Visit: 1 and 2 March 2023, dinner for two people, and lunch 2 March 2023
Award: 1 Michelin star
Michael Caines opened Lympstone Manor in 2017. This luxury country house hotel located in Exeter, East Devon, is set in a Grade II Georgian mansion with 21 guestrooms and suites, three individual dining rooms to enjoy the Michelin starred cuisine, and an impressive wine cellar that contains over 600 bins. There are 28 acres of gardens, grounds, and parkland, with a vineyard facing the Exe estuary. Three different varieties of vines (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) were first planted in May 2018, to make their own sparkling wine which will be ready for the first tasting later this year. There is also an outside swimming pool, next to the Pool House restaurant and bar.
In the restaurant, you could choose from an a la carte menu (£175 for appetiser, starter, main, and dessert courses, with coffee and petit fours), or the Estuary Tasting menu (£215) with accompanying wines (£135) or prestige wines (£270), or the Signature Tasting menu (£225) with accompanying wines (£150) or prestige wine selection (£300).
On our first evening we ordered from the a la carte menu. We were served three canapes in the bar – a truffle choux bun, a green bean tartlet with madeira jelly and hazelnut puree, and a smoked salmon sable with trout roe and orange. The truffle choux bun was fabulous.
The appetizer was a Comte cheese tortellini, crisp fried onion, and a spinach velouté which was excellent. We ordered the starter of duck liver terrine with a rhubarb and lemongrass glaze on top, a diced rhubarb and celery tartlet, candied hazelnut, pickled rhubarb, and a rhubarb puree on the side. This was served with a small bread bun. This was a good parfait, although the many different rhubarb textures might have overwhelmed it.
We tried the main course Darts Farm free range chicken, with stuffed morels, celeriac and truffle puree, with a chicken and Madeira jus. This was excellent; the chicken was precisely cooked and very moist with great flavour.
The main course Darts Farm beef fillet was served with celeriac puree, boulangère potato, shallot and horseradish confit, and a red wine jus. This was an exceptional dish. The beef was very tender and cooked perfectly, the layered boulangère potato melted in your mouth, and the red win jus was packed with beef flavour.
We opted for the selection of British cheeses (including the ash coated Driftwood goats cheese, Sharpham brie, Curworthy Devon Oak hard cheese, and Hereford Blue cheese), served with quince jelly (optional £25). The chesses were all in very good condition. For dessert I selected the rhubarb souffle, with rhubarb and vanilla sorbet.
On our second evening we chose from the Estuary tasting menu. We were served similar canapes in the bar to those from the previous evening. The first course was Lyme Bay crab, served with yuzu ponzu jelly, avocado, pickled turnip and caviar.
Next, was a roasted Lyme Bay scallop, served with confit lemon, Oscietra caviar, chorizo and red pepper. The scallop was perfectly cooked and perfectly complemented with the sauce.
The barbequed sea bream was served with broccoli puree, candied almonds, smoked yoghurt, buttermilk, was served with a Vadouvan (an Indian curry blend with added aromatics such as shallots and garlic) beurre noisette. The sea bream with light curry sauce was excellent.
The next course was lightly salted cod, sitting on parsnip puree, and topped with Oscietra caviar, served with a chicken and vanilla jus.
The main curse was a superb butter poached Cornish turbot, with a scallop and trompette mousseline, covered in grated black truffle, nectarine, roasted leek, and a chive and truffle butter sauce. The fish was perfectly cooked and served with a very tasty sauce, and topped truffle! This was a very accomplished main course.
The pre-dessert was a rhubarb mousse, rhubarb and lemongrass jelly, and lemongrass foam. The main dessert was a dark chocolate fondant, mandarine sorbet, and Earl Grey tuille. The fondant had a liquid centre, and its richness was nicely balanced with the acidity in the sorbet.
The Estuary Tasting menu was exceptional. The high-quality ingredients, the considerable talents of the chefs, and the top drawer service, were all outstanding.
We also visited the Pool House Restaurant for lunch. We ordered the cod fish cake with Thai sauce and roquette salad, which was very good; the Lyme Bay fish goujons served with fries, minted peas and tartare sauce, which was slightly over; and a side of tomato and red onion salad. Lunch was pleasant and the restaurant surroundings and view across the pool down to the vineyard and estuary was magnificent.
We stayed two nights. The bedroom was of a high standard as you would expect. Breakfasts were superb.
This was a relatively expensive break, but the food was outstanding, the hotel amenities excellent, and the quality of the staff and the service was very high. I’m very much looking forward to the release of the first sparkling wine and will return to celebrate!
The Pool House Restaurant
The Hotel and Grounds
Michael Caines studied catering at Exeter College. From 1987 to 1989 he worked at the Grosvenor House Hotel, Park Lane in London, followed by three years working at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons in Oxfordshire. He then moved to France to work for Bernard Loiseau in Saulieu, and Joël Robuchon in Paris.
In 1994, he became the Head Chef at the one Michelin starred Gidleigh Park. In 1999, Gidleigh Park was awarded a second Michelin Star, and in 2001 Michael won Chef of the Year at The Catey Awards.
Michael left Gidleigh Park in January 2016, where he had held two Michelin stars for 18 consecutive years. He opened Lympstone Manor country house, and after just six months, Michael and his team were awarded their first Michelin star.
Michael and John Burton Race represented the Southwest of England in Great British Menu Series 1 in 2006. Michael won the heat and went onto the final round.
Amongst his many accolades, Michael cooked at 10 Downing Street for the Prime Minister, was awarded AA Chef’s Chef of the Year in 2007, and received an MBE in 2006 for services to the hospitality industry.