Jonathan Carter escapes to Devon’s South Coast
Without warning and for no apparent reason, life sometimes throws a week at you when Friday just can’t come quickly enough. The batteries are low, the body is running on empty and a hearty dose of self indulgence is the only remedy! Thank goodness that my salvation was in reach as I headed off for some good old fashioned R&R at the Buckland Tout Saints.
As part of the expanding and ever-impressive Eden Collection, Buckland is a luxury 16th century country house hotel tucked away in the heart of Devon. Friends had recommended it as the perfect weekend retreat and a cursory visit to trip advisor suggested that hundreds of other satisfied guests were in agreement. I couldn’t wait.
From the moment you’re greeted by the lovely Helen, you just know that you’re going to be in very capable hands. The hotel prides itself on being prepared to go that extra mile and whilst I confess this wasn’t tested to the max, I can rarely remember a team of staff being so incredibly accommodating. The whole experience felt like being welcomed as guests at one of your mates’ parents’ rather swanky country pile.
With sixteen rooms it’s perfectly suited to utter relaxation: everything feels personal, but there’s enough space for that all important bit of anonymity. It’s also a perfect venue for a private party or wedding. All the rooms have been recently re-furnished with a comfortable quality that oozes traditional charm. But if, like me, you really deserve that extra special weekend then treat yourself to one of the suites. They are truly splendid and boast the most enormous beds I’ve ever enjoyed!
Delightfully situated in just over four acres of lovingly tended gardens and woodlands, you’re not going to get lost with a short stroll before dinner but you’ll work up an appetite and the breathtaking views will certainly lift your spirits.
Pre-dinner drinks were served in the marvellous, oak panelled gentleman’s bar where some rather fine cocktails and an equally fine menu made very pleasant reading. (Tip for the ladies; when the coast is clear you simply must take a peek in the gents’ loos!)
Head of kitchen, Ted Ruewell is one of those young, intense chefs that you get a strong sense is going places. He’s beginning to make a name for himself in the area and quite rightly the locals are embracing his fantastic, unpretentious cooking. He describes his fare as “good, honest, flavoursome dishes that utilise the best of local ingredients”. I would describe it as exceptional well cooked food that I would willingly order for my final meal.
He gains his inspiration from revered colleagues such as the Michelin starred chef Simon Haigh and perhaps more significantly from his surroundings. His “3 mile commute to work by bicycle” might scare the life out of me but for Ted it’s a continual reminder of what’s on his doorstep and what will taste amazing on your plate
Some of the dishes we had included amarvellous slow roast pork belly with smoked bacon and braised lentils; a duo of duck, fondant potato, celeriac puree with braised red cabbage and a red wine jus; and grilled sea bream, sauté potatoes, wilted spinach and mussel veloute. All beautifully cooked and with the two course menu starting at £32.00 per head, really very good value. For me the only slight gripe was a rather disappointing cheese board which was perhaps too dedicated to local suppliers rather than rejoicing in old favourites but I understand this is being addressed so future visits should be fine.
An excellent breakfast the next morning followed by a brief explore of the locality highlights that the Buckland is nicely secluded but not isolated. If you can be bothered to drag yourself away from the comfortable lounge areas and sumptuous cream teas then there’s plenty to explore with both Salcombe and Dartmouth just a short drive away. The pretty town of Kingsbridge is even nearer.
A short weekend at the Buckland had revitalised my spirits and we returned to city life with shoulders less knotted and a noticeable spring in our step. Bring on next week – I’m ready for you!