The world of blogging and food writing takes me all over the place, with Devon having many a fine offering in cities, towns, villages and back lanes, it’s a privilege and a delight to discover said places and share them with our audience.
Like any other person, sometimes you don’t see what is right in front of you and that’s why I love a staycation. Sure you can choose another county to go and have a mini-break in, but frankly I love it so much in the South West, I don’t feel the need to go too far. Having the opportunity to relax somewhere and then build an itinerary around it that I wouldn’t normally experience.
A while ago, I visited Exeter’s Hotel Du Vin for their French Market Table Sunday Lunch for my birthday, and more recently for business meetings.
So I was delighted to have been invited back to enjoy a family stay at their hotel.
Based in a ‘centroid’ position of Exeter if you will, it is in a prime spot to access city centre by walking up South Street, meandering to the very independent Magdalen Road, or just a hop, skip and a jump down to the Quay – what more could you need to explore Devon’s capital and gateway city?
The very grand building has been reincarnated a few times and although this chain of hotels is across the country, they do tend to choose buildings with individual style and have certainly done so here in what used to be a more clinical environment. “Take a step inside this iconic building, formerly an Eye Infirmary, where historic walled gardens and striking architecture create the backdrop for a truly special experience.”
The downstairs area is certainly modern but what I enjoyed more, as we were shown to our room, was the different style and feel the upper floors had; soft lighting, sumptuous grey carpets and beige accents giving a very calm feeling, and what I loved more were the fantastic curved walls and doorways which caught my eye too. In the rooms, there are a few hints to what once was, including drainage holes in the floors from back in its surgery days and the benefit of high ceilings, and tall windows giving rooms a spacious feel. Yet modern touches have been included for the demanding traveller such as mood lighting and speakers in the bathroom.
I was delighted to be greeted by the Nespresso machine and complimentary pods, but surprised at the charge for bottled water – for me the Nespresso is a win so it didn’t bother me but I was mindful that many travellers would expect a bottle of water for the price point of the hotel. There is a very well stocked snack box, with clear pricing, for those who have the munchies.
A perfect amenity in this hotel after a day out in the city or a brisk walk along the quay, is the ‘indoor outdoor’ heated swimming pool. A warm haven of bubbles and seating indoors for relaxing, and enough room outside for a swim or float whilst contemplating dinner time. They also have a small spa in the gardens if you have time for a pamper.
Dinner is set in their main restaurant, which is like a large conservatory, overlooking the garden. Tear drop lighting enhances the feeling of the high ceiling, without being over the top.
There’s quite a good choice, almost too much as the menu includes the lunch and evening options All on one big card and I think this makes it harder to focus on what you might like to eat – but there is certainly something for everyone.
Starters of moules frites and meat sharing platter kicked off our dinner, all very generous in portion size and tasty.
Cassoulet Classique for the main event consisted of a hearty casserole of white beans, confit duck, smoked Toulouse sausage and pancetta which kept hubby pretty happy! My son and I opted for some red meat options, including ribeye steak and onglet steak. The rib eye was cooked medium rare as requested and was juicy and tender, but the surprise of it all was the onglet steak – onglet (or hanger) steak is an incredibly tasty piece of beef not often used. This steak was a bit like a chopped steak burger, except it is incredibly herby which quite frankly resulted in a delicious bit of meat, and at a fraction of the cost of a normal steak, if you are keeping an eye on the pennies.
For dessert the boys opted for ice creams (hubby had no room left for the very impressive cheese trolley) but I went for the il flotante which I had eaten there recently – a wonderful crème anglaise (ok yes it’s custard – but very gooooood custard) with an unctuous caramel bottom and a floating meringue quinnelle on top. Perfectly sweet and light to finish off dinner.
We awoke the next day, well rested thanks to the comfy bed and high quality blinds and curtains keeping the light out. After squeezing in a quick morning swim we were treated to a delightful breakfast of omelette Arnold Bennett (smoked haddock and parmesan) and eggs benedict with bacon – they even happily fulfilled my request of a side order of avocado and it was all really tasty. The French Market Table had plenty of other lovely things to help yourself to as well.
All in all, we had a very comfortable and relaxing stay with tasty food in the heart of Exeter – it certainly is a great spot as a base for a city break or staycation, whatever you’re up to or even just a meal as non-residents are most certainly welcome.
Hotel Du Vin Exeter, Magdalen Street, Exeter EX2 4HY