Paul Ainsworth's Great British Menu dish inspired the sweet-themed rooms for his first hotel with his wife, Emma. Janet Harmer reports
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It is the third business in Padstow to be launched by Paul and Emma Ainsworth, joining their two restaurants: the Michelin-starred Paul Ainsworth at Number 6 and the more casual Rojano's in the Square.
The Ainsworths bought the property in July 2014 and, seven months later, after all the planning applications were granted, set to work on a comprehensive renovation, including a new slate roof, underpinning the building and the installation of handmade casement windows.
Their intention was to create a luxury home-from-home with six spacious suites for guests who want to enjoy the extensive outdoor activities Cornwall offers during the day, and to eat in their restaurants at night. To this end, a BMW i3 electric car transports guests from the Townhouse, located in the oldest part of town, to the two restaurants close to the harbour.
Dubarry boots, a picnic basket and a flask of coffee are provided for walks in the nearby countryside, while vintage-style bicycles are available for guests to cycle the 18-mile Camel Trail. For those who prefer to mess about on the water, there are facilities for hosing down and storing wetsuits and surfboards.
House manager is Lucinda Bayne, who is supported by Ainsworth's sister, Michelle Ainsworth. Paul and Michelle are no strangers to welcoming paying guests, having been brought up in their parents' B&B business in Southampton, with Mum making beds and Dad cooking breakfast.
Emma realised her and Paul's vision of a truly luxurious place to stay by working with Eve Cullen-Cornes, design director at Jonathan Cornes Associates. Together they took inspiration from Paul's success in the 2011 series of BBC TV's Great British Menu.
After winning the south-west heat of the competition, Paul went on to the final banquet to prepare a nostalgic dessert based around childhood memories. Called 'Taste of the Fairground', it featured cinnamon sugar-dusted doughnuts with raspberry curd, honeycomb and popping-candy lollipops, coconut custard with chocolate and peanut popcorn, and toffee apples and marshmallow kebabs.
The award-winning dish has inspired the name, and hence the colour scheme, of each of the six suites, which are called Marshmallow, Popcorn, Rhubarb & Custard, Toffee Apple, Honeycomb and Bonbon.
"We would have been daft not to use the dessert theme, as it lends itself to so many different colours and textures," says Cullen-Cornes, who designed the suites at the Hand and Flowers in Marlow, owned by her brother-in-law and sister, Tom and Beth Kerridge.
Despite the logistical difficulties surrounding being based in Staffordshire, Cullen- Cornes describes the experience of working on Padstow Townhouse as "a total joy". "Paul and Emma were awesome to work with," she says. "It was such a fun project, creating fictional characters around which we based the bedrooms."
The hotel is aimed at aspirational professional couples, and the vision was to create a welcoming, affluent, escapist and homely hotel, with beautiful finishes throughout.
"This we have achieved, all wrapped up in a fabulous bubble," says Cullen-Cornes.
On walking into Padstow Townhouse, the first impression is of a welcoming and colourful environment. "We wanted guests to feel relaxed the moment they came through the door," says Emma. "That is why we chose not to have a reception desk, as we didn't want any barriers between ourselves and guests."
The sunshine yellow of the Brocatello wallpaper from Zoffany is the backdrop for two wing-backed chairs covered in Amatheon Wolf fabric from Warwick. Acid yellow piping and buttons reflect the wallpaper. In between is a bespoke table, made from an oak column retrieved from a stately home and topped with marble. It was made by Steve Ford of Odeon Antiques in Leek, Staffordshire, and is one of many items of furniture specially made for the property.
Ford was also responsible for the unique wall mirrors, fashioned from Edwardian window casements.
With the Ainsworth's two restaurants in Padstow, the Townhouse was never going to have its own restaurant, but they did want guests to have the opportunity of somewhere to prepare food or to select items to make up a picnic. They have provided a wide range of homemade sweet and savoury snacks, made in one of the restaurants, and guests record the cheeses, cakes, drinks or whatever they have selected in an honesty book. The domestic-style pantry was specially made for the Townhouse by Torben Schmid of Future Kitchens in Truro, while the Family Silver wallpaper is from Mulberry Home. China was specially made by Lindsey Busby.
Eschewing the more obvious seaside styling so frequently adopted by hotels on the coast, the Ainsworths and Cullen-Cornes clearly had a lot of fun in creating the sweet-themed bedrooms. However, it may be more appropriate to call them suites, as each one is exceptionally generous in size. More bedrooms could have been fitted in, but Paul and Emma were adamant that the Townhouse should be a special place to stay that matched the Michelin-starred experience of eating at Number 6.
This is also where a touch of storytelling came into play. "Emma and I created a backstory for each room, imaging who the room belonged to," said Cullen-Cornes. "Once we had these well-rounded characters fixed in our minds, we could imagine their taste in decor, furniture and art."
For instance, for Bonbon they pictured an Oxbridge gentleman who relishes a sense of occasion and likes to ski and drive racing cars when not attending Wimbledon or Ascot.
"The suite is decorated with one of Cole & Son's classic wallpaper patterns, the aptly named Wimbledon Stripe," said Cullen- Cornes. "We furnished it with an oxblood wing-back and club-style chairs, and dotted it with vintage sporting memorabilia."
The theme throughout is subtle and tasteful. Hence, the pink and yellow one would expect from Rhubarb & Custard appears in the Mulberry fabric used in the headboard, cushions and bed throw; while Honeycomb features a dramatic wall covered in Zoffany's Gossamer and a wrought iron bed from the Cornish Bed Company.
As one would expect, Marshmallow offers a softer look. The colonial feel of the room reflects Paul's heritage (his mother is from the Seychelles) with its white and cane bed from Coach House and elephant-patterned Dar es Salam wallpaper from French designer Nobilis.
Sprinkled throughout are quirky items of furniture, specially made by Ford. They include bedside tables made from retro flour bins in Rhubarb & Custard and old tool boxes turned on their sides and topped with wood in Honeycomb.
The attention to detail is phenomenal, from the hand-painted name of each room on the door by illustrator Jessie Bayliss, to the flask of hot chocolate and home-made cookies left for guests at turn-down.
Each of the six bedrooms offer unashamed luxury, with Steve Liddington of Bathroom Studio in Truro providing design advice. The individual baths feature bespoke wooden Champagne holders made by Mat Golay of Treescape.
Unique bathroom amenities have been supplied by St Kitts Herbery, based in nearby Camelford.
Impact of design
Padstow Townhouse has wowed critics and guests alike. Fiona Duncan of The Sunday Telegraph declared the rooms "luxurious in a way that luxury hotel rooms rarely succeed in being: they cocoon you", while Tom Chesshyre of The Times simply stated the property to be "the best new hotel of 2016".
Emma is thrilled with the reaction, after spending 18 months refurbishing the property, an intense period that ended with the birth of their daughter, Aricie, last month.
"It was the first project Paul and I had done together from scratch and we wanted to offer the customers from the restaurants somewhere to stay that would be like welcoming them into our own home.
"We are very proud that we can now offer them more than just a room to sleep - it has been about creating a whole experience where guests can truly relax."
Emma is clear she would love to do more rooms. "Padstow Townhouse has been all about creating a luxury haven for adults. Now, with a child of our own, I would love to do something that is more reflective of Rojano's, that will welcome children and pets."
Owners Paul and Emma Ainsworth
House manager Lucinda Bayne
Bedrooms Six suites
Room rate From £280
16-18 High Street, Padstow, Cornwall PL28 8BB
01841 550 950
Cole & Son
The Bathroom Studio
St Kitts Herbery
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