Michael Caines’ MBE luxury dream finally takes flight with estuary estate at Lympstone Manor – by Lauren Heath

Down at the bottom of the garden, amongst the birds and the bees, is a hub of activity, and no it’s not the Poddington Peas…

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…It’s Devon’s very own 2 Michelin starred chef Michael Caines MBE. The Exeter-based chef, who left Gidleigh Park at the beginning of 2016 after 18 years, sowed the seeds of his vision a few years ago during his notice period, as he sunk his heart, soul and many great British pounds into what once was Courtlands House. This elegant Grade II listed Georgian mansion, that was a wedding and event venue, was in need of much love and life injecting into it to bring a slightly ugly duckling to its full potential as a graceful swan…and my oh my, he has done it.

I was thrilled to be invited along as part of a bijou group for a local press lunch and tour on what became a splendidly sunny Tuesday. After parking in the car park, with no building in sight, I meandered awkwardly in my heels along a wood chip path.  From the moment you emerge from the forest path, which is peppered with stone art work for your enjoyment and seasonal bluebells, the positioning of Lympstone Manor really comes into it’s own – the view that opens up to the right is SPECTACULAR.

As you enter into the spacious foyer the furniture, décor, details and warmth hit you from every corner; it took me a moment to soak it all up and I’m sure reception will get used to guests entering and not even realising they are straight ahead of them as the arriving guest breathes everything in.

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With sitting areas to the left and right, and a bar area right back leading onto the beautiful verandah with such detailed archways that run the length of the main building. Sit here with a coffee or a glass of something and just soak that view up.

If it’s a bit chilly and you can’t face the outdoors, the comfy and well filled lounge areas will keep you warm. I found it to be really well decorated, nothing was cold, bare or chintzy, just filled with warmth, comfort and exuding elegance and individual quirky seating in places.

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The theme and colour palette of the bedrooms is in keeping the blue calm of the Exe estuary along with rooms named after local birdlife and hand painted by local artist Rachael Toll.

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Prices start at approx. £230 per night, 5 of the 21 bedrooms having views to the rear of the property, but fear not as the interiors will make you enjoy your indoor surroundings. Plump cushions, fluffy carpets underfoot, accents of gold, complimentary Williams Chase laden gin trays, Nespresso coffee machines. L’Occitane toiletries (and the all essential GHD’s for the ladies) await you. Rooms also contain local Devon made beds from Enchanted House Beds and plush duvets from Devon Duvets.

The majority of the rooms have garden or estuary views; ranging in size, one suite even has double gold roll top baths whilst other suites boast glass fronted balconies, outdoor patios areas with fire pits, outdoor soak tubs and even private garden entrance.

For locals who don’t need an overnight expedition in the cosiness and exclusiveness of Lympstone Manor’s rooms, then the dining is where it’s at, with menus to tempt your budget when you are looking for something special.  Three dining rooms – Berry Head, Powderham and Mamhead, all with their own personalities and possibilities, adorned with Kurt Jackson artwork, are perfect for couples dining, groups celebrating or business deals over dinner. There’s even a wine room that will be available for wine tasting too, what’s not to like?

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And now to the food – as Michael quotes, “after love, there is only cuisine”…

We were very lucky to be treated to canapes on the veranda before indulging in 5 courses with matching wines.

Canapés of tuna tartare, a carrot creation and breaded quails egg with the essential runny yolk.

Beautifully made selection of breads to start before diving into the first course of Pipers Farm Chicken Terrine with truffle, hazelnuts and green bean salad.

Stephanie of Exploring Exeter was impressed with the vegetarian second course of Goat Cheese Mousse with jasmin raisins, apple and candied walnuts whilst I was delighted with Warm Salad of Cornish Lobster with mango and cardamom vinaigrette and curried mayonnaise.

Third course included Fillet of Darts Farm Beef, braised cheek, horseradish and shallot confit, celeriac, mushroom puree and red wine sauce whilst the vegetarian option was a Slow Cooked Duck Egg surrounded by peas, jersey royals, asparagus and black truffle.

Pre-dessert was a beautiful Apple Mousse, with green apple sorbet and vanilla foam followed by the main dessert of Poached Rhubarb with Hibiscus, lemon sponge, lemon curd and rhubarb sorbet.

All of the courses were beautiful in texture and flavour and all tasted absolutely divine. I was even allowed into Michael’s domain to see him plate up the desserts and, having worked in kitchens myself, I was impressed by the space with plenty of room for a growing brigade.

So if you are done salivating or I’ve got your tummy rumbling….shall I remind you of the view?

I must admit I was a little sad to leave, although I did so with a smile on my face.

After lounging around like lady (or man) of the manor, perhaps you’ll find the energy to explore part of the 28 acres, soon to be vineyard (with this spot being in the top 5% of suitability due to ideal conditions), or even escape on one of the Pashley bicycles available – with private access to the public cycle trail you could dip your toes in the estuary that makes this view and venue mouth-wateringly priceless. Unique, sumptuous, delectable – and it’s right here on our doorstep.

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Lympstone Manor

Courtlands Lane, Exmouth, EX8 3NZ

Telephone 01395 202040 or email welcome@lympstonemanor.co.uk

Find out more on their Website, Facebook or Twitter

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Cream Tea at Bovey Castle Hotel

Guest blogger, Ditch Townsend, tastes the opulence in central Devon

WH Smith bought the land on which his son built Bovey Castle in 1907. A luxuriantly lush hotel now, its granite-ballustraded rear terraces look out over part of their golf course, woodland, farm land on the hillside opposite, and even some moorland on its top. For less pleasant weather, the large, beautifully appointed dining room is available. On arrival, and make sure you’ve booked as the venue is a very popular site for afternoon tea, your car may well be handled by a valet. I was found a lovely site on the terrace, and settled down to wait for my cream tea.

Very freshly made and warm scones soon arrived, tall but small, one with raisins, one without; both sugar-dusted. Inside was a dense, soft, sweet, bready-biscuity mix. Outside they were swathed in very thin and crispy brown crust, almost as if they’d been buttered and lightly grilled all around; delightful anyway.

A locally made, quite tasty, homogeneously mixed strawberry jam was provided: I could have had something else, commercially produced, but I coped without (I always like a choice and hardly ever relish strawberry jam).

The cream was locally produced – very firm, like cold butter, despite the hot sun on it. Lightly yellowed, it had very little taste, but what it had was the gentle smokiness which I love and hardly ever stumble across.

As for the tea… A glorious choice of loose leafs; mine was an unusual Assam massala chai – rewardingly complex, and as suggested, best without milk (I know, I experimented for my readers’ benefit).

All round, a luxurious afternoon. What else would you expect for £17.00? (Just try not to get stuck with tedious table talk alongside!)

You can follow Ditch’s blog about his anonymous, self-funded, ‘mid-range’ cream tea exploits via www.devoncreamteas.info and be kept up-to-date on Twitter @DevonCreamTease. Like this one, he hopes to offer us occasional reviews about his ‘high-end’ cream tea peregrinations at Eating Exeter, so keep a look out. (NB: The ones here are complimentary, but neither paid for, nor edited by the venue.)

© Text and pictures by Ditch Townsend (13 July 2015)

Cream Tea at The Horn of Plenty Hotel

Guest blogger, Ditch Townsend, tastes the opulence in central Devon

Overlooking the Tamar valley from on high, and west into Cornwall, this small food-focused hotel offers you the use of the lawn for your helicopter (I declined, since I live within driving distance). It has sumptuous gardens, which naturally I took to, to take afternoon tea in the sun. Inside offered a small, purplish and comfortable upstairs library, or a more muted grey, pastel pink and purple downstairs lounge to take tea, should you get too hot, wet, or cold outside.

Two warm scones made their way to my table on a slate. Glazed on top, darkly brown all over, they had a lovely crunchy, but quite thin and slightly crumbly, crust – much like a good pork pie before the grease sets in. Like tree bark, an abrupt transition was encountered, to a yellowing, light, bready-biscuit texture. Neither scone component was sweet, nor could I pick out a strong flavour, but I enjoyed half a scone completely bare.

Three large rolls of Devon clotted cream were also on the slate, though in their own small bowl – probably straight from a hot dishwasher because the lowest parts were melted, but no further melting happened even in full sun. It was the texture and stiffness of cold margarine, quite pale but still a little yellow, and quite mild-tasting.

I asked for an alternative to strawberry jam if it was from the same supplier, and was rewarded with plenty of non-jelloid raspberry; tasty although from a large commercial maker.

Having been offered a choice of tea, I picked Earl Grey. Disappointingly, it arrived in a pot with bags. Furthermore, the bags were not fresh enough to release much flavour without spending ages stewing.

For £9.50, I wouldn’t fly in by helicopter just for this, but if you are nearby and happy to splash out, I think you are very likely to have an okay time.

You can follow Ditch’s blog about his anonymous, self-funded, ‘mid-range’ cream tea exploits via www.devoncreamteas.info and be kept up-to-date on Twitter @DevonCreamTease. Like this one, he hopes to offer us occasional reviews about his ‘high-end’ cream tea peregrinations at Eating Exeter, so keep a look out. (NB: The ones here are complimentary, but neither paid for, nor edited by the venue.)

© Text and pictures by Ditch Townsend (13 July 2015)

4 Slated for enjoyment

Cream Tea At The Prince Hall Hotel

Guest blogger, Ditch Townsend, takes tea for us on Dartmoor

On the site of a 15th century house, the current mansion was rebuilt in 1787 after being destroyed in the English Civil War. ‘The Hound of the Baskervilles’ was allegedly inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stay here. Being outside offers a stunning view (it can often be glimpsed through the windows), and the drawing room, with its wood burner, is comfortably and pleasingly, if eclectically, furnished.

The scone was cooked to order, so it took 10-15 minutes to come; an acrid oven cleaner-type smell kept intruding into the parlour, which was unpleasant. Anyway, I had enough time to explore my loose leaf Earl Grey tea choice, which arrived a few minutes after ordering: The bergamot oil only made the vaguest of ghostly swirls on the surface, with hints of orange blossom as it evaporated; I didn’t expect too much citrus and was justified when I sipped it. But it had a good flavour, with quite clear smokey traits. Plenty was supplied, with extra water, but without a removable in-pot filter, it stewed a little harshly.

Back to the largish, sugar-dusted scone which had now arrived. It was warm, obviously, with a glaze, and flexible but friable crust. The inside was a very pale yellow, somewhat like dense cake, but soft and not heavy or stodgy. It was also  soothingly fragrant and flavoured.

The Cornish cream came firm, as I like it, and in a reasonable volume, but cold and with a very mild taste that was only really accessible on its own.

The locally produced strawberry jam was all that was available. Be that as it may, it actually tasted strongly of strawberry rather than sugar, and wasn’t over-pectinated.

In conclusion, a single scone doesn’t comprise the base for the largest (nor even the norm) of Devon cream teas, but this was still a very pleasant session. It will cost you £8.00 to repeat.

You can follow Ditch’s blog about his anonymous, self-funded, ‘mid-range’ cream tea exploits via www.devoncreamteas.info and be kept up-to-date on Twitter @DevonCreamTease. He hopes to offer us occasional reviews about his ‘high-end’ cream tea peregrinations here at Eating Exeter, so keep a look out. (NB: The ones here are complimentary, but neither paid for, nor edited by the venue.)

© Text and pictures by Ditch Townsend (6 June 2015)


Cream Tea At The Magdalen Chapter – (4/5)

Guest blogger, Ditch Townsend, takes tea for two in Exeter

Tastefully renovated, decorated and furnished, we chose to sit in the light and comfortable lounge, but we could have used the darker, sparklier bar, the generously plush library, or a spacious patio. Music was soft, lilting, and predominantly instrumental, with some lounge jazz. But you just can’t escape the fact that the hotel is nesting in the armpit of one of Exeter’s more unpleasant main road junctions. Still, it’s a short walk up to the Roman wall and Cathedral, or down to the quayside.

We caught the scones freshly baked – one with raisins, one without. They were a moderate size, warm, sugar dusted and firm to touch and cut. But the crust wasn’t too thick or hard and was pleasingly biscuity and sweet. The centre was very light, soft, slightly yellowish, cakey, sweet and tasty. I couldn’t taste an underlying difference between the scones, and the raisins were few and far between: more for interest than flavour I guess.

The cream came from a Devon creamery in a good volume, was quite soft but lightly crusted, pale, and very mildly flavoured.

I’m not a lover of strawberry jam and it’s a pity when no pleasant choice is available (and I don’t mean plastic contingency breakfast blackcurrant or marmalade packets). Still, this one was quite manageable and not congealed with too much pectin.

Plenty of nicely mixed black leaf tea and extra hot water proved very refreshing and tasty, although I hadn’t come across the swivel-type tea strainer before (not posh enough 😉 ?) and nearly got tea leaves and tannin up my sleeve.

Overall, this has been a really pleasing experience (4/5). It’ll cost you £7.50.

You can follow Ditch’s blog about his anonymous, self-funded, ‘mid-range’ cream tea exploits via www.devoncreamteas.info and be kept up-to-date on Twitter @DevonCreamTease. He hopes to offer us occasional reviews about his ‘high-end’ cream tea peregrinations here at Eating Exeter, so keep a look out. (NB: The ones here are complimentary, but neither paid for, nor edited by the venue.)

© Text and pictures by Ditch Townsend (6 June 2015)