“Stunning new hotel and restaurant in the east Devon countryside. Imaginative food, incredible style”
The 27 rooms are some of the most beautiful we've seen, with painstaking attention to detail. Those at the front have vast mullioned windows framing countryside views; our Big Comfy Luxe was one such room and perfectly named. The four-poster bed was deeply comfortable; the metro-tiled monsoon shower offered an ideal level of pummelling; and I loved lazing in the roll-top bath, watching the sun set and trying the fragrant Bramley products. Our duvet was too thick for summer, but once we'd opened the windows we slept brilliantly.
Regardless of size, all rooms have the same treats: Nespressos, fresh milk, Roberts radios, waffle dressing gowns, magazines (Stylist and Private Eye - a welcome change from the usual suspects). Hidden larders house posh popcorn and local ales.
If price is no object, the Hideaways are gorgeous: Laundry, with an oversized round copper bathtub and antique drying rack; Horsebox, a brilliantly conceived restoration of 'stalls' into little areas (bedroom, double sink area, lounge and so on). If you're here on a budget, the Cheap & Cheerful and Snug rooms offer great value for money.
The kitchen gardens with their Victorian greenhouses are the heart of the hotel, tended by 5 full-time gardeners. Menus are driven by what's perfect for plucking, and this commitment shines through everything you eat.
The informal Garden Restaurant is flooded with light and interesting detail: taxidermy butterfly collections, Kilner jars of colourful plant infusions, terracotta pots bursting with fragrant herbs. You can also dine on the terrace, looking over the valley.
Our dinner was full of flavour. Edible flowers added beauty to each plate, and even bread was elevated to the special, baked in house and served with sage-infused olive oil and sea salt. The brill carpaccio was attractively layered with capers, poppy seeds and radishes, though too subtle in taste, but the beetroot and watercress risotto was deliciously fresh, with bursts of rainbow-red and white. The glazed Featherblade was incredible: rich, deep, and offset perfectly by a herby potato salad and celery leaves.
But it was dessert that blew us away: a tasting platter of lemon-balm strawberries, honey and lavender set cream with raspberry sorbet, a triple-mint chocolate tart and gin jelly with cucumber sorbet, all paired with dessert wines. The sommeliers couldn't be more helpful, or the wines more delicious.
Breakfast was equally imaginative, the buffet including orange honey, plum compote to adorn creamy yoghurt, and poached pears with a hint of ginger. We loved our avocado and poached eggs on sourdough, and sneaked out granola squares for the drive home. If you just want something simple (a bacon sandwich, pastries, eggs on toast), there's a 'Smaller' menu.
Don't miss the Garden Folly for flatbread lunches or an easy pizza supper; a semi-restored old folly (derelict chic!) with a wood-fired oven and indoor/outdoor bar.
Families are welcome and though there are no special facilities for kids, they will enjoy roaming the estate. The atmosphere is very relaxed.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
The family suites each have 2 bedrooms (1 kingsize, 1 with bunkbeds), 2 bathrooms (1 shower, 1 tub) and space for a baby cot. All other rooms, except the Cheap & Cheerful and Snug categories, can fit a baby cot or rollaway bed.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
A kids' menu (sausage and mash, free-range chicken and chips, apple jelly and ice cream), plus pizzas in the Garden Folly
A big swing in the garden and bikes to borrow
Beaches and historic towns
Baby monitors probably won't reach from your room to the restaurant