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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Be one of the first to experience Lympstone Manor, Devon with 40% discount

Lympstone Manor, the most eagerly awaited hotel launch in 2017, is offering the limited opportunity to experience the hotel and restaurant at 40% off during its soft opening period from the 20th March to the 2nd April.

This soft opening will set the stage for Lympstone Manor’s grand opening, which follows on Monday 3rd April, and promises to be an outstanding showcase of the hotel.

Michael Caines MBE, Chef Patron and one of the UK’s most acclaimed chefs, has spent the past two years personally overseeing the complete transformation of the Georgian grade II listed mansion overlooking the Exe estuary into a luxury country house hotel and restaurant.

Dining at Lympstone Manor will be an exceptional experience in every sense. Michael will express his vision of modern British cuisine that is fresh, seasonal, original and exciting. Utilising the bounty of the Exe estuary, East Devon and the South West, his cuisine will be matched by wines selected from a world class cellar that contains over 600 bins.

Guests can choose from seven distinctive room categories including estuary suites, garden suites and standard guest rooms – all of which are designed in hues to mirror the surrounding estuary.

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The soft launch period will allow a limited number of guests to experience the hotel at 40% discount (room and food menus). This will enable those fortunate to get a booking (hotel as well as non-residential dining) to enjoy the Lympstone Manor experience, while allowing the team to train under the experienced senior management team.

To be one of the first to experience Lympstone Manor, call their reservations team on 01395 202040 or email reservations@lympstonemanor.co.uk.

*The Lympstone Manor soft launch offer*

Lympstone Manor are offering guests 40% off rooms as well as the food bill at lunch and dinner for residents and non-residents. Food offer is for the food bill only excluding drinks. Offer runs from 20 March – 2 April 2017 inclusive.

The Magdalen Chapter, Magdalen Road

Being a student means that I don’t often have the chance to visit fine dining restaurants, not just due to the high prices but as the vast majority of my friends are also students, the opportunity doesn’t pass me by all too often. So when I was invited to lunch at The Magdalen Chapter, one of Exeter’s most exclusive restaurants, for an old work friends hen party, I couldn’t wait to sample the food.

The first things you notice upon arriving at the hotel is how unlike a hotel it actually is! Entering the former eye hospital you’re first greeted by some amazing contemporary art work, which spans the extent of the hotel. My favourite piece was a fantastic collage of a spoon made from beauty advertisements, which I was advised by one of the staff, depicted the way in which women were spoon fed societal values by the media. I thought this was great, supporting original artists and something a little different!

The hotel cradles a beautiful court yard, complemented by the glorious Devon sunshine, which is over looked by their stylish, glass panelled restaurant. As we were a large party we had a private room at the front of the building which was modern and spacious. The room held a wide wooden table which was a perfect fit for the 15 of us, meaning we could all interact and no one was left stranded at the end of a table.

We kicked off the festivities with drinks in the lounge bar. As the sun was shining I opted for the customary summer Pimms (£5). The tall drink was served with freshly sliced strawberries, cucumber and mint, which, I know this may sound silly, made the glass really refreshing and flavoursome, opposed to some bars which will chuck in fruit which you can tell has been sitting around for days. Most of my fellow diners chose exciting looking cocktails (£8) from the extensive menu which included an exotic range of fruity concoctions.

After a few moments exploring the grounds with drinks we were shown to our seats in our private room by our server for the day. The service was brilliant and was one of the elements of the day which really stood out for me. Our water glasses were repeatedly filled, nothing was too much to ask but also they weren’t too over bearing which I have found in the past in more expensive restaurants. We were left to enjoy ourselves with our own space, without feeling we were being watched over.

The lunch menu was concise but included a trail of appetising flavours. At first I was tempted by the monkfish stew but ended up going for the spinach and ricotta gnocchi served with roasted tomatoes and courgette, topped with Parmesan and pine nuts (£12). After ordering the plates arrived at our tables within 20 minutes. Whilst waiting I tried the bread on the table which was beautiful in itself as the crust was baked with herbs and sea salt.

EE RecommendsThe gnocchi dish was absolutely delicious. The spinach and ricotta gnocchi was slightly gooey from the cheese so had a pleasing texture and was complemented well by the crunch of the courgette and pine nuts. I was apprehensive that the gnocchi may of been a little dry as it wasn’t served with a sauce,  however the juice from the plump cherry tomatoes served that purpose well. My fellow guests meals all looked and sounded great as well. The flat iron steak served with chips and roast tomato was cooked to perfection, and the roast chicken topped with chickpeas and chard smelt delicious.

I honestly couldn’t fault The Magdalen Chapter for the food, service or even price. Although many of the meals were way beyond my normal price range (my gnocchi was modestly priced compared to other dishes) I believe the excellent quality of food and first class service make it worth while. I would highly recommend the restaurant for a special occasion and I will be pestering my boyfriend to take me for a nights stay in the gorgeous hotel until he breaks!

To read more from Kathryn, head over to http://adayinmyshoeskathryn.blogspot.co.uk/ and subscribe to her wonderful blog 🙂

http://www.themagdalenchapter.com/

Magdalen Street, Exeter, EX2 4HY

Telephone 01392 281000
Email: magdalen@chapterhotels.com

 

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Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club: Part 1

In the life of a food blogger, the chance to go outside of the box is rare.  But recently we were given the opportunity to visit one of Devon’s most luxurious destinations to experience what happens between the walls and hedges at The Highbullen Hotel, Golf & Country Club at Chittlehamholt in North Devon.

The hotel is steadily becoming one of the top destinations in North Devon and its easy to see why.  Its remote location, 18-hole USGA specification golf course and superior views, and taking in Exmoor, Dartmoor and down the Mole Valley, make Highbullen the ideal getaway for urbanites, golfers and a leisure destination for locals too.  It has recently been featured in The North Devon JournalDevon Life and Horse & Countryside after its 2013 renovation.

Built in 1879 by Exeter architect William Moore, its architecture is strongly influenced by Phillip Webb who was considered the father of Arts & Crafts architecture.  Built from stone quarried on the 125 acre estate, it remained the Moore family home for forty years.
In the Second World War it housed an evacuated girls private school, then in 1963 it was bought by Hugh and Pam Neil who turned it in to a foodie destination that attracted some top names such as Delia Smith, who became a regular visitor to The Cellar Bar in the seventies.  Some of Pam Neil’s (the founding chef) recipes appeared in Delia’s recipe books, and after their children Collette and Martin Neil (the actor) took over the reins, it continued its popularity as a destination for good food and its fantastic remote location.  Legend has it that Laurence Olivier used to pretend to be a barman and serve guests who didn’t recognise who he was.

In 2012 it was bought by the timeshare pioneer Frank Chapman and now with the help of his daughter Susie Gowenlock, they have reincarnated the Arts & Crafts glory days from the bottom up.  After a £1.4 million pound refurbishment, the hotel has risen from the ashes and now they’re ready to show exactly what luxury is all about.

You could be forgiven for walking in and that you have stepped through the doors in to someone’s front room, or you are about to take a tour around a National Trust property.  The ‘hotelness’ of the decor is minimal, and the staff who looked after reception were all about smart casual, no stuffy uniforms, no feeling that we were anything but welcome.  We were greeted by the Restaurant Manager, Douglas Muir who would give us a tour of the estate but first we needed to settle in to our room.  And boy…what a room!

There are 36 rooms dotted across the estate that are bookable, 11 in The Manor House which are all given names to reflect the history of the room.  Each room is designed to be individual, classically styled with a modern twist and we were lucky enough to stay in the Chinoiserie Room which overlooked the croquet lawn and the golf course.  With a turn to the left, you could see down the valley to the hills beyond.  Wherever you go in Highbullen, you cannot escape the views.

The four poster bed in white and gold was massive, double king or emperor size maybe? I could finally realise the joy of actually getting lost in a bed. A fine large bathroom and a large antique wardrobe with a wall mounted LCD TV topped off a very impressive room.

Douglas, the Restaurant Manager took us over to The Pavilion to show us some of the facilities that the Highbullen offers.  We also got a chance to talk to Head Chef Dean Griffin who was preparing to cook Fish & Chips for a party of 35 golfers!   Dean was recently appointed Head Chef and oversees the food at Highbullen’s five food outlets.  “It’s all about getting the local community on board” Dean mentions when I ask him about the ingredients and sources that he is able to use in this part of the world.  Fish comes fresh from a seller in St Ives, dairy and vegetables come from sources close by and bread is baked, where possible, on site.

The Pavilion includes a fully equipped gym, swimming pool, sauna, jacuzzi and bar area called The Club Bar that offers reasonably priced pub style food.  All of which are all open to locals as well, as are the restaurants and the golf course itself.  And Highbullen wouldn’t be a Country Club if you couldn’t shoot (clay and live), fish, play croquet and tennis.  The remote location is perfect for walkers who want to walk around the surrounding countryside or even Dartmoor or Exmoor.
The Pavilion hosts functions and an ever increasing amount of wedding evenings/receptions  in The Brasserie, but also acts as the place to go for the Sunday Carvery including the ‘Dip n Dine’ where the cost of a swim and the carvery is included together.  Douglas mentioned that Highbullen Hotel is in the middle of building The Forum which will allow these sorts of functions to take place separately and will allow more guests and the creation of a Health Centre which will greatly widen the hotel’s appeal.

And you can’t accuse Highbullen of not trying to widen their appeal.  Recently they created two new packages that would certainly appeal to dog-lovers and bike-lovers alike.

Hounds at Highbullen lets dog owners bring along their dog and provides the following:

  • In-room dog basket with blanket and lead
  • Two course “Dogs Dinner” of Chicken Casserole followed by Sirloin Steak with Vegetables and Jus
  • Doggie bag of toys and treats tailored to size of dog (small, medium or large) including brush, toy, treats, bag for waste and a tennis ball
  • Exmoor walking map
  • Two nights for two owners on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis

And their Cycling Package looks like this:

  • 2 night’s accommodation
  • Dinner each night in the Devon View Restaurant
  • A hearty Devon breakfast each morning
  • Cycle routes
  • Cycle clean
  • Packed lunch on one day and 2 £10 lunch vouchers to use on the other
  • 2 rounds of golf

Our tour took us next to The Cellar Bar and The Devon View Restaurant.  Like the rest of the hotel, these have both been given a makeover and look fabulous.  Unfortunately The Devon View Restaurant was set-up for the wedding the next morning, but happily enough The Cellar Bar was in full swing.  In my next post I’ll talk more about the food and the breakfast with photos and me writing the word ‘mmmm’ a lot.