Lympstone Manor: Exe Marks the Spot
A weekend with the in-laws usually means tonnes of rest, having cows in the adjoining field for an alarm clock, making breakfast with veg from the garden and eggs from the chooks, and more often than not, hitting up a few local pubs along the way. Oh and there's no phone reception. They live in the depths of Devon and it's bliss.
This weekend, though, we're upping the ante with lunch at Lympstone Manor; a country house overlooking the river Exe, which also happens to be chef Michael Caine's stomping ground. The place is pristine but not stiff - a welcome trait in a country house today. As we're presented with a volume of menus (ALC, Signature Tasting, and Estuary Tasting), al fresco aperitifs seem like a pretty dreamy start.
Post amuse bouche gorgeousness, we're seated in a gorgeous bay window in the smaller of the two main dining rooms, say circa 16 covers and heaps of space in-between tables. Whilst the butter is whipped to clotted cream consistency, the bread is straight from the oven; it's fair to say the Devon set are happy campers.
Langoustine makes for a strong start; its richness is lifted by fiery ginger and fresh herbs from a sauce vierge - the whole thing ends up being light as a feather. On the other hand, slowcooked quails eggs laced with morels, chanterelles and truffle are the anthesis of light but moreishly naughty. Salt cod isn't a knockout. It's not offensive, but amidst pungent meaty crab, salty chorizo, tarragon and lemon, there's just a lot going on.
Another rockstar of the crustaceans is fabulously represented via warm lobster salad with scrummy herbs from the garden and an unusual curry mayo. Despite being five courses into the Estuary Menu, turbot in a light broth with mussels is easily gobbled up. Writing this, I am smiling about how visually stunning and downright delish every little morsel we tuck into is. Style AND substance, a rare combo.
A quartet of English goats and sheeps cheese is salty perfection. Amidst palate cleansers and petits fours perches a forbidden fruit where all is not what it seems. What looks like an innocent little mandarin is in fact a chocolatey orangey mousse with a pungent confit orange sorbet, with more dark chocolate, just because. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Heston.
Following lunch at Lympstone Manor, I am pretty sure you will leave with THAT warm fuzzy feeling. You know where you feel completely content; well fed and watered but not checking into rehab.
Five Very Kerri things about Lympstone Manor
- All of the fishes
- The art of plating mastered
- Style and substance
- Spacious dining rooms
- Faff free service