LYMPSTONE MANOR, DEVON.
Words Simon Gage
If you’re a famous Michelin-starred chef off the telly and you’re looking to do one of those hotel/fine-dining destinations they like to talk about on Saturday Morning Kitchen while they’re chopping something really finely with someone from Casualty sitting on a high bar stool watching and talking about their new play in the West End, then Lympstone Manor is the sort of place you’re looking for.
An early 1800s manor house dug down deep in Devon with a view over the Exmouth estuary and now its own vineyard (wine will be ready in three years or so, maybe six, we stopped listening), Lympstone Manor is old alright but with none of the inconveniences of old for you to have to contend with.
The furnishings are moderne – with an ‘e’ – slick and sleek: a big tub in the middle of the bedroom with an ornate gold mirror so you can tole between looking at yourself in the bath and that view of the boats bobbing about on the estuary out of huge sash windows; multiple dining rooms all with carpeting and mirrors and big sturdy dining chairs; a huge gin bar made of copper or something and waiting staff in white gloves even if they are only bringing your porridge the next day. The overall effect is luxe rather than grand.
But the big draw is clearly the food, especially the 8-course tasting menu, which comes in at a cool £140 and that’s without the £80-odd wine pairing that you can have with it. Very much a treat rather than a simple dinner, it’s everything you would expect from Michael Caines (the TV-famous chef, not the actor... there’s an ‘s’ on the end, notice). Even on a Sunday night, there are people, mainly straight couples from Richmond of an age where a £200+ dinner is affordable, who have travelled a very long way indeed to get here. That’s why it’s known as a ‘destination’.
In nice weather, everything migrates to terraces overlooking those overlooks and you can borrow some Hunter wellies (different colours available) to take the low-impact Ladies’ Walk or grab a code for the gate and go out onto the Foreshore keeping an eye out for the lavish array of birdlife around these parts. In fact the hotel has a whole bird theme going on in that all the rooms are named for birds around these parts and they even stash some binoculars in your chest of drawers that we assume were for birdwatching.
And tip: stay in the main house if you can. The other bit is an extension courtesy of its yesteryears as an old folk’s home, and no offence to our vintage friends but they didn’t exactly rope in Edwin Lutyens.