Review: Bovey Castle

A fairy tale venue in the heart of Dartmoor, but would the menu be just as magical? Lauren Heath finds out

Situated in the north of Dartmoor, Bovey Castle is one impressive building – on the outside, at least. But would a large, 60-bedroom castle be cosy, comfortable and warm, I wondered, or would it be old, cold and slightly ragged around the edges? After all, these beautiful estates need feeding with funds constantly and, with so many corners and crevices, need near constant attention.

I need not have worried. The inside was far from cold: think ornate coving, grand windows framed with drapes, dark wood panelling accented by ambient lighting, and cosy log fires with embracing sofas to curl up in.

Booked in for an overnight stay and dinner, a little afternoon R&R in the hotel’s leisure facilities meant our tummies were ready for the Great Western Restaurant. Named as a nod to one of Bovey Castle’s previous custodians, the Great Western Railway, the restaurant is a 3 AA rosette award winner and describes its offering as “exclusive dining”. Exclusive it may be, but it’s also extremely accessible. The classy art deco space has a special but comfortable feel, open to all, residents or non-residents. There are shapes aplenty, with archways, columns, bevelled mirrors, chandeliers and oval chairs. It retains its period charm but is modern at the same time, with a good dose of attentive yet discreet service.

Although a two or three-course a la carte was on offer, by the time we had been delighted with canapes, amuse bouche, breads with seaweed butter, and a pre-dessert palate cleanser (yes, you read that right, a dessert before dessert!), we were on our way to being thoroughly satiated.

Brixham crab and poached Cornish lobster with green apple, avocado, vanilla, buttermilk crunch was ordered to start. The tender shellfish was married with refreshing accompaniments, while the creamy vanilla and purple potato crisps played games with our taste buds thanks to their sweet and smooth then salty and crunchy characteristics.

Recommended by the waitress due to its seasonality, roast loin of Bovey Estate venison, caramelised shallot, chutney sauce and red leaves was my main, with roast fillets of John Dory, roasted ruby artichokes, truffle, white bean broth and hazelnut pesto for the other side of the table. My meat from the estate was tender, with a rich glossy sauce and oozed colours of autumn. I stole a bit of my son’s kale, which I rather enjoyed as an unplanned addition to my plate for both colour and the iron it provided to counteract the overall richness and sweetness of the venison. The fish was delicate, with expertly cooked sides and a generous dose of truffle emitting from the smooth broth.

As the cheese trolley rolled in, and hubby felt like a kid in a sweet shop, I was delighted with a beautifully-plated dessert of black fig baked alaska. Finely sliced black figs were the base to a wonderfully piped squidgy meringue, which was dressed with delicate hints of lavender and sweet honey.

After an excellent night’s sleep, we timed the delicious breakfast offering to a tee, so we could enjoy the complimentary morning activities of collecting freshly-laid eggs from the hens, meeting and cuddling the resident ferrets, and watching a falconry display.

So, it seems I needn’t have worried at all – Bovey Castle has it sussed. This fortified historical building is clearly well looked after, offering a luxurious retreat, and its staff live and breathe hospitality; in fact, you’ll feel so welcomed into their country house hotel bosom, you won’t want to leave.