“Tucked above stunning Devon coastline, this intimate country-house hotel has glorious gardens and delicious dinners”
The 11 rooms are split between the main house and the adjacent coach house, and divided into 3 price categories according, principally, to size. We actually liked some of the smaller ones best: Jasmine (a Classic in the main house) has lovely garden views and tasteful coppery colours, while Hollowbrook (a Superior on the floor above) gets a bit more space and a windowful of bright greens, with pink dots of foxglove in summer or yellow daffs in spring. We also thought Paddock Suite looked gorgeous, with white walls, bright red accents and plenty of space to mooch.
The coach house rooms are higher spec and more contemporary, with recessed ceiling lights, power showers and cool chrome taps. The 2 suites (Arlington and Watersmeet) are huge, with Colefax & Fowler wallpapers, and sleek double-ended bathtubs sitting on black resin cradles. But despite the size, we found them less charming than the main house - partly because they face the gravelled parking area on one side.
Wherever you stay, you'll sleep well. Beds are kingsize or super-kingsize doubles (some can be set up as twins), with tempur mattresses, stacks of pillows and not a sound until morning birdsong. You'll find flatscreen TVs positioned for in-bed viewing, DAB radios and Molton Brown toiletries in the bathroom. Don't expect avant-garde design, just classic English-country-house style with contemporary touches.
Dinners are a highlight. Guests gather at 7ish for drinks and canapés - there's not much flexibility on time, it's a 2-man operation - and chat about their day's adventures, while perusing the short but mouthwatering menu and impressive, well-priced wine list. You get a choice of 3 starters, mains and desserts, plus a soup course, all chosen and cooked by Huw with help from Sam.
Our butternut squash and sage tortelloni were exquisite, matched by a rich Chilean carmenère; while the velvety asparagus & parmesan soup which followed was just divine (recipes were duly swapped the next morning). Flouting our normal 'no-doubling-up' rule, my wife and I both succumbed to the fillet of ruby beef in chateaubriand sauce: succulent, flavoursome and truly local (from nearby Arlington Court). For dessert, Sam's superb lemon posset is now modestly famous, while their Eton mess explodes with fresh fruit (including strawberries from the garden).
In fact, almost everything comes from within 30 miles. Seafood is sourced from sustainable species (Ilfracombe crab, Lundy turbot); herbs and salads are picked from their kitchen gardens. Fish and vegetarian options are always available, and Huw prides himself on his gluten-free options (a regular coeliac guest provides comprehensive feedback and tips). They take food seriously here.
We loved the breakfast, too: eggs florentine and fruit compote with Greek yoghurt were standouts from the menu, but there's Exmoor cooked breakfast or scrambled eggs with smoked salmon if you're hungry. Or grapefruit and smoothies if you're dieting.
It's probably just as well they don't offer lunch, otherwise you'd never leave. As it is, you can roll down the hill to the Hunters Inn (decent pub grub), drive to Lynton or Ilfracombe, or pick up a picnic from the various farmers' shops.