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The Essence Of Cornwall

March 09, 1986|GLORIA LOPEZ | Lopez is a Times editorial employee.

DAYMER BAY, England — Joy and Sally Evans, mother and daughter and well-seasoned European travelers, would not tell. They resisted the prying American who was demanding the name of their favorite vacation hotel. It's much too special, they teased, to share with anyone who might not appreciate its homelike qualities.

This hotel does not serve nouvelle cuisine , they warned. Would any American tourist tolerate a room without a telephone or television? Never. And Hilton-trained Southern Californians, they insisted, just would not be interested in a hotel owned and managed by two young couples adhering to the British tradition of a "family-run" establishment.

Then the Evanses surrendered. . . .

The Bodare Hotel at Daymer Bay near Trebetherick in north Cornwall is their spot; a place to relax, enjoy, be at peace, was its promise.

Daymer Bay would have been simple to find--in the daylight. But at night, in a fog, skinny, finger-like country lanes became a Dickensian maze. Then signposts and traveler's luck led to a whitewashed general store, a short hill and a gravel path pointing to a sprawling two-story country house.

Lights shone pale yellow from the wooden-framed windows, and laughter drifted from within the ivy-covered walls into the foggy night. Entering the house, there was a comfortable sitting room which had a fireplace, chubby armchairs and a man. He sat, legs stretched in front of him; a book in one hand and a glass of sherry in the other. There was no reception desk.

Could this be the wrong house?

"Excuse me, sir, is this the Bodare Hotel?"

Answered the man with the sherry: "Yes, it is. Neil should be here in a moment."

A moment went. No Neil.

"Let me show you to the pub. Neil is probably there."

We walked down a short corridor and into a larger sitting room with more comfortable chairs, writing tables and a television set. A sharp right and through a door was the "pub." Neil was behind the bar.

"Oh, hello. Friends of the Evanses? They phoned and we've been expecting you. Long drive? You must be tired. Have a seat. Get you a drink? Have you had dinner?" rattled Neil in one breathless greeting.

The pub was filled with guests enjoying after-dinner drinks. It was a family atmosphere. In a corner, kids were playing a video game and adults, gathered around small tables and at the bar, chatted. Introductions were brief, informal, and so was the registration procedure. No sign-in and no immediate deposit. No credit card imprint and not even a discussion of room rates. You're here, seemed to be the philosophy, so you have to know how much.

"Registration? Oh, that can wait till morning," said Neil as he left to get our bags and show us the room. "We trust you."

It was a cozy double room ($33 per person, per night, including breakfast and dinner) with a large bathroom and ample closet space. And it noticeably lacked a phone and TV.

Management is a stuffy word to describe Della Welch and Kate Painter, sisters, who, with their husbands, Stephen Welch and Neil Painter, own the Bodare Hotel. For they are young, attractive, enthusiastic, friendly, tireless and they smile a lot.

Six years ago they searched for a hotel to buy in nearby Port Isaac and Polzeath before discovering Daymer Bay and the Bodare. Built around the turn of the century, it had been a private residence until 1930 when it was converted into a hotel.

"The price had gone down $28,000 and we just had to buy it," recalled Stephen Welch, 35, waiter, manager and jack-of-all-jobs. "We never wanted a big hotel and this place has 19 rooms, 2 1/2 acres and it's all the four of us can handle. And it always needs work.

'Secluded and Quiet'

"It's almost ideal. The hotel is secluded and quiet. That makes it right for retired people, but it's ideal for a husband and wife with kids. The beach is safe, ideal for surfing and water skiing and, of course, there's the St. Enodoc golf course next door," continued Welch, a strapping man with thick auburn hair who, while he spoke, brushed a bit of lint from his spotless red waiter's jacket.

While Stephen interacts with guests in the dining room, Della Welch, with cropped, chestnut hair accentuating large hazel eyes, prefers a less populated atmosphere: the kitchen. At 31, she is the chef and sous chef responsible for all meals.

"I take the best of British cooking and plan a 15-day menu, so that people who stay a fortnight won't get duplicate meals," explained Della.

Meals are prepared from Cornish recipes with fresh produce and meats bought from local sources. The fish comes from Padstow and Port Isaac, meat from Polzeath and even the herbs are handpicked.

"When I need wild dill, parsley or thyme, I just raid the hedges," said Della with an impish grin.

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