Award winning luxury hotel and restaurant Kentisbury Grange held a murder mystery dinner in the beautiful heart of Devon. The perfect setting for a romantic weekend away.
Kentisbury Grange is a gorgeous Grade II listed restored Victorian manor house. With a selection of modern chalet/lodges in leafy grounds shared with contented ducks and colourful peacocks, its majestic gardens sit nestled on the edge of Exmoor National Park.
Following our honeymoon visit back in the summer (review here) my wife and I were invited back for the weekend and their murder mystery event. Knowing how much effort General Manager Peter and his team put into every aspect of Kentisbury Grange, we knew it was one not to be missed!
With the M4, M5 and A39 making it a simple drive from London, the promise of food worthy of a Michelin star, luxury accommodation and the beauty of Exmoor and Devon: I was looking forward to these epic roads once again.
Checking in, we were accompanied to our double-fronted lodge by Hayley, shining with smiles and helpful information about the various rooms, design and features. My wife found the table particularly good for getting her work done (her music business is global so never sleeps, even on holiday).
It seems simple, but the beds and linen chosen really made a difference, I can confirm that later that evening this one had me asleep in seconds. Perfect.
The master bathroom was very clean and tidy, with a brilliant shower, heated mirror and everything looking brand new.
With my wife installed and happily working at the table (albeit with slightly intermittent wifi), I decided to chill on the sofa after the drive. I found the sofas comfy, and pleased to see an awesome entertainment setup: Samsung TV speaker bar, cinema DVD system and selectable speakers in every room of the lodge. What's more, the TV was not one of those horrible slow old hotel systems, it was proper Freeview; efficient Samsung Smart TV.
The lodge also has a well-appointed kitchen with quality SMEG appliances and selectable LED mood lighting. We could easily spend a week down here self catering.
Not that we needed it this time, but the lodge has a second bedroom so would be fab for a family or group break. In fact we've already proposed a return visit with the family as there's enough room for everyone, and I think they'd really like it too.
This bathroom can be used as a main one, or as an en-suite from the 2nd bedroom, a very clever bit of planning.. but the real surprise is just out of shot!
It's a TV for the bath. Yes it's decadent but why the hell not, totally worth watching Big Bang Theory with bubbles too! Also, all the taps in the bathroom were this flow-over style, a nice luxury touch we thought.
Sending much love to Jacob's Creek for the lovely bubbles, definitely a touch of class.
Dinner at The Coach House by Michael Caines
Set in the grounds of Kentisbury Grange, their restaurant 'The Coach House' proves that dinners don't get better than this. Michelin Star and famous TV chef Michael Caines has been working with this team for a while now, and Thomas Hines heads up a hard-working kitchen producing some of the finest food in the UK.
As we were shown to our tables in the plush dining room we were offered a few light bites: Tempura king prawn and a lamb shoulder croquette.
Again before the starters, our taste-buds were teased with this ever so smooth leek and potato velouté. THey seem to be good at these, and a nice interesting preparation for the excitement to come.
My wife had langoustine cannelloni with sauce vierge and a shellfish bisque. We'll allow the arty foam, it added drama and brought home the taste of the sea.
Meanwhile I opted for the rabbit and foie gras terrine with truffle mayonnaise, plums and pickled red onion. I think it would have been still just as good without the top-name foie gras, but the whole dish came together brilliantly: it's how a terrine should be. Delicate but purposeful, this was a world away from those cold hard flavourless things most other places serve.
My wife's main was pan fried salted cod with apple and ginger purée, brilliant crab tortellini, pink grapefruit and a vanilla jus. She thought it was good, with moist fish, but the crab tortellini was the star of the dish.
It is not often I order beef fillet, here however I couldn't pass up the opportunity. It was served with braised beef cheek, polenta, smoked bacon, artichokes and a red wine jus. The favoured cut of yesteryear, it's brought bang up to date here with complimentary flavours and an good understanding of balance. Cooked to a rare perfection, it was warm the whole way through. The smoked bacon and the winter veg helped the forest flavours; it certainly made me smile from ear to ear, although more of the good stuff was to come soon with dessert.
The classic tiramisu has been updated with style much to my wife's enjoyment, it came in with a coffee mousse, white chocolate and amaretto. See those small cubes of jelly? I tried some and it took my mind back to my early years eating crème caramel. Bloomin marvellous.
Pondering over which dessert to have, our waiter recommended the Chef's Cheese Selection. I HAD NO WORDS TO DESCRIBE THE BRILLIANCE. Seriously, I just sat there chuckling and giggling to myself like a schoolboy with his first sherbert. Never before have I sat in wonder at the mastery of flavour achieved with a dish as much as this modern twist on a cheese board. Clockwise around the plate: Bacon maple and brie toasts, apple and walnut chantilly salad, goats cheese mousse with shallot, golden raisin and honey, blue cheese icecream (Mind. Blown.) and cheddar fondue (the cheesy herb combo in this made me happy every time I had some.)
A lovely couple from Yorkshire took this for us, they were on a luxury birthday trip that included among others the famous Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons: The Coach House is certainly keeping some good company.
Waking to a glorious morning with countryside views we were both looking forward to a lovely day exploring the local area.
We took advice from the ever helpful staff at breakfast who pointed us towards a great local pub (The Hunters Inn), and a walk along the River Heddon to the coast.
I love driving around happening upon the amazing. I'd love there to be a secret garden behind this door, only about 4 foot high.
We found some beautiful scenes at the mouth of the River Heddon, a fun scramble across the rocks to get our boots wet then back to Kentisbury Grange for the murder mystery evening!
The Murder Mystery!
With our fine evening-wear on, and my wife sporting an elegant pair of Christian Louboutin heels, we arrived to meet our fellow diners to a champagne reception.
After more of the fab lamb shoulder croquette, the quail and risotto went down a storm with everyone. As one of their classic dishes it's stood the test of time, quail has remained on the menu for a good few months. This time with a gorgeous risotto it was just right to keep our bellies happy as we continued to search and probe for clues to the mystery.
Set within the pretence of people we're told were cast members for an upcoming TV show, explosive live arguments throughout the night gave insightful clues to the lives of the actors: finance problems, relationships jealousy, all kinds of motives appeared, whom ever could have done it! Each table worked to find the murderer and people of all ages seemed to enjoy the evening immensely.
Next up was pan fried cod, served as the previous night with flavour packed crab tortellini.
The murder mystery was really well integrated into our evening, with the actors coming and joining us at our tables, we had opportunity to ask them all sorts of questions.
Well, who doesn't like chocolate? - and in true modern à la mode it was of course formed into a sphere - filled with more awesome creamy goodness and even the sugar-work was fun. Just what desserts should be.
Throughout the evening we were encouraged to check the evidence boards, upon which vital clues to the history of some of the suspects.
No sooner had we finished probing this lady as to her motives she ended up being stabbed in the back! Very effective use of props here and being right in the centre of the dining room everyone was taken aback with gasps and panic as suddenly we knew the murderer was close at hand!
Led by a very well spoken master of proceedings the each table summarised their proposed murderer, then the final reveal was met with cries of shock and wonder. A very well thought out evening and a joy to be part of: We'd never been to a murder mystery before, and it made our luxury weekend break all the more interesting.
Spending a weekend away at the beautiful Kentisbury Grange is something I'd have thoroughly recommended upon our first honeymoon visit, and the weekend's trip away only served to solidify this mainstay of Devon opulence as a favoured bolt-hole should we ever need to relax away from the city. I am sure we'll return, and I'm sure the smiling and attentive service will once again make for a fabulous weekend. A well needed break from the busyness of business; after all who wouldn't want to drink champagne in a hot tub - but that's a story for another day.
Congratulations should be noted also as they have just won 2015 Best Hotel Restaurant of the year.
For more information and to book, check out their website: http://www.kentisburygrange.com
If you fancy putting your super-sleuthing skills to the test, check out the murder mystery team here: www.murder-one.com