It’s not often I travel for an entire day for a lunch booking… but as a food obsessive and a gin lover I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit newly opened Lympstone Manor for a Michelin-starred lunch and special Salcombe Gin unveiling.
As part of a group of culinary enthusiasts, I piled on to an early morning train from Paddington to Exeter, excited about the day ahead. After a few hours whizzing through the countryside and a short taxi ride we were at our destination, Michael Caines’ magical Lympstone Manor, sipping on refreshing apple gin cocktails.
Salcombe Gin is synonymous with Devon, and all it stands for. The company’s motto is charming “Taken from the wind, born at Sea”. The creators, sailing friends Angus and Howard, started the business 3 years ago with little experience of gin but a lot of love for the spirit. They felt adamant that Salcombe had the perfect conditions and ingredients to create a refined and special gin and, after convincing a few investors to get involved, their gin went into production, made in 450L copper pot still. Each batch is made using Dartmoor Water and blended with a meticulous mix of citrus fruits and carefully selected botanicals.
This year Salcombe Gin have announced their Voyager series which sees the boutique brand pair up with prestigious chefs and sommeliers to create a range of special edition bespoke gins. We were at Lympstone Manor to celebrate the inaugural collaboration with renowned chef Michael Caines. His food is full of flavour and passion, and as a local Devon boy was the obvious first choice for Salcombe Gin.
The Michael Caines and Salcombe Gin bottle is called Arabella, named after a famous Salcombe fruiter. The spirit has a strong flavour of lemon thyme, and I also noticed hints of coriander, grapefruit and angelica. For our lunch, the Lympstone Manor kitchen served a three course meal that echoed the main flavours of the gin, Crab raviolo to start, followed by Guinea Fowl with lemon thyme fondant potato, and for dessert a Lemon polenta cake with grapefruit and lemon sorbet.
The meal was exquisite, light to eat but powerful in flavour… and each of the three courses tasted wonderful paired with a Salcombe gin and tonic. I particularly enjoyed the Guinea Fowl main course, a lovely game meat with a caramelised crispy skin and accompanied with a selection of summer garden vegetables and a citrusy jus. The other guests on my table seemed to love the pudding the most, and silence fell around me as everyone efficiently gobbled up every crumb of moist sweet lemon cake and bitter grapefruit juices.
Before heading back to London there was just enough time to have a peek at the luxurious Lympstone Manor bedrooms. There are 21 rooms in total, each different but all handpicked by Michael Caines. Lavish and indulgent, the rooms come complete with rolltop bathtubs, terraces with panoramic views and mini gin and tonic sets. I was tempted to skip the train home and stay at Lympstone Manor for a few nights… faultless food, stunning surroundings with the perfect gin and tonic in hand, it doesn’t get much better.