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Adventures on the English Riviera

We were massive fans of Channel 4 documentary The Hotel which charted the quirky goings on at The Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay.

Billed as a real life Fawlty Towers, let’s just say things didn’t go to plan most of the time for manager Mark Jenkins and his trusty sidekick Alison Pennell.

We thoroughly enjoyed tuning in each week to watch Mark’s efforts to change the business’ fortunes whether it be the unforgettable dolphin racing in the pool or the chaotic bingo and disco nights in the hotel lounge.

So given our love for the show we were super excited to be invited to actually stay at The Grosvenor!

Things have changed somewhat for the hotel since the cameras stopped rolling.

It was sold to Richardson Hotels boss Keith Richardson, who also owns the The Grand Hotel in Torquay, and the restaurant is now run by double Michelin star chef John Burton Race.

Intrigued by the experience ahead, we packed our buckets and spades and headed to the English Riviera to check it out for ourselves.

Welcome to Torquay

A weekend in Torquay

Once we’d got over the excitement of seeing in actual real life the building we’d watched so many times on TV, we got to down to business.

While sipping a drink on the terrace we received a warm welcome from the manager before heading to our room.

The room

With our 11 year old in toe, we were staying in one of The Grosvenor’s newly refurbished family rooms.

The space is substantial with a bunk bed for our excited youngster and a very large double bed for the adults.

The decoration is tasteful and comfortable and perfect for a family of four enjoying a staycation.

Lifestyle District | Bristol culture & photography blog: Torquay &emdash;

Of most interest to us ahead of the trip was the arrival of such a high profile chef so being greeted in our room by some very yummy handmade chocolates got us very excited for dinner later that day.

But it wasn’t quite time for that so we headed to the outdoor pool, the scene of the infamous dolphin racing, for a dip and a bit of lunch.

The pool

The weather was gorgeous so we basked in the sun and enjoyed some sandwiches and a pint feeling like we were in the south of France rather than the South West of England!

I had a salmon sandwich and the fish was of good quality. One thing I would have liked though was a better standard of bread given it cost £12. The service however, including from the very efficient pool attendant, was great.

After a few hours by the pool we took a stroll to the beach.

The golden sands of Torbay awaited us and we had a great time including the obligatory ice cream from the local bucket and space shop.


Then it was time for that dinner!

The restaurant

Warmly greeted by our host Andrea, we were shown to our table.

What followed was a gastronomic delight with no prawn cocktails in sight!

Nina was blown away by her starter, tortellini of goat’s cheese with basil and sweet vanilla tomato presse, while I tucked into a very Instagramable burrata with peach, candied walnut and of vegetables.

It was my main course that I enjoyed the most. A beautifully presented steamed crown of Cornish turbot and scallops, dry vermouth and chive butter sauce was super tasty, while Nina loved her gnocchi with pea purée, watercress, asparagus, gem hearts and parmesan foam.

Our little one devoured “the best sea bass I have ever had” and we will never forget her face when the hazelnut meringue, chocolate ganache, English raspberries and raspberry sorbet was presented to her.

As Andrea expertly described each element of what looked like a work of art, she sat open mouthed. It didn’t take long until she started eating it though!

As our daughter retired to her bunk bed with a good book, me and Nina opted for the generous and very good quality cheese board with the hotel treating us to some gorgeous 32-year-old cognac.

We finished off the cheese (to Parisian Nina’s disgust the English offering was my favourite) on our terrace overlooking the pool, another bonus of our room, and went to bed very full!

In case you’re interested, it was room 101 but we had no nightmares!

A fabulous dinner at The Grosvnor Hotel in Torquay

Fabulous dinner by John Burton-Race at the Grosvenor Torquay

Cheese heaven at the Grosvenor Hotel

Waking to another sunny morning, we headed to breakfast.

More smiling staff greeted us and I tucked into salmon and scrambled egg and Nina had a well cooked veggie fry-up.

The service again was top notch and with our little one still in the room recovering from so much swimming the day before, the staff swiftly made her up a plate of pastries and muffins and a large orange juice to take back to the room.

The Grosvenor Hotel in sunny Torquay

The verdict

We were really sad to leave The Grosvenor. It’s very different to the days of its starring role on Channel 4 and many changes for the better have clearly been made.

There are still improvements needed though and we think the fact the fact that people enjoy a pint and a cigarette on the terrace right next to diners in the quality restaurant need to be looked at but the food was superb and the service was excellent from all the staff we encountered.

Word still needs to get out about the new Grosvenor but as we checked out we read that John Burton Race has been awarded two AA Rosettes so the reputation is clearly building.

As for the dolphins, they are definitely a thing of the past!

Look out for a post sooner on what we got up on day two of our trip to Torquay.

We were invited to stay at The Grosvenor Hotel in Torquay with complimentary food and accommodation. All opinions are our own. 

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