The meal provided in this review was gratis. Views expressed are independent of the business and is not seen or approved before publication.
Meandering amidst the Devon lanes onto rugged yet lush Dartmoor, expectations were high as we headed for award winning country house hotel, Bovey Castle. I considered whether a large 60 bedroom castle could be cosy, comfortable and warm, or would it be old, cold and slightly unkept. After all, these beautiful estates need feeding with funds constantly with many a corner or crevice needing attention.
What a building – the outside may be stone, and the Dartmoor damp autumn weather coating the air but the inside was far from cold; ornate coving, grand windows framed with drapes, dark wood panelling accented by ambient lighting, and cosy log fires with embracing sofas to curl up in.
We headed up to our Junior State Suite in the vintage lift – our room was a classic country styled spacious room with high ceilings, leafy views, complimentary Bovey sloe gin, nespresso machine, jelly beans for the mini-me and a sumptuous bed you almost needed a step ladder to get on – we were so pleased to be here for an overnight stay and dinner.
A little afternoon R&R in the leisure facilities – boasting a pool, sauna, steam room, whirlpool and more besides, our tummies were ready for The Great Western Restaurant.
Named as a nod to one of its previous custodians, The Great Western Railway, the 3AA rosetted establishment describes its offering as “Exclusive dining”. It is not exclusive, however, as far as accessibility goes – this classy art deco restaurant has a special but comfortable feel, that they believe is exclusive to them but open to all, residents or non-residents. Shapes a plenty with archways, columns, bevelled mirrors, chandeliers and oval chairs, it really has a feel of the period but modern at the same time with a good dose of attentive yet discreet service.
Although a two or three course a la carte was on offer, by the time we had been delighted with canapés, amuse bouche, breads with seaweed butter, and a pre-dessert palate cleanser (yes you read that right, a dessert before dessert!), we had been thoroughly fed.
Brixham crab and poached Cornish lobster with green apple, avocado, vanilla, buttermilk crunch was the start to the main trio of events. Tender shellfish married with refreshing accompaniments whilst the creamy vanilla and the purple potato crisps played with our tastebuds thanks to the sweet, smooth then salty and crunchy characteristics.
Recommended by the waitress due to its seasonality, roast Loin of Bovey Estate venison, caramelised shallot, chutney sauce, red leaves was my main, with roast fillets of John dory, roasted ruby artichokes, truffle, white bean broth and hazelnut pesto for the other side of the table. My meat from the estate was tender, with a rich glossy sauce and oozed colours of autumn, although I stole a bit of my sons’ kale which I rather enjoyed as an unplanned addition to my plate for both colour and the iron it provided to counteract the overall richness and sweetness. The fish was delicate, with expertly cooked accompaniments and a generous dose of truffle emitting from the smooth broth.
As the cheese trolley rolled in, and hubby felt like a kid in a sweet shop, I was delighted with a beautifully plated dessert of black fig baked alaska, lavender and honey. Finely sliced black figs were the base to a wonderfully piped squidgy meringue. Whilst it protected the creamy ice cream centre from the blowtorches finishing touches, it was dressed with delicate hints of lavender and sweet honey.
After an excellent night’s sleep, we timed the delicious breakfast offering to a tee, so we could enjoy the complimentary morning activities of collecting freshly laid eggs from the hens, meeting and cuddling the resident ferrets and watching a falconry display.
So it seems I needn’t have worried at all – Bovey Castle has it sussed. This fortified historical building is clearly well looked after, creating a subtly luxurious country retreat. With their ‘standard’ offering already pretty special, you can tailor your visit to be simply relaxing or active with their outdoor add-ons. Visit just to dine or book a night away as you won’t want to leave. Bovey Castle and its staff live and breathe hospitality; it certainly welcomes you into its country house hotel bosom.
Bovey Castle, Dartmoor National Park, North Bovey TQ13 8RE
*My review and photos were previously published in Crumbs Magazine December 2018, but are my intellectual property.*