Regional development agencies have been pouring taxpayers' money into persuading businesses to relocate to the country for years. Part of the sell is that bucolic bliss is achievable within a short enough distance to make visiting "the smoke" for lunch a civilised affair. Such thoughts crossed my mind on a damp Friday evening as we left London's Paddington station for Exeter.
Within three hours we were enjoying a glass of champagne in front of a roaring fire at the impressive country estate, Bovey Castle. If it's this easy, why do we remain city-bound? But then, few of us can afford to live like you can at Bovey. Owned for a long time by Peter de Savary, the panelled wood and tartan interior gives it the welcome feel of a Scottish manor house.
All-action country hotels such as Bovey—offering golf, a spa, and the chance to ride, shoot and fish—often fail in the kitchen. Thankfully, this isn't the case here.
The Mulberry, the hotel's fine-dining experience, serves simple, well thought out and nicely constructed food. Better still, there is little of the clumsy messing about with foams that some hotel chefs use to prove their fine-dining status.
The simple menu didn't at first glance promise excitement, but locally sourced ingredients (sea bass from Brixham and tender, juicy steak from Dartmoor cattle) did the talking. A word of warning on the desserts, which are average and too filling, leaving no space to indulge in the spectacular cheese trolley that followed.