Review by Collette Dyson
You can generally get the feel of a place by the kind of greeting you receive on your arrival. Well, it’s safe to say that the warm welcome we received from staff at the Ilslington Hotel was absolutely lovely and stayed with us throughout our visit.
Our stay at Ilsington County House Hotel was on the night before New Year’s Eve and we were keen to make the most of their special dinner and casino evening. Unfortunately, we arrived a little too late to make the most of their spa facilities (which looked very impressive) but we did get the chance to start the evening by putting our feet up in the lounge with a magazine or two.
Dinner was served in the Islington’s restaurant – which boasts lovely panoramic views of the surrounding countryside – and included live music from a talented local pianist..
Rabbit and Root Vegetable Stew
A rabbit stew probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you envisage a starter, but both my partner and I opted for this dish. Finely chopped pieces of melt-in-the-mouth rabbit were served in a creamy sauce, topped with ginger and spring onion dumplings. It was rather like an indulgent risotto, with just a hint of liquorish flavour in there somewhere. We both loved this dish and would order it again.
Seared Loin of Venison
Two pieces of buttery soft venison were served with a crisp slow-cooked venison fritter, dauphine potato, salsify braised savoy cabbage, brûléed red onion, pickled chestnuts and sloe gin gastrique. This was a delicious plate and surprisingly simple considering its many complex elements.
Breast of Guinea Fowl
The guinea fowl breast was soft and juicy, served with a crispy wing, braised pearl barley, girolles, creamy leeks and fried potato. This was a brilliant follow on to our starter and was beautifully presented.
I had one scoop of chocolate sorbet – which was subtle and accompanied by a piece of soft, decadent chocolate – and another scoop of sorbet which was a combination of raspberry, rose and lychee. The latter was refreshing and not dissimilar to Turkish delight – definitely something I would order again.
Warm Spiced Treacle cake
The warm treacle cake was light and spicy, with just a touch a ginger. This was paired with apple & pear as well as a toffee popcorn ice-cream. My husband thought this was a delicious combination and even though the portion looked rather large, my husband managed to eat it all with ease.
The after dinner casino evening was purely for fun, of course. We were all given £20,000 in monopoly money to try our luck on the blackjack and roulette tables. A fun night was had by all – with the top three high scoring winners collecting their well-earned prizes the next morning at breakfast.
Devon has its fair share of fabulous chefs and Mike O’Donnell (Head Chef at the Ilslington Hotel) is no exception. Mike has been with the hotel for over two decades and keeps on producing delicious menus season after season. If you are looking for somewhere relaxing to unwind that serves fabulous food – with the added advantage of a spa – then you simply must give this friendly, family run hotel a visit.