The Camelot Castle Hotel is a pebble-dashed late-Victorian excrescence on a cliff. It overlooks the ruins of Tintagel Castle. A baby-blue Rolls-Royce Wraith and a floral Aston Martin are parked outside. They are the owners’ cars. Everyone else is in a banger. This hotel played the lunatic asylum in the 1979 Dracula starring Frank Langella, and this is more apt than you can know.
Inside there is faded Victorian grandeur mashed with Arthurian legend mashed with Kazakh oil baron chic mashed with three-star hotel in fading south coast resort. There is sinister tiling, dark wood, fraying carpets, staff dressed for serving tea at some ghostly parallel Claridge’s and, from every window, the sea. It is so disorientating — I am used to smooth, grey, efficient hotels — the result is thrilling. It is so weird, like tumbling into cinema. What might happen at the Overlook — I mean the Camelot Castle — Hotel?
The owners are the artist Ted Stourton and John Mappin of the Queen’s jewellers, who is, among other things, a fanatical Donald Trump fan. Mappin was interviewed by Cornwall Live, and he said that the helipad at the Camelot Castle Hotel was always waiting for Donald Trump, which seems like a terrible fate for any helipad. Stourton’s ‘abstract Realist’ art, meanwhile, is everywhere: splattered on walls, reproduced in books bound with gaffer tape and detailed in leaflets calling him ‘more prolific than Picasso’. There is a lot of bitching about Stourton’s art on the Camelot Castle Hotel TripAdvisor page, which is a work of art in itself. Some guests clearly consider themselves hostages; others are dazzled. The lobby, meanwhile, is decorated with photographs of Mappin attending film premieres and stalking famous ‘friends of Camelot’. Al Pacino stares out, sun-burnt and confused. Guests struggle to drag cases through revolving doors. They read leaflets about Mappin’s inspirational texts. He is into ‘spiritual technology’ — scientology. They stare at Stourton’s exploding floral paintings with furrowed brows.
The restaurant is called Irina’s Restaurant (for Mappin’s wife) and it contains a gaggle of hostages congratulating themselves on avoiding the generic and over-priced English Heritage café at the ruins of Tintagel below; that is, they escaped Merlin’s cave and found, instead, this haunted brasserie. I can’t say why it is so sinister. But sensitives should probably avoid it.
All this is marvellous but I have eaten worse food only once: at Trump Tower in New York City incidentally, next to a defibrillator. The steak is tough. The mushroom spaghetti is without flavour. The Caesar salad is inedible. The burger is OK.
Pudding is upsetting. My husband orders lemon posset with the consistency of Plasticine. His spoon can stand up in it, like the sword in the stone. I order a Victoria sponge cake with a photograph of the White House on it. I get the exterior of the Lincoln bedroom. The paper tastes slightly better than the sponge but food is not the point here.
Mappin enters. He is brokenly handsome and my normally placid dog barks at him. He starts a conversation on his mobile with the speaker on, with someone who either is, or is pretending to be, in Santorini; and unwritten novels spill out of him.
I wouldn’t suggest you eat here, but I doubt there is a better place to drop acid in the west. It is nothing like Soho House on sea, which would be its fate if mad hoteliers didn’t lurk here painting motorcars, and that is somehow wondrous.