Lympstone Manor, Lympstone
Room type: Junior Suite
Duration: 14th > 15th June, 2017
Booked with: Direct with hotel
This is chef Michael Caines restaurant; this is his hotel; this is his child of love. That’s not an issue if you’re either a truly hospitable person, which as TV has taught us over the last 20 years, does not apply to chefs – my last encounter of him at Gidleigh Park resulted in a silent dining room hearing him loudly swearing in the kitchen.
I have never felt so uncomfortable in a hotel before, apart from that time Max Mosley was in the suite next to mine. Having the owner rushing around and getting angry over anything he felt appropriate is not what luxury is about. This is further a problem as there is nothing to do. If the sun wasn’t shining, your options would be limited to being in the bar, waiting to inevitably learn that your breathing was annoying Michael, or hiding in your room, hoping Michael cannot find you or try his best “Heeeere’s Johnny” impersonation. The overall ambience of the place just wasn’t for us either; we’re in the middle of the countryside, yet everyone is walking around with white gloves like I’m in an era where women couldn’t speak, let alone vote, which is probably Michael’s dream era of critical ignorant bliss. It felt too formal in places, like I could imagine them seeing that I used the wrong knife on my 7th course and coming over to strangle me.
The sheer level of discomfort we felt is hard to describe. Seeing Michael stalking us after complaining about the sandwich being cold was the beginning of the end of our stay. They took 30 minutes to bring chips for our lunch, by which time we had finished all the desserts and coffees. My girlfriend asking for the chips for our dinner must have unhinged him, as we were told Michael was not prepared to do them, and then as we walked into the dining with with my camera, he ran in, huffing and puffing, with no intro, to tell me not to have a camera in there. My girlfriend had no idea who he was; no intro, no polite “hey, I’m the owner and would appreciate you don’t do that for XX reasons”; just running in angry and leaving behind a trail of sweat and crushed voodoo dolls that looked like me. I could understand why he wouldn’t want me photographing the breakfast buffet, as it was an embarrassment consisting of 90% cereal and a English breakfast that looked like an appetiser, but the dinner deserved an audience.
The GM and assistant GM have backgrounds predominantly in F&B, which really emphasised what the purpose of this place is: a restaurant with some rooms attached. Excluding one member of staff, everyone was just so average and completely unengaging.
- The food is excellent, whether that is a simple lunch or fine dining. A gorgeous beef carpaccio for £13 felt excellent value, until the two-slices of bread BLT for £16 hurt my soul. £110 for a 3 course dinner + 12.5% service charge doesn’t feel great value either, but the food was deserving of the undoubted 2 stars that will come his way.
- Beautiful views onto the estuary along with well kept grounds
- The hotel looks and feels luxurious, especially the decorations.
- We both had a great sleep.
- They did an excellent job on the stay list, where they really showed some care. The presentation of the fruit was welcome, although the passion fruit being wrapped in cling film was rather unique.
- Every email prior to arrival took days to receive a response. Last night we saw 4 people just hanging around reception, so it was clearly not a lack of staff.
- For a hotel focused on food, I would have expected more. They include G&T making facilities in the room and a pantry, but hotels like Browns bring daily treats just for you, such as cheese selection and snacks, all of which is personalised to you. They surely could do something similar.
- 9 weeks after opening and it’s still a work in progress. There was a lot of noise from construction going on.
- It doesn’t have that exclusive feel of a countryside property, like Coworth Park of Whatley Manor or Limewood or Lucknam Park or The Pig at Combe or Chewton Glen or any of them. You can see the locals houses right next door, where they undoubtedly lick their lips at the anticipation of seeing you destroyed by Michael.
- My last 2 properties I purchased were brand new, so I know a snag list when I see one. I could have spent hours going through the glaring issues that were apparent from either unfinished work or poor workmanship. There are some really nice touches, such as AirPlay built into the TVs, but then none of it worked and it was further countered by stupid decisions that are easily fixable, including no shower shelf, so you had to leave your toiletries on the floor.
- We booked a Junior Suite and felt it was too small, so looked at alternative rooms: another Junior, which was even smaller and a Master Suite, that whilst one level above ours, was somehow even smaller still, but had an outside patio and outside bath that no one will ever use as you have no privacy in it. Even though they could see our dissatisfaction, they made no attempt to offer anything else.
- Checking out was a breeze.
We checked out a day early.
Upon telling the assistant GM we were off, the complaint was dealt with like I mentioned the coffee was a bit too cold. They were completely unbothered by it and didn’t even care to hear our feedback. I felt they wanted us out of there. Maybe I’m 30 years too young to appreciate it; maybe they’ll sit around talking about how I’m not their target audience and dismiss it. If you go here, shut up, have nothing to say and enjoy your meal, you will love Lympstone Manor. But should you not find it exactly to your liking, expect Michael to get in a strop about it.