Jo Rees loosens her corset and revels in drama and dinner at one of the South West’s most historic country house hotels, Lewtrenchard Manor
Authenticity is the holy grail in modern marketing, but while hotel chains strain to manufacture ye olde credentials, some places are just effortlessly ‘the real thing’.
Stone mullion windows, rich wooden panelling, stained glass and a gallery of framed ex-residents overseeing the comings and goings are just a few of the original delights to be found at this grand pile on the edge of Dartmoor.
To the spit and crackle of glowing logs in (numerous) fireplaces and with the subtle waft of wood smoke in the air, staff quietly bustle through the rooms, delivering a G&T here, a plate of hot canapés there. It’s so transporting that it’s rather like finding yourself dropped into a BBC costume drama.
And there is drama at dinner, but fortunately it’s of the edible variety, courtesy of new head chef Tom Browning’s entertaining tasting menu.
VISIT for sheer escapism where the delight is in the detail. Stay the night if you can, as crisp white linen, historic features (four posters and ancient decorative plasterwork) and early morning hot coffee with steamed milk delivered to your room are thoroughly charming.
A buck’s fizz made with freshly squeezed orange juice at breakfast and a walled kitchen garden to explore hit the spot too.
DON’T VISIT with your work laptop and, for the love of God, turn the mobile off. Tell the babysitter you don’t want to hear from them unless it’s an absolute emergency, then enjoy a trip back in time to a more elegant era (no bonnet required).
WE LIKED the whole crisp and yielding ale and honey loaf (for two) served with dinner, the luscious Loch Duart salmon starter (gently poached at 42°c) with artichokes, hazelnut and truffle, and a dish of the tenderest loin of venison.
INSIDER’S TIP Quality wines are available by the glass thanks to a system which prevents oxygenation and keeps bottles on the go for longer.
What we ate (tasting menu)
Whipped Vulscombe goat’s curd, charred apple, raisins, walnuts
42°c poached Loch Duart salmon, artichoke, hazelnuts, truffle
Pot roasted breast of pigeon, blackberry, mushrooms, nasturtiums
Curry roasted cod loin, cauliflower, caper and raisin dressing
Loin of local venison, parsnip, red cabbage, pear
Apple and custard
Dark chocolate crémeux, orange, cocoa nib, sea salt
7 Course Tasting Menu £69
B&B from £68pp
Artful plating and wine-matched dessert menus – there’s a new league of country inns blurring the boundary between boozer and bistro