TRISH TAKES FIVE: By Trish Burgess
It’s fair to say you can’t escape narrow roads when driving in Devon. On our trips to see Rory over the last three years we have negotiated many such lanes, often lined with hedges or, more fear-inducing, stone walls.
I usually find breathing in at regular intervals helps enormously, combined with encouraging words from my co-driver: “You can get a bus through there, woman!”
Thankfully it was Dougie at the wheel when we turned off the A376 near Exmouth and drove a mercifully short distance (half a mile at the most) along a narrow lane to our hotel for the night, Lympstone Manor.
When the regular student pick-up weekend coincided with a wedding anniversary, we were lured by the idea of a luxurious night away before tackling a year’s worth of student detritus.
Lympstone Manor has only just opened and is the realisation of a dream for chef/patron Michael Caines MBE. The holder of two Michelin stars, Michael has a passion for excellent cuisine and, since 1994 when he became head chef at Gidleigh Park, he has remained in his home county of Devon.
The hotel is a Grade II-listed Georgian manor house overlooking the estuary of the River Exe and is truly stunning. An old-fashioned country house hotel brought bang up to date for 21st century expectations. Service is impeccable without a hint of stuffiness.
Our room had a four-poster bed dotted with ultra soft cushions to sink into; the carpets had a pile so thick you could see your own footprints in it. It may have had sumptuous decor to remind you of another era but the extra touches were totally contemporary. Out with the tea tray and in with a gin tray, complete with a lime to slice and bottles of Fever Tree tonic.
Most hotels offer hairdryers: this hotel also provides GHD rose gold straighteners. Fancy a ride around the estate? There are posh Pashley bicycles for guests to borrow. Along the corridor from our room was The Pantry where guests can help themselves to extra bottles of water, biscuits and small flasks of fresh milk for the in-room tea and coffee.
A bar made from copper sheets sits happily in a glamorous lounge with oyster-coloured sofas and birdcage-style chairs. I eyed up an impressive array of gins – well it was the day before World Gin Day so a tipple was de rigeur.
And the food? Heavenly. We chose the Estuary tasting menu: works of art on a succession of plates featuring lobster, scallop, lemon sole, turbot and sea bass. The two puds of apple mousse and coconut panna cotta were sensational. Even the petits fours which accompanied our coffee were so light and bursting with flavour, they deserved five stars of their own.
It was such a classy place and the dining room was so sophisticated that I just couldn’t grab my phone and take photos of my dinner. For once, I returned to a bygone age when the taste of good food lingers on the tongue and in the memory, not on Facebook.
• You can read Trish’s blog at www.mumsgoneto.co.uk