Short stay: Paschoe House, Devon, UK
Michelin inspectors are keeping a close eye on Paschoe House’s stratospheric rise into foodie heaven. Since its opening in August 2017, Paschoe House has been on a soaring trajectory, awarded 5 stars by the AA for its discrete luxury and on the verge of a third AA rosette for its imaginative cuisine.
It’s a phoenix from the ashes story. By 2010 Juan Amador had run out of funds in his attempt to revive a grand 19th century house built in Tudor Gothic style. The family home lay derelict for six years, until his daughter Tabitha, at the age of 26, revived a teenage dream. She raised the finance in 4 weeks, gained planning permission in 2 years and created an intimate 9 room boutique hotel.
Meanwhile, on a separate page of history, Tabitha, now married as Mrs Fern, brought chef Craig Davies to Paschoe House. Having worked with a “Who’s Who” of great British chefs, Davies is eager to develop Paschoe House as one of the country’s top destinations for lovers of great food and wine.
If you fly into Exeter Airport or roll into a local railway station, Robin Fern will happily collect you in Paschoe House’s Land Rover Discovery.
There’s a friendly welcome from staff as they take your luggage and give you a wooden tagged old-fashioned key to one of the country themed rooms; Badger, Deer, Hedgehog, Rabbit etc.
In the room there are home-made chocolates in a Treasure Island style mini-chest, a jar of Davies’ cookies and fresh milk for tea or coffee.
This is country-living rewired for the 21st century. A mission-control panel opens and closes the curtains on a push of a button as well as managing the lighting. Under-floor heating infuses warmth through a neutral-tone carpet.
Tabitha, who project-managed and designed every room, has brought Designers Guild wallpaper and a light touch to traditional country decor.
Down a long, long rural drive, where even the birds are too relaxed for much of a dawn chorus, this is a place for deep restorative sleep immersed in a fluffy white cloud of pillows, sheets and duvet.
A separate thermostat, initially set for 23 centigrade, with warmth from below the light grey slate finish floor tiles, keeps the bathroom toasty. Vibrant floral wallpaper and original art work – “Running Hare” by Rachel Toll and “Boxing Hares” by Kat Lightfoot in our Rabbit room – give a relaxed lounge vibe to a room where guests are inclined to linger under the rainfall shower or relax in the roll-top bath.
If you fall in love with the art work or the Bamford toiletries and their subtle aroma of geranium, lavender and peppermint – both are available to purchase as souvenirs to take home.
Guests travel from afar for the restaurant. The seven course tasting menu begins with canapés and drinks in the Library Bar or amongst the Morning Room’s sumptuous sofas. A remarkable crunchy mini-haggis featuring Davies’ home-made succulent black pudding sets the tone. It sits alongside a smoked haddock brandade and a mini onion cappuccino.
Moving through to the dining room, with a statement 13th century stone fireplace from the original Paschoe House, the tasting begins with a parsnip veloute: taleggio cheese bringing creamy flavours and parsnip crisps a contrasting crunch. Next up is a tender lobster tail, 10 minutes of sous-vide cooking seals in flavour, accompanied by Champagne in a wine-pairing that brings a glass for every course.
A pig cheek – so soft, flaky and subtle that it’s best complemented by another white wine from the Rhone – has been sous vide cooked for significantly longer; 6 hours and 45 minutes at 85 C. It’s a consistent technique that preserves food’s molecular integrity.
A Portuguese Dao is the only red amongst the pairings. It’s robust earthy flavours working well with the Christmas-on-a-plate course; a mini shoulder of red deer en-croute, a medallion of red deer loin, chestnuts, red-currants and a venison jus.
After the Snow Egg pre-dessert, there’s a decadent rich finish. A glistening fragment of gold-leaf tops a whisky jelly at the centre of a concentric creation of Manjari, the Grand Cru of Chocolate – and the final wine is a 10 year old Madeira.
More informally, a Casual Dining Menu is available in the Library Bar and Morning Room. As well as the Tasting Menu there’s an A La Carte menu too.
Other nice touches
Paschoe House is a haven of experiences. The Clay Shooting days, beginning with breakfast, resting for elevenses and taking a leisurely lunch are popular.
Many guests enjoy the chauffeur-driven Devon tours taking in sights such as Castle Drogo and the market town of Chagford.
In summer there’s tennis and croquet on the lawn. And you can book spa treatments for the privacy of your own room.
The best bit
Paschoe House is foodie heaven. Tabitha has plans for a helipad so that culinary aficionados can fly in from distance. Nor will they just be there for dinner. Afternoon tea, with tasty twists, taken in the drawing room, is popular with both residents and visitors alike.
Uniquely the breakfast buffet of cereals, fruit and morning pastries is brought to your table, accompanied by a miniature crate of bottles of fruit juices.
Egg dishes, a full English breakfast or pancakes with bacon in maple syrup are cooked to order.
Rooms with B & B begin from £139
The Tasting Menu is £80 with the Wine Flight costing £55.
Paschoe House is located on the Two Moors Walk, a long distance path of some 100 miles, through both Exmoor and Dartmoor.
Just west of Crediton, it is about a 25 minute drive from Paschoe House to Exeter.
The final verdict
Paschoe House tweaks the country house concept with quirky taxidermy, there’s a cheeky ostrich keeping eyes on the bar, and considerable contemporary style. A vast antler chandelier, in the entrance hall, not only plays to Paschoe’s rural heritage but also the stag’s antler logo too.
There’s a soft feminine touch to Tabitha’s makeover. By the logs crackling on the fire are sofas featuring delicate shades of aubergine, lovat and salmon. And Tabitha has thought of everything; a Boot Room full of wellies for country walks, popcorn to order for a movie night in your room, lavender bubble bath, chamomile tea bags to drift off to slip and jacketed mini hot water bottles.
Disclosure: Our stay was sponsored by Paschoe House.