FOOD REVIEW: A menu of mastery at Lakeview Manor
PUBLISHED: 15:49 10 July 2019 | UPDATED: 13:09 16 July 2019
Tucked away in acres of sprawling woodland near Honiton, there is an establishment that exudes class, charm and, above all, peace and quiet.
You could hear a pin drop while exploring the vibrant grounds of Lakeview Manor, in Dunkeswell, such is the tranquillity offered to its guests.
The building is privately-owned old style country manor house hotel, dripping in quintessential British charm.
It's little surprise that the hotel hosted more than 20 weddings in 2018, providing a stunning backdrop for many a couple's special day.
It's this special feeling which we got when we glanced over the menu at Lakeview.
The hotel kitchen is headed up by chef David Magill, who has lovingly pieced together a menu of mastery, boasting refined comfort food which look and taste the part.
Julie Whitfield, general manager at Lakeview, said: "Most people tend to go to town for lunch as they can go to the shops and do their banking.
"They do not want to come into the middle of nowhere, but here they can eat, drink and walk around the grounds.
"We have a wood around the garden and are set in 45 acres. We have a 25-mile menu and everything here is cooked fresh.
"Our chef loves making his pies and our steaks are beautiful."
So how was the food?
To start, we sample the prawns in black garlic butter on toast, mozzarella with fresh tomatoes and pesto and ham hock terrine
Garlic and prawns is a staple of any great seafood dish, and this plate is no exception.
Soft prawns coated in a wickedly deep butter reduction, which was sweet and salty, on crunchy bread soaked in the glaze, is a guaranteed winner for any fish lover.
The butter glaze is pungent and dark in taste, like burnt toffee.
"It's like sucking on a Werther's Original you just dropped in the sea", is all I can compare it to, such is its unusual taste.
It is delicious and more-ish, but almost naughtily flavoured with big and bold undertones.
The mozzarella reminds my colleague of eating in Greece - soft creamy cheese and farm fresh tomatoes recapture those sunny days of Mediterranean sunshine.
The pesto isn't overpowering, and blends well with the cheese and tomatoes to offer a nutty, herby undertone.
Eat this out in the sunshine on a glorious sunny day, you won't regret it.
The terrine is a meaty block of salty, gamey fare - a traditional component of any Englishman's lunch in the countryside.
Accompanied by a sharp and tangy piccalilli and a side salad, favours of sweet, sour and salt dance on the tongue.
Onto mains, and my colleague is persuaded by Julie's previous tip at Chef David's homemade pies.
Today's flavour is steak and ale, encased in wholewheat crust and accompanied by farmhouse veggies and mashed potatoes.
We order the sirloin steak (medium rare) with brandy and peppercorn sauce and chips, sautéed mushrooms, peas and onion rings, and have a crack at the pan-fried duck breast with a port and redcurrant sauce and sautéed potatoes.
The pie is sizeable, with a nice hand-crimped pastry lid keeping the goodies in.
Soft chunks of steak and carrot swim in a thick, hearty gravy which is worth burning the tongue for, to eagerly slurp up.
The mashed potatoes are sweet and well seasoned, and the veg is elevated by the introduction of butter roasted carrots, which are delightfully sweet.
These almost-candied carrots, combined with the dark, rich undertones of meaty gravy and crumbly wholewheat pastry, is comfort food at its finest.
It is not just a bog standard 'pie n' mash' jobby either - but a delicious example of how a kitchen can make the normal, special.
The duck is well cooked, pink in the middle, and dressed in a sauce coursing with the flavour of redcurrants. There is the slightest hint of port, which brings out the full potential of the duck.
The duck is soft and melt-in-the-mouth and by itself, tasted of the great outdoors.
The potatoes were generously sautéed in garlic and rosemary, adding more deliciousness to an already masterful plate of food.
Although a top-end priced menu item, you get what you pay for and it is worth every penny.
The steak is well cooked, juicy and punched with seasoning. The fat is rendered down beautifully, leaving every bite as good as the first.
There is a nice criss-cross char on the meat which leaves lines of dark smokiness on the palate.
The onion rings are the best I have tasted. Beautifully crunchy, not a lick of grease anywhere - three rings of deep-fried satisfaction.
The mushrooms are earthy and the peas are sweet. It is a well-rounded dish which leaves you wanting more, even when you are full.
With little space left in our bellies, we order desserts - an indulgent double chocolate brownie and mint chocolate ice cream with a chocolate soil, and jaw-achingly chewy, delicious, strawberry and raspberry pavlova with double cream.
We also order a citrus cheesecake, topped with mandarin and raspberry coulis.
Such rich feasting makes these generously-portioned puds our Everest, but they are so tasty and morish, we somehow find more space.
The mint chocolate ice cream is a welcome refresher and opens up the sinuses, where we find ourselves swimming in the aroma of rich, dark nutty chocolate.
The meringue on the pavlova is delightfully chewy and sweet, and the cream is thick and coats the tongue.
Fresh, slightly tart raspberries cut through the sweetness.
The pud is sizeable, and there is still quite a bit left after a sustained attack with three pudding spoons. It's certainly a showstopper, and perfect for a warm summer's day.
The cheesecake is exactly how you'd want it be, mellow and creamy and cut open by the zingy coulis.
A lovely biscuit base adds some texture, and there is a small hint of booze in the mandarin segments which adds a slight savoury taste to all the sweetness.
Lakeview Manor is more than a special venue to host a party or wedding - it's a special place to eat.
The culinary craft possessed by Chef David means every dish you'll get is a winner, and no doubt you'd find yourself returning to the dinner table time and time again to sample the latest creation cooked up by his skilled hands.