Michael Caines' new solo venture having stepped down from Gidleigh Park - new entry as Michelin starred to the 2018 guide serving modern food
This is the first solo venture from Michael Caines having made his significant move away from Gidleigh Park where he held 2 Michelin stars for 16 years. Therefore, there has been much anticipation over the first Michelin verdict of Lympstone Manor and after the wait, it has been awarded a Michelin star on its first year of operation. My first visit here revealed a beautifully restored building; all rooms named after birds of the region and hand painted wall paper with a number of dining rooms all tastefully and elegantly designed. Whilst the service was mixed, the food was generally consistent with pre-lunch bar snacks a particular highlight. The absolute gems of Michael Caines’ work appear to be confined to the absolute top (Signature) tasting menu priced at the premium level with a reasonable set menu lunch (4 courses for £48 on offer) appearing on show and taste to sit amicably in the Michelin starred bracket from my point of view.
Lympstone Manor was originally a farm house in the 18th Century and evolved in to a Georgian Mansion before being used as venue for weddings and other occasions. Now, Grade II listed and utterly refurbished it has the air of grandeur, softened by modern, good taste. Part of the Relais and Chateaux group, it has had significant care taken in the design of the interior and the setting over the estuary looking like it will be very attractive in the summer particularly.
Sitting in the bar, sipping on Michael Caines’ own brand of Rosé sparkling wine, the bar snacks were among some of the most memorable had in quite a while – a herb emulsion, with parmesan and candied walnuts was just outstanding. I could have eaten 10 of these and been supernova happy. Along with this was an admirable beetroot mousse with smoked mushroom and apple which was also another winner. I think this is actually my favourite moment of all when dining out, the pre-meal excitement, everyone feeling excited and all suited and booted to go; it’s safe to say that with all factors mentioned, in the company I was with, caused utter happiness.
On the meal itself and this was part of a seasonal promotion of four courses for £48 pp which was an attractive offer in itself. The proceedings were kicked off with a foie gras mousseline with Madeira gel and which went down in about three seconds of complete satisfaction. To start, I opted for the wild mushroom risotto with spinach, girolles and mushroom velouté which was a comforting and nicely chosen Autumnal dish and I enjoyed the seasoning and texture provided by the parmesan shards that came with it.
Thankfully, I managed to sample all of the mains, starting with my own slow-cooked partridge, quince, chicory and Gewürztraminer sauce. Although I found my partridge to be a little too raw on one of the legs (it was basically uncooked on one side), the combination of the quince with the partridge worked well and the aromatic white wine sauce held it well together. The gnocchi main held a pleasant parmesan feel running through it, complimented by a notable herb purée and good quality mushrooms (the gnocchi itself was supple enough but not too soggy at the same time as it often can be). And perhaps the main with the biggest punch of flavour was the paprika cod. Paprika is such a vibrant spice and can endanger a dish when not treated properly, but all at the table agreed that this was done very nicely indeed with the right amount of kick but without being overbearing. The cod itself was as succulent as they come and essentially was a well put together dish.
All three desserts were also tried starting with the apple mousse with apple sorbet and vanilla foam. I couldn’t really detect much of the vanilla in the foam and as nice as this is stylistically, I do believe it is better to either have more pronounced if it is to be in the form of a foam or simply another textural way to get more of the actual component. That said, the apple mousse itself was enjoyable as was the chocolate tart with lime sorbet. The sorbet in the latter helped to deal with the onslaught of the richness of the chocolate which packed its own cocoa punch. The soufflé was as one would expect in a Michelin starred venue and was nice to have an original foundation flavour of the Armagnac within this and its supporting ice cream; not my most memorable soufflé, but certainly nothing bad at the same time.
Petit fours came in the form of passion fruit macaroons, mini rasberry gateauxs and mandarin jelly petit fours – all of these were simple and well done with the latter jellies being beautifully done. Coffee was served via Nespresso capsules which was somewhat of a disappointment as the £8 charge for these makes that overpriced for me. The only factor that can be taken in to consideration is the fact that this includes the petit fours which offsets a little, but a useful reminder to keep eyes open on the prices of aspects of the meal which may seem socially automated. All in the meal was just shy of £80 per person which, for all things delivered including pre-lunch bubbles and wine at the table, was actually very reasonable. It will be interesting to see what happens to the menu prices this year (2018) now that the establishment has learnt its Michelin star.
Overall, I was certainly pleased with the results of this visit and actually relieved they were this way at the same time, knowing how much effort and investment had gone in to this venture. The food had some good moments, most notably in the supplements rather than the actual courses, leading me to view this appropriately placed in the Michelin starred family but perhaps in the mid range of its one star peers. On looking at the signature menu, my instinct is that Michael Caines has retained some of his knock out dishes purely for that menu and is enjoying a more relaxed feel for his lower stakes menus. Nothing wrong with that as that’s the best of both worlds really, depending on your occasion and bank account health. A very nice place to visit as well and I would like to come back and see the place in the hotter and more blossoming part of the year, where different ingredients will be played with as well to see how these fair on the a la carte or tasting menu.
Food Grade: 81%
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