Review & Photography by Collette
At long last chef Michael Caines has seen his dream of his own luxury fine dining destination in Devon turned into a reality. An incredibly talented chef, Michael has been nurturing this dream for some time – a place where he can showcase his passion for food, the finest service and our beautiful county. So without further ado, here are my first impressions of Lympstone Manor…
We like many others, have known and enjoyed eating Michael’s food over the years, so when we got the chance to take advantage of Lympstone Manor’s soft launch offer (an overnight stay with dinner and breakfast) we jumped at the chance to give it a try. We arrived on a sunny Friday afternoon and from the moment we stepped through the doors and were met with a warm welcome, it was clear to me that this was going to be a very special place indeed.
The hotel was buzzing and Michael was most definitely in his element. We were lucky enough to get a tour of the fabulous wine room with its state-of-the-art wine emotion dispense system (which is really quite something) and the sparkly new kitchens. I briefly spoke with Tom Hine (executive chef) and some of the kitchen team, and I couldn’t wait to sample the food that was being expertly prepared..
From the very outset I was struck by the meticulous attention to detail. There’s a traditional elegance to the hotel’s interior (designed by MEraki Design Ltd) and yet guests are still treated to contemporary luxuries and cutting edge technology at every corner. The hotel is an example of craftsmanship at its finest, with hand painted wall murals and exquisite chandeliers in many rooms. With all this attention to detail, I could barely contain myself to find out what kind of dining experience lay ahead.
Each room in Lympstone Manor has been named after birds of the River Exe Estuary and feature hand-painted original artwork by local artist Rachel Toll. We were staying in the ‘Gull’ – a lovely duel aspect room that overlooks the gardens and with far reaching views of the estuary. The bedroom was beautifully dressed, with soft pastel colours throughout, and twin sofas set beside the fireplace and a lovely little table on top of which sat a bowl of fresh fruit. There was also a complimentary gin tray, tea and coffee making facilities and chef’s homemade biscuits on offer. Ladies you will be pleased to learn that Lympstone Manor even goes the extra mile by kindly remembering to pop a pair of GHDs in one of the drawers for our convenience! Our bathroom had his and her matching sinks, a roll top bath and separate shower, fluffy bathrobes and lovely squidgy slippers (which I’m wearing as I’m writing this, because yes.. we took them home).
Dinner is Served
Pre-dinner drinks were taken in the lounge, where we had a complimentary glass of Michael’s Blanc de Blanc Champagne and a selection of delicious canapés. We then took our seats in the Mamhead dining room – one of three dining rooms, the Powderham and Berry Head being the other two. Each dining room has its own distinctive style and once again, I really can’t fault the exquisite design.
I’ll admit that at first I wasn’t quite sure what to think. The room was fairly intimate, with only five tables of two and the lighting was quite subdued (lit only with a centre candelabra). However, once we had taken our seats and my eyes became accustomed to the light, I found the atmosphere to be very relaxing.
We decided to go all out and opted for the Signature Tasting Menu, complete with flight of wines. Please don’t ask me to the name of all the wines we consumed because embarrassingly I can’t remember them all! It should however suffice to say that they all complimented the courses very well.
Langoustine Cannelloni with Braised Fennel and Shellfish Sauce.
When I first took a bite of the soft sweet langoustine I was instantly hit with the fresh flavours of the sea. The pasta was so thin it allowed the meat to speak for itself and the shellfish sauce was fabulous. To be honest, we did use our bread to mop up the last of it – when no one was looking of course – as it was too good to leave!
Quail’s Egg Tartlet, Onion Confit, Black Truffle and Smoked Bacon and a Light Quail Jus
Just the thought of the quails egg tartlet is making me want to go back and eat it again. These little eggs just melted in one’s mouth and went brilliantly with the bacon and onion confit and truffle.
Cornish Salt Cod, Beesands Crab, Chorizo, Samphire, Tarragon and Lemon Purée
Perfectly cooked pieces of cod crowned with sweet crab and fragrant herbs – what’s not to like? The addition of the lemon elevated all the flavours and I enjoyed the addition of chorizo as it added something a little different to the plate.
Pan-Fried Duck Liver Orange Braised Chicory, Caramelised Walnuts and Marinated Raisins in an Orange Sauce
Wow. This was the tastiest liver dish I have ever eaten and I don’t say that lightly. It was so soft you could have eaten it with a spoon and the caramelised walnuts were sweet, crisp and tasty. We both agreed that this dish was the highlight of the evening, Stunning!
Fillet of Darts Farm Beef, Braised cheek, Horseradish and shallot confit, Celeriac purée, Mushrooms and red wine sauce
Michael has always cooked the perfect beef for us and tonight was with no exception. The braised beef was tender and had a rich deep flavour, reminiscent of mum’s roast beef joints back in the good old days, when meat seemed to taste fabulous all the time.. Kudos to Darts Farm Butchers!
Apple mousse, Green apple sorbet, Vanilla Foam
This penultimate course was served in a cute pointed cup, with a light and refreshing apple mouse, topped with smooth vanilla foam and a thin apple slice. It was a lovely way to cleanse your palette and I’m very frustrated that I didn’t manage to get a photo!
Chocolate Orange Confit Mousse and Orange Confit
Our final course was very impressive indeed and was reminisce of a Heston Blumenthal creation. I plunged my spoon into a playful little orange only to find that it was filled with a light orange chocolate. This, paired with the confit was not at all overpowering and the flavours were very subtle and enjoyable.
After a wonderful dining experience we rounded up our wines and took our coffee and tea in the lounge, together with some nice petit fours that consisted of nougat, fruit jelly and mini sponge cake. The perfect way to end a near perfect meal.
Without sounding anymore sycophantic than I already have, we thoroughly enjoyed our experience at Lympstone and we’re confident that this is going to not just be one of the best foodie destinations in Devon – but perhaps even in the UK! We wish Michael all the best with his stunning hotel and we can’t wait to dine there again.
My husband also held a two day corporate event at the hotel during its soft launch (which included a three course lunch for some 130 guests) and that also went exceptionally well. So if you’re reading this and you’re wondering if it’s worth forking out the money to give Lympstone Manor a try, I say do it! It’s one for the foodie bucket list.