Fiona Beckett gives her verdict on Lympstone Manor
Originally published in Decanter magazine in partnership with Hine Cognac
Lympstone Manor, Exmouth
Courtlands Lane, Exmouth, Devon EX8 3NZ
Tel +44 (0)1395 202 040
- Rating: 8/10
- Open for lunch Monday-Friday (12pm-2.30pm) and dinner (7pm-9.30pm)
- Restaurant style: Seasonal modern British
- Eight-course tasting menu £140
- Estuary menu £130
- Classic à la carte menu £115
- Lunch menu from £45
- Wine to try: Herrenweg Riesling 2014
Thinking of getting married? Personal question I know, but I’ve found just the place to pop the question, spend your honeymoon night, or just to treat someone special.
Folk don’t open lavish country-house hotels that often these days, let alone spend a small fortune (reputedly £8.5 million) on renovating them, but chef Michael Caines has managed to do just that with Lympstone Manor, a Grade II-listed Georgian mansion just outside Exeter with jaw-droppingly gorgeous views over the Exe estuary.
Inside it is unashamedly grand, charmingly old-fashioned even, but having worked in Devon for more than 20 years Caines knows his audience. Lympstone is not London. The food too has a touch of the 1990s about it, with its colourful dots and swirls and pretty-as-a-picture plates. This is definitely food designed to garner Michelin stars (of which Caines previously held two at Gidleigh Park).
The £55 set-price lunch menu is priced at a level to attract the (well-heeled) locals. I couldn’t fault my beautifully plated Loch Duart confit salmon with delicate cubes of salmon jelly or my delicious lemon sole – although disappointingly it was not delivered as a boudin, as indicated on the menu. At more than double that price (£115) my friend’s à la carte menu wasn’t twice as good, though he did get the benefit of a well-crafted dish of local Jacob lamb and a fabulously airy pistachio soufflé. Occasionally ambition gets the better of sense. The vertical, Shard-like spire of carrot that teetered over a quail tartlet just looked a bit silly.
The high point for any wine lover though is the exceptional service from sommelier Marko Magi, who was bursting with knowledge and enthusiasm. There’s an impressive list of 24 wines by the glass, which are dispensed by a ‘WineEmotion’ machine from an adjoining walk-in wine room, in which Manor residents can also book a tutored tasting.
Though Magi’s recommended pairings were spot-on (a Herrenweg Riesling 2014 from Zind-Humbrecht was particularly lovely with the sole), the full pairing option with one of the tasting menus (£130-£140) would add £75-£85 a head to your bill. But there’s a lot to tempt by the bottle, including a particularly strong selection from Burgundy and Germany.
With a property of 11.5ha, Caines also harbours ambitious plans to plant a sparkling wine vineyard with classic Champagne grapes. So maybe in 10 years’ time you could even toast your beloved with the estate wine?