Hotel Review: Lympstone Manor, Exmouth in Devon
In the fine dining world of Devon (and beyond), the name, Michael Caines, is synonymous with exceptional cuisine. Heading up the kitchen at Gidleigh Park in the green, picturesque county for 17 years (and gaining 2 Michelin Stars during that time) before venturing out and realising his dream at Lympstone Manor, Caines is well-known for plating up classic, artful dishes to delight diners.
I had sampled Michael’s cooking not long before he left his previous establishment and I was certainly excited to see what he and his team were producing at Lympstone, especially following the great success the restaurant had already seen in its first few years. Awarded a Michelin star within 6 months of opening and now holding, no less than, 5 AA rosettes, this 5 star Georgian Manor is certainly a place worth travelling to, and it’s not all about the food.
The grade II listed house holds 21 guest rooms and suites – all named after and inspired by different estuary birds – the connection being the glorious views looking down to head of the Exe estuary from the secluded location near Exmouth. The classic and elegant interiors reflect the age of the property but are bought to life with oversized artworks, which I was happily distracted by, and found were hand-painted originals by local artist, Rachel Toll.
On arrival at the exclusive property I certainly got the wow factor with the gorgeous location and couldn’t wait for my Lympstone experience to begin. After a most warm welcome I headed straight for the lounge for a glass of white wine and an hour well spent lazily taking in the plush surroundings inside and out. The hotel holds a bar and lounge areas, spacious reception with sofas and the impressive selection of awards on show, very pretty grounds with a vineyard and, of course, the restaurant.
Before I could sample the cuisine I was eager to see what my home for the night looked like. Accessible from outside, The Avocet – one of the grand estuary suites – held its own patio area with corner seating, a fire pit, views of the perfectly manicured lawns and its own egg-shaped bath. Inside, shades of blue met with teak furniture and gold accents to create a calming, yet glamorous, palette in which to reside in.
Cleverly partitioned but open plan, the suite had a lounge area at the entrance, through the patio doors, which led to the carpeted bedroom area, a dressing area and spacious bathroom at the back. Gorgeous furnishings and fabrics made every moment of rest a comfortable one, there was a gin tray and fruit platter to enjoy, L’Occitane toiletries to use, a double sink and also glorious gold roll top bath to make use of as well as TVs, lots of wardrobe space, images of the avocet on the walls, decorative lighting and interesting ornaments dotted about.
When the evening came around I eagerly headed back to the lounge for a couple of glasses of Champagne and a peruse of the menu, while sampling some lovely canapés. I think this is one of my favourite parts of a meal as the canapés can offer an insight into what’s to come and if they are good, I get excited. I was presented with a sweetcorn espuma with chopped almond; lamb fillet; and smoked salmon with dill – this was the first time I’ve had a piece of lamb fillet on a canapé and I thought it was gorgeous, melt in the mouth, and I’m not a huge fan of the meat usually. The salmon and sweetcorn were wonderful too and I felt if this was, in fact, a sign of things to come, I was going to be very happy at the end of the meal.
There are three rooms to dine in, for dinner I had a high single-seater booth with a round table with my guest sat opposite me. In our dining room there were one and two-seater Champagne-coloured button-back booths, six in total in the room, and designed so that you can have privacy while dining. The room was low lit with small sculptures, a fireplace and pale watercolour-effect tree wallpaper, which all made for a rather comfortable setting for the evening.
A basket of warm breads were brought to our table and all had a soft inner and deliciously crisp outer. We had opted for the signature tasting menu with wine pairings and our first wine of a 2016 Pinot Gris from Alsace was poured and tasted lovely. This was to complement the raviolo of Lyme Bay lobster, which was served with savoy cabbage, girolle a la Grecque and a lobster bisque. When the dish arrived the divine smell of the bisque got to me first and I was salivating. The delicate pasta held some gorgeous flavours, the cabbage added colour and texture and I savoured each element that made up this sumptuous dish.
A duck liver terrine arrived next and, served with a truffled green bean salad, Madeira jelly and a glass of 2018 Godello from Spain, this was a very neat looking dish. The creamy, rich flavour of the duck was uplifted by tiny cubes of jelly, which melted on the tongue and the minerally wine added to this perfectly. I’m not sure that the salad added very much and two types of bread were possibly too much, a little sprinkling of nuts would have made this a ten out ten dish.
Next up was salted cod with lemon puree, samphire and a chorizo foam with a glass of 2017 Riesling. This was another tasty dish, which also looked and smelled great, the fish had a great saltiness, which was complemented so well by the lemon and warming chorizo flavours. It’s a colourful plate of food with a variety of textures and flavours and served on a dish, which resembled a shell. I can’t fault any of the wine pairings so far, they have been great choices, the food had all been flavoursome and fantastically presented and I could easily devour them all again.
The next course was some thinly sliced Cornish duckling with orange braised chicory, anise and orange scented jus. The classic combination of duck and orange was in full force here with the citrus being calmed with the slight savoury, bitterness of the chicory. The Argentinian red worked so well here too and it had lots of flavours such as bramble, anise and liquorice to complement the flavours on the plate.
More red meat and and wines were to come with the Darts Farm lamb, which was served with a smoked aubergine puree, ratatouille, glazed grelot onions and paired with a 2009 Rioja Reserva. A very rich and flavoursome bunch of ingredients with a fragrant herb crust coating the beautiful rare and delicate lamb meat, smokey aubergine and roasted garlic making a welcome appearance.
A cheese course came next and what arrived was a simple selection of English cheese including Cornish Yarg, Somerset Brie, Helford White, Nottinghamshire Blue and a goats’ cheese offering. A lovely selection with a few crackers and grapes to show that English cheese are some of the best there are.
The first of the desserts was an apple mousse , which came with a green apple jelly, apple sorbet and vanilla foam. A glass of 2017 Spatlese Riesling was paired with this and was delicious as the sommelier had described it to be, with similar apple flavours. Simple flavours and a nice combination of apple and vanilla made this a sweet and enjoyable dish.
The final course was one I have sampled before and relished in trying again. The white chocolate candle arrived lit, which you have to blow out, remove the wick and hand to the waiter or waitress. A little bit of theatre to complete the meal and a tasty one too. The candle contains a tasty mousse and a raspberry sorbet on the side with rose petals and raspberries to finish. Petit fours were taken in the lounge – not that I could really fit them in – and I spent the next few days remembering and marvelling and what a delightful meal it really was.
IN A NUTSHELL
The main draw to Lympstone Manor has to be the restaurant, which serves up some pretty special food. However, the moment you arrive, you realise this isn’t just a restaurant it’s a gorgeous Georgian escape in a secluded location with incredible view to witness too, it just happens to hold a rather fantastic restaurant in its walls.
Address: Courtlands Ln, Exmouth EX8 3NZ
Phone: 01395 202040
Image credit at the very top of the article: Mark Ashbee