After driving through the beautiful Devonshire countryside and up the long driveway to the entrance of Hotel Endsleigh, it isn`t difficult to see why Georgina, Duchess of Bedford, chose this location as the perfect spot to build her cottage orné family retreat in 1810. The Grade I listed house and gardens, set in over 100 acres of its own grounds, have since been sympathetically restored into the stunning sixteen bedroom boutique hotel that stands today.
From the moment we entered the hotel foyer and were shown to our room it was clear that the staff were happy to go out of their way to ensure that our stay was as perfect and comfortable as possible. Whether it is a particular beer or breakfast cereal that you would like to arrange for the following day or additional pillows for your bed, the friendly, unpretentious staff are happy to accommodate your every need and give your stay that home from home feeling.
We settled into our room and then went to get our Jack Russell dog that had patiently been waiting in the car. Hotel Endsleigh is dog friendly and it really helped our stay to be even more special as the setting provides the perfect environment for long dog walks through the stunning gardens and down to the River Tamar. The hotel even provides Wellington boots, coats and umbrellas for guests to use, which came in handy, as the weather was particularly miserable. The receptionist even provided us with a rather chic looking dog bed to ensure our canine companion was made to feel as comfortable as we were.
Our first floor bedroom, room 3, was generously sized for the period of the property and had all the amenities you would expect for a hotel of its calibre. The only thing to mention is that the television was quite small, not the large plasma that you would find as standard in a luxury hotel, but I wouldn`t expect anyone staying at Endsleigh to be concerned about the size of a television with so much to occupy your time. The room was tastefully decorated with a mix of antique furniture which, although a little quirky, added to the charm of the room. After making use of the Regency style bathroom facilities consisting of a huge freestanding bath (and useful steps to help get in and out!) and large separate power shower, we felt freshened up and ready to explore the hotel interior some more.
Walking through the hotel the ambiance has the perfect mix of peace and luxury, a difficult balance to achieve. The communal areas were delicately lit with a mixture of dim up-lighters and candlelight coming from the many tea lights scattered around the tables and fireplaces making an intimate setting for the few guests that had already chosen their spot to relax on one of the many sofas or armchairs. There are well-chosen pieces of period art and sculpture all over the house and a large library of books and DVDs to chose from, all adding to the feeling of staying somewhere grand yet incredibly welcoming.
We took a seat by the open log fire and were served pre-dinner drinks by the maitre d` who also gave us the dinner menu to examine. Roland Jaletzke joined us, the hotels General Manager, who kindly gave us some background on the hotel and its refurbishment by Olga Polizzi (sister of Sir Rocco Forte). Roland also showed us the private dinning areas available to guests who would prefer to eat away from the restaurant, again showing how the hotel strives to accommodate its guests` needs. It was clear from just a short conversation with Roland that he is passionate about the hotel and its reputation and this ethos was evident in all of the hotel staff that we met. He also talked about a large shooting party that was due at the hotel the next day and how the hotel was particularly popular with country sport enthusiasts including riding, fishing and shooting.
Our appetites soon got the better of us and we were let into the dining room for our evening meal. The restaurant is full of character and decorated with the crests of the Bedford`s family and friends. The menu is quite short but in my experience this usually ensures the food is freshly prepared and well executed so I was expecting good things. Almost as soon as we sat down we were served a bottle of Zinfandel that the maitre d` had recommended to complement our meal choice along with an appetiser of carrot soup. Both were equally delicious and set the tone for what was to come. For our starter my partner and I had both selected the baked goats cheese with red peppers and sun blush tomatoes, which was incredibly tasty. For the main we chose the fillet of beef on a bed of spinach with mushroom tortellini that was beautifully presented and cooked perfectly. The portion size was just right and we greedily had just enough room to fit in the créme brulee and shortbread biscuit desert washed down with a lovely French dessert wine. Overall the meal and service was faultless and I would thoroughly recommend having dinner at Endsleigh, which is open to non-residents for a reasonable £40 per person for three courses.
After a wonderfully peaceful sleep we ventured downstairs for breakfast where there was a well-stocked cold table and a varied choice of cooked food to chose from. I opted for the smoked salmon and scrambled egg, which was divine, and my partner chose the eggs Benedict, both options were a welcomed alternative to the traditional English breakfast on offer which we didn`t have the appetite to manage. Before leaving we met with Roland for a tour of some of the other rooms the hotel has to offer and we were impressed with the variety and individuality of the different rooms. Roland also showed us the veranda area for Al Fresco dining during the summer months which he explained was a popular location for the wedding breakfast of the many couples that chose the hotel as a wedding location. If I wasn`t already married I would have seriously considered this hotel as a venue, I could honestly not think of a more romantic setting with incredible service to match.
Unfortunately due to the bad weather we didn`t get to explore as much of the grounds as we had hoped but from the rockeries, formal gardens and woodlands we did see, it`s not surprising to hear that three gardeners work full time to maintain them. The gardens are open to the public so would make a great day out for the keen gardener, perhaps along with afternoon tea which is served daily and available to both hotel guests and the public.
Overall we had a fantastic stay at Hotel Endsleigh and would encourage anyone seeking ultimate relaxation to consider a weekend or short break at this hotel. Rooms start at £200 per night for a small double although there is currently a Winter Special offer for dinner, bed and breakfast for £120 per person, per night. The website describes the hotel as `England`s best kept secret` but I have a feeling the secret is going to get out as this place is really too good to keep to yourself.
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