The Alverton's cool new look
I RECENTLY enjoyed the perfect night out at The Alverton hotel. Not a sentence I ever thought I'd write, to be honest.
The imposing former convent was once the toast of Truro; the grand hotel the city had been lacking.
However, in recent years its reputation had dipped and the place felt tired.
An average night out at The Alverton would involve speaking in hushed tones in a humdrum dining room amid a sea of grey.
That's not ageist – I'm silver-tressed myself. Grey's the new black, kids.
The hotel wasn't exactly leading the way is what I'm getting at.
At a charity dinner I attended last year, the dishes arrived so late it impacted on the evening's entertainment.
And when the food was finally placed in front of us, it was of a standard you'd expect at a working men's club not a leading hotel.
However, there has been a sea change at one of the few Cornish hotels that's actually miles from the sea.
Under the auspices of its new directors at the Cornwall Hotel Collection, the Alverton has dropped the Manor from its name and gained a cool new look.
Blending traditional period details with contemporary features by Falmouth's Design By Friends, this is the hotel version of that scene in Neighbours when plain Jane took off her glasses and revealed her hidden beauty.
Yes, the Alverton has gone glam and is now dating Guy Pearce – the brasserie boasts an impressive bespoke floor to ceiling wine wall, which really has the ooh factor, and The Library, an extension of the restaurant, is reminiscent of the elegant style of a gentleman's club – intimate, low key and luxurious.
That feeling of dining somewhere special is ramped up several notches by the presence of brasserie manager Rod Gill.
If you've visted Perranarworthal's Norway Inn over the past 35 years you will know Rod. He brings class, warmth and a touch of old-school attentiveness to the role.
So the Alverton has the look and the staff. What about the all-important food?
Crafted by new head chef Paul Stephens, the lunch, light bites and evening menus showcase local and seasonal produce and have been designed to be exciting and put the hotel on the foodie map.
Paul's impressive CV includes 13 years at the likes of The Fat Duck of three Michelin star fame, as well as top London restaurants the Ritz and the Dorchester.
He has also worked alongside John Torrode, Gordon Ramsay and, more recently, was head chef at Bustophers in Truro and Falmouth's Greenbank Hotel, another establishment in the Cornwall Hotel Collection.
Thanks to the brasserie design it doesn't feel like you're eating Paul's dishes in a hotel, which is crucial in attracting the locals. And they really should visit as this is topflight cuisine.
My party enjoyed a selection of starters including The Alverton Prawn Cocktail which elicited audible gasps from the table – the mother of all seafood entrées, banishing all thoughts of 1970s' dinner parties.
Other winners include an intriguing but delicious crab doughnut with crab cappuccino, potted pulled pork with Granny Smith gel and blue cheese fritters and brûléed chicken liver parfait with fig chutney and toasted sourdough.
Priced between £5 and £9, the starters are of a standard we are growing accustomed to in the best county for food.
Personally, liver would be the last thing I ordered on a menu but a friend declared the Alverton's pan-fried calves' liver with potato rosti, carrot purée, spinach and jus roti the best he'd ever tasted – the meat veritably melted on his tongue. The other mains, priced between £12 and £18, are just as good – from braised pork belly with red cabbage slaw, apple purée, fondant potato, cider sauce and crackling to pan-fried wild sea bass, crab and saffron risotto. With an eye for invention, as well as presentation, Paul's desserts are sublime – the chocolate tasting plate to share is pure nirvana but how about Pimm's jelly with mint ice cream, rhubarb and custard Battenberg cheesecake or peach and apricot frozen nougat, raspberry meringue and shortbread? That's not all.
Retire to the bar – run with aplomb by former One Eyed Cat bar manager Alex Dixon – for some amazing drinks. I admit to downing an espresso martini and jam doughnut cocktail. It certainly livened up proceedings which spilled on to the new decking area and much socialising was had with the other guests.
This was about as far away from the Alverton of old as it was possible to get.
If you've been before, rediscover it anew. If it's your first time, relish a Truro icon reborn.
For more details, including full menus, see www.thealverton.co.uk