Hotel Review: Lewtrenchard Manor Hotel, Nr Dartmoor in Devon
With a history as rich as a chocolate dessert, expect a stay at Lewtrenchard Manor in Devon to fill you with fond memories and a will to step away from many modernities to enjoy a relaxing and peaceful stay with a top notch dinner thrown in for good measure.
Everywhere you wander you’ll spot a piece of tangible history that makes you feel part of something quite special, especially when you learn of the history and the fact the properties was listed in the Doomsday book. Portraits hang on every wall and each person depicted in the golden frames is connected to the manor house in some way over the course of it’s history, whether they have owned it, worked there or have a close connection to either.
An original Elizabethan ceiling that was rescued from a nearby house hangs in the upstairs gallery, which is decorated in a mixture of Elizabethan and Jacobean styles and was created in Victorian times. The area leads to some of the manor’s 14 individually decorated rooms and contains ornate pianos, dark, decorative furniture and a few more portraits.
Owners throughout history have all brought with them an interesting tale to tell. An admiral of the fleet, dead brides, king’s confidantes, an arctic explorer, gun fights, gamblers and hidden tunnels make up some of the history over the last seven centuries. Main work to the house that stands today was undertaken in the 1800s by owner, Sabine Baring-Gould, a father of 15 who funded much of the renovations through sales of his novels. Some said novels can be found in the library, which holds a fantastic selection of books more than 100 years old.
The ornate ballroom with blue ceiling and intricate fireplace and plasterwork would offer up the ideal place for those wanting to celebrate an occasion in a grand setting. The detailed gold panelling and pillar design that frames the fireplace are a little too much for me but it is in keeping with the grandeur of the rest of the manor.
Other rooms to enjoy in the hotel include the breakfast room, which is adorned with dark wood flooring and wall panelling with a large open fireplace and thick gold and red curtains. The bar has comfortable sofas in classically styled fabrics, which sit in front of another decorative fireplace and the main reception room, which contains many previously mentioned features (fireplaces, sumptuous fabrics and furniture and portraits) as well as stained glass windows and a chandelier or two.
As previously mentioned, the manor’s 14 bedrooms and suites are all individually decorated and they really do offer something different. All have the classic feel that echoes the rest of the house but also hold the modern amenities that you would hope for in a luxury hotel. We stayed in ‘Prince Rupert,’ a deluxe king size room, which was very spacious and offered up wonderful views, through the large windows, of the picturesque gardens as designed by Walter Sorel.
Our large bed was very comfortable and it was a real struggle to get out of in the morning – I was very cosy! Dark wood furniture, pale green walls and red fabrics made up the elegant room, while a large bathroom with separate shower and 2 sinks was floor to ceiling tiled, with a green and white tiled floor – a little garish for my liking but spacious nonetheless.
Some of the other rooms have a more contemporary feel – newer bathrooms and bedrooms decorated in neutral colours (but always with a classic feature) – while others again offer a more classic stay with wood panelled walls or an ornate original four poster bed including one once previously owned by Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I.
The secluded hotel offers the ideal place to escape. Not far from Dartmoor, there are wonderful walks to enjoy beyond the pretty gardens, the towns of Tavistock and Okehampton are nearby and the hotel itself put on an array of events to enjoy throughout the year. From a South African wine tasting evening to a jazz lunch to themed dinners to a murder mystery evening, there is often something to entice you back to the delights of Lewtrenchard Manor.
I was lucky enough to enjoy dinner at Lewtrenchard Manor with my guest, Nick, so after a well earned glass of Prosecco (aren’t they always?!) and a sampling of Tempura monkfish with tomato salsa, cheese straws and mixed nuts and olives in the bar, we made our way through to the dining room to feast among ornate wood panelling and decoratively framed portraits. A crackling open fire welcomed us as did red velvet chairs and thick red curtains. The room had high ceilings and was low lit – some might describe the décor as old-fashioned but I prefer the word classic here. When you book a stay or meal at Lewtrenchard Manor, you are buying into a piece of the history of the place and that is what you get to enjoy while you’re there. Modern décor just wouldn’t suit the story that goes with the manor.
Once our bums were on seats and menus pored over, we made our choices and were brought a pre starter of spiced lobster bisque followed shortly by our starters. I had chosen a white truffle risotto with poached hen’s egg and English asparagus and Nick had opted for the pot roasted breast of squab pigeon, celeriac rice-less risotto, poached pear and Devon blue cheese. My choice was creamy and gentle in texture with little flavoursome cheese crisps on top and packed in flavour with the truffle and rich, creamy egg. The risotto was thick and creamy and the delicate elements were presented beautifully in a shallow bowl. Nick described his starter as a hearty dish with rich leg meat and lean breast meat with a powerful kick of blue cheese and sweet, succulent pear to complement this.
We both opted for the Dexter beef fillet Wellington for our main course, which was served with creamed potato, ale braised shallot, purple sprouting broccoli and a red wine jus. The presentation and finesse of the dish reflected our previous plates, however, neither of our dishes were hot. The beef was of excellent quality and the shallot added a lovely sweet flavour, while the jus was very tasty and left us wanting more of the delicious flavour. The potato was tasty and smooth and Nick commented that it was a classic British dish done well, it would have been pretty perfect if the food had been hot.
We also thoroughly enjoyed a bottle of 2012 South African Shiraz (Stablemate by Excelsior) and thought it went very well with our food. A delicious palate cleanser of lemon posset and orange granita was brought to us before our desserts and I loved the delightfully smooth posset with the sharp and crunchy granita – yum!
To end our meal we opted for some delightful desserts, which were the pièce de résistance. Nick had a banana crémeux with caramelised hazelnuts, passion fruit and banana sorbet, while I presided over an olive oil and pistachio cake, raspberry gel and yogurt and honey sorbet. They both looked incredible upon arrival and proved just how creative chef Matthew Peryer and his team are with their menu. Nick had a delicious chocolate parfait portion, which was lovely and rich and was cut through nicely with the sweet, tangy passion fruit. The plate held a great mixture of flavours, textures and techniques. My dessert looked incredible with vibrant colours in the red raspberries and green cake. The cake was in pieces and were spongy, airy and moist, while the yogurt and honey sorbet was really refreshing and cool and the raspberries sweet and tangy, which balanced out the dish. The desserts were very enjoyable and were put together with great finesse.
We were so full from all the lovely food that, despite our best efforts and retiring to one of the reception rooms, we just couldn’t finish our lovely selection of petit fours so we enjoyed a hot drink and went to bed.
For a little more luxury you can opt for a surprise seven course tasting menu, utilising ingredients from the kitchen garden. And to step the experience up a notch, there is a chef’s table that you can dine at called Purple Carrot, which has three TV screens looking into the kitchen giving you prime viewing of the action in the kitchen.
At breakfast I was still going from dinner the night before so I opted for porridge with clotted cream and honey, while Nick enjoyed smoked salmon and scrambled egg and we both helped ourselves to juices and extras from the buffet such as pain au chocolat (me) and yogurt with berries (Nick).
In a nutshell
This dog-friendly hotel gives you the opportunity to not only experience a stay away from modern day stresses but to place you somewhere with a fascinating history that showcases something from each century of it’s existence.
Natasha Heard was hosted by Lewtrenchard Manor, a member of Pride of Britain Hotels – a collection of 48 privately-owned independent British hotels. Midway between Devon’s North and South coasts, the atmospheric Jacobean manor house features beautiful stained glass windows, stunning gardens and exquisite bedrooms. A one-night stay costs from £155 per room/£77.50 pp (two sharing) with a full English breakfast or £245 per room/£122.50 pp (two sharing) on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis. To book call Pride of Britain Hotels (0800 089 3929, www.prideofbritainhotels.com).