Gidleigh park is often described as a destination restaurant and while I do believe people will travel for miles to sample the fine cuisine of chef Michael Caines in the hotel restaurant which has now retained it's two michelin stars since 1999, I also think the hotel is something pretty special.
Nestled in the Devonshire countryside, our chauffeur (yes chauffeur) collected us from Exeter St David's train station and we enjoyed the country scenery for the 30 minute drive. Things do get a bit hairy on the approach to the hotel as the roads narrow to single lanes with lots of blind corners - not for the faint hearted! It all helps the anticipation to build for the first time you see the gorgeous Gidleigh park hotel.
I have yet to experience anything like the service you receive at Gidleigh park (which frequently tops various poll's as one of the best places to stay in the world). Gidleigh offer 5* luxury in such an informal way that you feel as if you are staying at a friend's house rather than one of the world's top hotels. All of the staff are prepped to know who you are which is the weirdest thing ever. Not once during our 2 night stay did we sign for anything, say who we were, say what time we had booked our table for - everybody just knew! Check in was swift and we were shown to our room and given a personal tour straight away.
We stayed in a delux garden room which was absolutely perfect. There were lots of luxury touches such as l'occitane products, spring water from the Gidleigh estate, a decanter of maderia, fluffy white towels and bathrobes, fresh fruit......I could go on. We specifically chose this room as it had a private balcony complete with it's own jacuzzi and stunning views over the gardens and beyond. Perfect!
Every morning we were brought fresh tea and coffee to our room to enjoy in bed before getting ready for breakfast. Such a treat! We also had access to the hotel's pantry where we could help ourself to a huge selection of gourmet tea and coffees, fresh fruit, luxury yoghurts and freshly baked biscuits at anytime of the day or night - all included in the room rate.
When we weren't sipping champagne in our jacuzzi we made the most of our location and explored the beautiful grounds of the hotel. The water garden was breath-taking and the kitchen garden one of the best we've seen. We even ventured a little further afield into the Dartmoor countryside. The hotel staff could not be more obliging and we could borrow raincoats, oversized umbrella's, walking boots and maps. Nothing was too much trouble at all and we were always asked about our itinerary for the day and staff would go out of their way to make sure you got the most from your stay and would help in anyway they could - we watched them plan walking routes and prepare flasks of coffee for hikers, provide celler tours for those interested in wine and put up picnics for couples who wanted to enjoy the hotel gardens.
There are so many activities on offer at Gidleigh such as tennis, croquet or even in-room spa treatments should this be your thing. One of my favourite things to do though was to simply sit on the hotel's terrace, admire the view, drink some fabulous wine and spend time with my husband. We found a collection of games in the bar to play which is something we would rarely (if ever) get the chance to do at home.
Gidleigh Park is number one in the Harden's Sunday Times food list 2014, is consistently voted one of the best restaurants in the world and holds 2 michelin stars. Chef Michael Caines plays a very active role within the kitchen and we were very lucky to actually meet him while we stayed at the hotel. There are a choice of menu's to choose from - we dined from the a la carte one evening and the signature the next. Both menu's offered a dining experience like no other - the food on your plate is like a perfect piece of carefully crafted art work which also happens to be a taste sensation! Both myself and Steve cannot imagine what it would take for a restaurant to receive 3 michelin stars as in our book you could not get anymore perfect than Gidleigh.
Service throughout the evening is formal yet not at all stuffy. The team take the time to chat and ask you your thoughts on the dishes. We decided to add a flight of wine's to accompany the signature menu and again this did not disappoint. It was lovely learning about new wine's and the sommelier really took their time in describing the wines to us and finding out our preferences.
There are lots of little treats included in the menu. Expect a tantalising selection of amuse bouche, perfect palette cleansing sorbets and beautiful chocolates with coffee after dessert. We have dined in many fine restaurants but absolutely nowhere has yet to come close to the food we experienced at Gidleigh park.
As you may imagine, this sort of indulgence does not come cheap. A two night gourmet getaway experience will set you back over £1000 for two people. For me though, this is 100% worth it. I would much rather spend this much on two night's at Gidleigh park and experience complete escapism and luxury then spend the same on a full week in a 3* hotel somewhere abroad with mediocre food. Gidleigh park is a really special place, if you ever do get the chance to visit, even if it is just for lunch or afternoon tea, make sure you do. I promise you will not be disappointed.
Visit www.gidleigh.co.uk to find out more.