What: A Grade II-listed Georgian mansion overlooking the Exe Estuary that has just received a multimillion-pound face-lift.
Who: Michael Caines. After 21 years working for Andrew Brownsword at the relatively nearby two Michelin-star Gidleigh Park, the high profile chef has struck out on his own.
The vibe: Lympstone’s brand of luxury is sleeker and more contemporary than Gidleigh Park – all modern art, soft muted colour schemes and copper flourishes but prices are comparable. The main dining room – named Berry Head – is one of three in the estate. It pipes in soft jazz music and sports an impressive Estremoz marble-topped centrepiece service table framed with Nero Marquina floor tiles.
The food: Caines clearly feels no pressure to lurch into experimental territory, likening his opening and unashamedly classic repertoire to a greatest hits album. “It would seem silly to throw away 21 years of my work to go in a completely different direction,” he explains. “If you go to a Coldplay concert and they don’t play any of their hits, you’re going to feel short-changed. You’ve got to play to your strengths. I may as well come out with my power ballads, and be more relaxed about what comes out later.”
On the menu: Launch dishes include braised turbot, River Exe mussels and cockles with tomato and basil sauce; and Dartmoor lamb with boulangère potato and confit shoulder, pea purée and tapenade jus. True to its title, Lympstone’s signature tasting menu is laden with Caines’ motifs, such as langoustine cannelloni, scented with lemongrass and ginger; and a tartlet of quail’s egg with slivers of black truffle.
And another thing: Caines hopes Lympstone Manor will become the finest country house in Britain. He says his first task will be to get his two stars back as quickly as possible – and then push on for three.