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The Week
The Week
Jo Davey

Gidleigh Park review: a star shines bright on the edge of Dartmoor

Enjoy Michelin-starred food and luxury rooms at this grand manor in Devon

Good things come to those who navigate – at least that’s how it feels getting to Gidleigh Park. Dartmoor’s devious hedge-lined lanes are a riot of potholes and passing Land Rovers, of blind and winding bends that lead you so deep into Devon’s dark green that you’re not sure where you’ll come out. 

But then, from out the narrowing countryside, rises the 16th century Tudor-style manor; a beautiful wood-beamed bolthole. All at once sweet but stately, Gidleigh Park holds none of the intimidation of other grand houses; its entranceway is warm and snug, the heavy door shutting out the cold and fading light behind. Its bevy of staff are equally welcoming, both car and coats whisked away with kind queries.

Set within 107 acres near Chagford, Gidleigh Park is home to a Michelin-starred restaurant, 24 luxurious guest rooms and a range of activities, including a Peter Allis 18-hole putting golf course and tennis. 

Andrew Brownsword Hotels

The restaurant 

It’s hard not to feel special here. The red carpet has been rolled out for us (one might say fitted, and some years ago) and its scarlet length draws guests upstairs to suites or into dining rooms where a Michelin-star dinner awaits. Gidleigh Park lost its Michelin star in 2019, but with executive head chef Chris Eden taking the helm, the restaurant reclaimed its star in the 2023 Michelin Guide.   

No sooner have we picked a lounge and sunk into a dough-soft sofa than we’re offered champagne. Sparkling flutes appear alongside shards of popped crackers, artistically embedded in a bowl of seeds and kernels. The whole thing looks good enough to eat, which is why we’re pointedly warned with a smile that the decoration isn’t edible. Apparently one guest found this out the hard, teeth-cracking way.

Opting not to eat the décor, we instead pore over an à la carte menu that is equally artful. Locally-sourced West Country ingredients, flavourful flair and diverse options from chef Eden make choosing courses a complex matter. The mains in particular are a sore point; even after deciding to share everything we’re missing out on the likes of turbot with lemon verbena and aged fillet of beef with garlic purée and smoked bone marrow. 

Andrew Brownsword Hotels

The starters

At our table, bright amuse bouches await: olive pillows with feta, smoked salmon waffles and old Winchester cheese custard. The pillows are a thing of beauty, lime and black beignets topped with crowns of creamy cheese and flower sprigs. Served alongside are Gidleigh’s brilliant breads, brioches and three perfectly smooth zeppelins of herb, cow and goat butters.

We start with a single hand-dived Devon scallop, seared to a blistered crispness on one side and succulence on the other. It sits, speared on a spike of burdock, among miso cappuccino, king oyster mushrooms, scrumpy cider and sea buckthorn. I admit to unashamedly loving sea buckthorn, despite its recent faddishness, but here its tartness can’t quite tame the touch-too-sweet cider for me. The accompanying nori seaweed tartlet is exquisite though: raw scallop, cucumber, apple and radish. Fresh, crisp, and all too brief, it washes down with a dry, dapper chablis from Domaine Grand Roche.

Where the scallop tastes like spring, our second starter is autumn on a plate – a plate I wipe clean with goat-slathered sourdough. An absolutely stunning risotto of saffron and spelt, morels and sweetbreads, glazed duck, toasted hazelnuts, winter truffle and red wine jus. Each element plays its role with gusto, gambolling about the palate with warm, creamy glee. The accompanying wine is equally gorgeous – a smoky-nosed but delicate pinot noir from Lake Chalice’s Nest range – and its hard to imagine anything topping such a plate.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels

The entrées

Still, there’s far more to come, with pretty seasonal plating of cavatelli pasta and lamb entrées. The three corner leek cavatelli feels a little lacking in the leek department, but it’s hard to care when the grass-green curls are cooked to moreish perfection with a tender, chewy bite. The black truffle topping is shaved tableside, resulting in a short showdown between staff solicitousness and my reluctance to say stop. Despite my best efforts, the cavatelli remains lightly truffled, cheesy and deliciously varnished with cultured butter. Chassagne-Montrachet supports its subtleties from the sidelines; a sweet, fresh white from Rene Monnier with a hint of yeast and brioche.

Then comes the lamb, and suddenly the risotto’s top spot is in question. Satellites of perfectly pink loin, sweet shallot petals, salty creamy feta and olive and a spicy sausage that weds it altogether wonderfully. The best part? The glazed rib. Despite rarely liking or eating fat, this rib was rendered so sinfully, so heavenly, that handing over half in the name of taste-testing is the truest testament of affection I can muster. The dish is paired delightfully with a rich, velvety Haut Médoc, a wine I actually once ran marathon for, but am now being poured with fatted, exercise-free abandon.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels

The cheese

Naturally, the wise would have chosen to forgo the optional cheese course: not us. Thankfully there’s a momentary break where we can collect ourselves, consider a tactical unbuttoning, and inspect Gidleigh’s interiors. It’s hard not to notice the plethora of steam trains – paintings, photos, models – that litter Gidleigh’s flocked corridors and wood-panelled walls. It’s odd given there are absolutely no trains or stations this way, but it’s a pastime of its owner that gives Gidleigh an aura of the old world: a Blyton-esque nod to nostalgia and upper crust niceties.

We’re brought back to the board in hand with local West Country cheeses paired with seasonal jellies, nuts, chutneys and crackers. The halo of slowly oozing goat’s cheese is so very good, the blue terrifically tangy, but the Merry Wyfe washed rind from the Bath Soft Cheese Company is the highlight. Glasses of Barros port are filled and refilled (and I admit, refilled again) as a momentary rhubarb respite arrives. It’s a tiny waffled cone of perfectly swirled sorbet, topped off with honeycomb and served sunk into a cup of cocoa nibs. I briefly wonder, mid-Barros, if the kernel-crunching clientele had learned their lesson by this point in the proceedings.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels

The dessert and wine

Dinner culminates in a delice from Cornwall’s own bean-to-bar Chocolarder chocolate, with Pedro Ximénez sherry and malted milk: a rare, exceedingly welcome inclusion of Britain’s mightiest biscuit. But the decisions made four courses before now show their cracks: the velvety, lip-smackingly viscid delice perhaps wasn’t the most sensible choice, no matter how delicious its sprinklings of Aero, biscuit and chocolate are. The honey parfait follows, draped in white chocolate mirror glaze and spiked with mead. Not only is it the prettiest dish on the menu – a technical, beautiful marvel – but its lace-like delicateness is matched by its light texture and fine flavours.

Dessert also brings the evening’s best wines. Banyuls is a favourite and the Gérard Bertrand is infinitely potable, but the lightly effervescent Nivole Moscato d’Asti beats it for the top spot. Unique, bright and bubbly, but retaining all the syrupy sophistication of sweet wine. Our feast rounds off with late-night lounge coffee and petits fours of Devon fudge and passionfruit gelées, demolished despite stuffed groans and sated stomachs.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels

The suites

Our twilight arrival left little time to explore the room, though enough to admire the August furniture and take advantage of the sideboard stocked with madeira, truffles and the best dates I’ve ever had. On our rotund return, the room also reveals a vast shower and claw-footed bath, gilt-edged mirrors, walnut woods and warmth all-round. But it’s on waking that the suite unveils its showstopper: come morning, the bank of old windows frame a bucolic wonderland where the ground rolls away in a fog of frost-nipped trees and grass like desiccated coconut. 

Downstairs, breakfasts of coconut bircha, honey and harissa marinated halloumi, and eggs with yolks the colour of kumquats await. In the distance, the dew-drenched road beckons us back to reality. But for now, with steaming tea and Sunday papers in hand, we cosily watch dawn break the Dartmoor horizon and paint Gidleigh Park’s streams, lawns and tree-lined sky with sunrise.

Andrew Brownsword Hotels

Jo Davey was a guest of Gidleigh Park. Overnight stays start from £297 per room, two sharing, including breakfast. The hotel also offers seasonal packages, often including meals and experiences. The “Michelin Star Celebration Stay” starts from £530 per room, per night, two sharing, which includes an overnight stay, complimentary bottle of Laurent-Perrier Champagne, three-course dinner by Chris Eden, breakfast and full use of all hotel facilities, including 107 acres of grounds, tennis court and putting green. Gidleigh Park, Chagford, Devon, TQ13 8HH;

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