‘Cruel and unusual punishment’: hotel guide’s verdict on Cornish G7 venue

Draped in the finery of the Cornish coastline, the Carbis Bay hotel is not an obvious double for the Bangkok Hilton. Yet the resort’s immaculate beach and tranquil woodland setting have failed to persuade The Good Hotel Guide otherwise.

By choosing the hotel as the venue for the G7 summit, Boris Johnson has “decided to inflict a cruel and unusual punishment” on Joe Biden, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, according to the guide’s editor, Adam Raphael.

“What the world’s most powerful politicians will make of their two-day stay on a windswept Cornish beach is anyone’s guess but they are unlikely to feel warm about British hospitality,” Raphael wrote on the guide’s website.

“What has prompted this sour note from me is that the reports of Carbis Bay hotel that we receive from our readers do not inspire confidence. It has never had an entry in the guide and probably never will.”

The review from one of the guide’s trusted correspondents, Frances Thomas, speaks of long waits for service, absent porters, tense waitresses, wonky central heating and ghastly musak.

Not quite Fawlty Towers – but Basil Fawlty did not charge £600 a night, as Thomas pointed out in her review: “Things could have been worse, but for the prices we paid, they should have been better. We wouldn’t go back.”

“No doubt even excellent hotels can have their off days but her review is not untypical of others that I’ve read about Carbis Bay,” Raphael said. “It is expensive and luxurious, but just not good enough.”

Perhaps inevitably, the guide’s review provoked a Fawlty-esque response. “They wrote to me, the hotel, furious after this piece appeared – why had I attacked them so unnecessarily?” Raphael told the Observer. “And I just said, look, fame has its rewards, but it also has its price. The fact that it’s chosen as a G7 hotel gives it a huge boost, and I don’t grudge it that at all. But people will examine rather closely whether it’s a good hotel, and the fact is we had this devastating report come in almost the day it was chosen.”

So what can Macron, Biden and Merkel expect to see as they peer through their aeroplane windows at Carbis Bay on their descent into Newquay airport?

The Victorian hotel, designed by Silvanus Trevail, Cornwall’s best-known architect of the period, has plenty of sea views and chandeliers, gilt mirrors and an orangery.

It is the type of English formality that inspired Rosamunde Pilcher to create the Sands hotel, based on the Carbis Bay, as a setting for her novel The Shell Seekers. Her breed of English romanticism is particularly popular with Germans, so perhaps Merkel at least will be happy.

Poldark country is not far away either.

If Justin Trudeau, an enthusiastic kayaker, wants to explore the Cornish coastline after fending off Boris Johnson’s efforts to get an improved trade deal, he can escape on the hotel’s Sunseeker yacht.

But perhaps the prime minister’s choice was in line with the guide’s, an extension of the government’s “uncomfortable chair” doctrine of diplomacy – the apparent belief that foreign diplomats such as the Australian trade minister, Dan Tehan, will cave in if they have a numb bottom.

The summit next month will be the G7’s 47th. Resorts have been chosen as venues for most of them since security became tighter after 2001.

The most recent summits hosted in the UK have been golfing occasions – in 2013 David Cameron welcomed Barack Obama to the Lough Erne resort in Northern Ireland, and in 2005 Tony Blair picked the Gleneagles hotel.

This time there is no on-site golf course – and no Donald Trump to complain – although there are several in the surrounding area.

“Gleneagles isn’t in our guide, but it’s a big, famous, well-run hotel,” Raphael said. “To be fair, most of the previous hotels have been pretty good. It isn’t that we will exclude a G7 hotel altogether, but we do tend to pick hotels with a bit of character. In theory, we like to think of ourselves as simon-pure. Of course, nobody is, but we don’t take money from hotels to be in the guide.”

A better option would have been the Scarlet, an eco-hotel a few miles away in Mawgan Porth, Raphael added. “That’s an excellent hotel,” he said. “God knows why they chose Carbis Bay.”

The Observer contacted the Carbis Bay hotel but did not receive a reply.

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