fuel, water and electricity we used and measure the consumption, and see how we could improve on it. Sustainability covers everything we do, and sustainable restaurants can make a difference on climate change, animal welfare and food waste.”
One of the main difficulties was that SRA rules state that ‘local’ produce must be sourced from within a 20-mile radius of the restaurant. “This was impossible for us,” says Clifford. “As 20 miles would take us to the middle of the sea! We managed to persuade the SRA to stretch it to 28 miles, which meant we could source food from the mainland.”
The more they looked into sustainability, the more they learned about sustainability and how it could influence other areas of the hotel’s services. For example, there are cards in all the rooms explaining to guests how they can save energy, water and detergent during their stay, and how they can do their bit for a sustainable Scilly.
And perhaps being situated in within such outstanding beautiful part of the world makes you more willing and aware of the need to reduce your impact on the environment. The hotel grows its own food and back in the kitchen, as much food waste as possible is composted and the hotel uses Fairtrade produce where they can and have learned how buying beans, for example, from Kenya is better for the environment than from Europe, as the African farmers use less electricity in the vegetable’s production. The hotel ethos is to buy local where possible, but they are also keen to ensure they serve up something special, working closely with their suppliers. For example their slow reared beef, pork and lamb come from Everes’s Farm in Gloucester, which belongs to the hotel’s owner, Clifford, and his family.
“Not only do people want to know the provenance of their food, they also want to know that they are eating in a sustainable fashion. And, apart from that, we want to give our diners and hotel guests what they like to eat too.”
St Mary’s Hall Hotel is fast becoming a place to visit, with chefs who are happy to cater for any diets or food allergies. The kitchen prides themselves on enticing vegans and vegetarians with delicious foods, instead of a plate of unimaginative vegetables. Other awards include a Visit England Breakfast Award, so foodies can be sure of a pleasing stay for all three meals.
There is no doubting that all the staff at St Mary’s Hall Hotel, are excited by their achievements since 2009. Many of the staff are returners, who come back to work year after year. They like to celebrate the food they cook and serve and are delighted to boast that Spirit has the furthest south-westerly Sustainable Restaurant stars in the country.
“George Bernard Shaw said ‘there is no love more sincere than the love of food’ and we believe that this is a maxim to which everyone in St Mary’s Hall Hotel happily adheres.”
St Mary’s Hall Hotel
Church Street, Hugh Town, St Mary’s
Isles of Scilly TR21 0JR