A night away was thoroughly needed after having such a hectic week of bills, cat problems (misbehaving as they do) and realising that the weekend would only be another routined food shopping trip; it was time to have a re-think and escape for Rob and i.
Very kindly, the funky new Magdalen Chapter hotel in Exeter had invited us to stay and try out their gluten free options. As they were nominated in the Best Foodie Hotel category in the Food Mag reader awards we knew this was going to be something special. When Rob and i were planning our wedding, we had arranged guests to stay in their partner hotel Montpelier Chapter in Cheltenham and we’d actually been planning to stay their ourselves this year after the sheer amount of praise from our wedding guests.
Instantly on walking up to the hotel, which was once The West of England Eye Hospital, it’s obvious that they are keen to bring together traditional architectural features with the modern age. Something which my dad, a skilled carpenter and builder, would highly approve of. Sometimes projects like this can really zap all of the warmth of the building, you fear that they may paint everything white and it’ll just feel too modern in design making it unconfortable and not welcoming. Magdalen Chapter is quite the opposite.
As soon as you walk in, there’s a fireplace with newspapers ready at hand, people sitting round having pots of tea and coffee with homemade biscuits. The colours are warming, neutral tones with hints of green, purple, yellow which have been used carefully to effect the mood each room is trying to provide. There’s a Bar/Lounge and Library with extremely friendly staff, designed for a long peaceful afternoon tea treats or late night drinking.
A bigger lounge area for families and bigger groups to enjoy lunches in on big tables or sofas around a modern fireplace; a nice place to go after cooked breakfast on a Sunday to read the papers.
The Gluten Free afternoon tea was a true delight, and for anyone who suffers from gluten intolerance- to be offered a gluten free selection of treats including scones and sandwiches is a rarity in most places.
The sweet selection included a pistachio and chocolate macaron, lemon shortbread biscuit, Millionaires shortbread slice and a Date and raisin bar; all perfectly executed- but in particular the caramel in the millionaires slice was completely to die for. The gluten free scones were homemade and warm when they arrived, served with strawberry jam and a huge dollop of clotted cream (none of this small pot malarky); i expect my ratio of scone to cream to be 20/80. Truly a treat. The finger sandwiches on offer were Smoked salmon; cucumber, cream cheese and chives; poached ham and mustard and we were in a particularly meaty mood and chose the latter, although you can have a selection of all if you wish. The gluten free bread was a delight to see and the ham was praised ever so much by Rob and seeing as he’s not a massive ham fan usually it was a revelation.
Our Feature bedroom was phenomenal, and where much of the modern technology comes into play with the use of an iPad in house system- it allows you to book a taxi, search nearby restaurants and activities they’ve recommended, book tables, order room service, tour the hotel at a touch of the screen. Makes you think why none of the top end London hotels i’ve stayed in have ventured into this technology yet!
Our Bedroom, with it’s almost panoramic window lay out, overlooked Exeter and made for some stunning views day and night, seeing the nearby churches all lit up was a particular highlight for me. We got ready in the spectacular bathroom, with built in speakers so you could play music or listen to the TV, and headed down to dinner.
The restaurant truly is wonderful at night, the drop lights from the ceiling gave the illusion that the space was a complete circle as they reflected in the window glass. The seats were very comfy and the wine list was on an iPad -of which you could navigate by region/glass/taste, what more could you need? Of course the food was top notch and i had no doubts about it. After i was served some gluten free bread and butter (without prompting them) i chose a starter of Chicory, pear and Devon blue cheese with walnuts and honey. Light and wholesome, sweet and sharp with the cheese, it was a delight to eat and something i would love to replicate at home. My main of Free range duck breast with roast carrot, oranges and pomegranate also didn’t disappoint. The duck was superbly cooked, the roast carrots and pomegranate was an unusual combination at first but worked superbly. There really is nothing i could fault with the execution.
I was really in gluten free food heaven at Magdalen. Particularly nice to not have to worry about what you are eating and sometimes it’s just from that little bit of extra service and attention to detail when you arrive or seated at the restaurant table.
After dinner we had a wander around the rest of the hotel, including it’s spa and pool facilities, which immediately made us wish we could stay for another night. The fire heated outside/indoor pool is spectacular and extremely romantic with all the different lights that change colour gradually. I did beg rob to book another day off work but alas it wasn’t meant to be.
Magdalen Chapter really exceeded my expectations, i was truly surprised by the attention to detail in the service and food, which always gives you another reason to return again and recommend others. Nothing was too much trouble, not even an allergy. The way it should be.
This stay was received free of charge but did in no way impact this review and my personal opinions.