‘Patients may be visited by their friends on Sundays Tuesdays & Fridays from 2.30pm to 3.30pm’ reads the mahogany plaque on the wall, providing a poignant clue as to the Exeter Hotel du Vin’s past history and a reminder of how relevant this is today as we are in the midst of this COVID-19 health crisis.
As a former Eye Infirmary and a temporary war hospital during the First World War for the sick and wounded soldiers, this is the newest property in the Hotel du Vin’s extensive portfolio of hotels within in the UK. Hotels that are set within historical buildings are sometimes presented with a challenge in terms of striking the correct balance between retaining the features of it’s heritage with the corporate branding of a hotel.
It’s 10am on a Sunday morning and my phone rings. It’s Kamran, the owner of a very sleek and shiny black Mercedes Benz E Class, who is calling me to say that he has just arrived to drop off his car for the start of my car hire. You haven’t misread the last sentence! Yes, the owner of a new Mercedes has arrived to drop of his car for the purpose of my car hire to Devon. This brilliant concept is managed by Turo, the world’s largest car sharing marketplace; it allows the car owner to earn money by sharing their car whenever they’re not using it.
Turo has a varied selection of vehicles from weekend luxuries like Jonathan’s Tesla Model S above to more everyday rides like Kamran’s Mercedes Benz E Class. Once I had registered my details onto the website and submitted a photograph of my drivers licence, it was simply a case of finding a car, booking my trip and then waiting for Kamran to drop off his car (and pick up once I had finished my trip). With my seat warmer set to maximum, fuel tank full and engine purring away, I select Lauren Laverne’s Desert Island Discs on the radio and off I head to Devon.
One gets a sense of history as soon as you approach the hotel from the carriage driveway, while exuding an imposing first impression, it also provides a welcoming view of the hotel in all of it’s Edwardian architectural splendour. This boutique hotel has been sympathetically designed and offers a fresh and contemporary feel.
Boasting sixty rooms, the studio rooms are amongst the largest and most luxurious in the hotel. Original art work hung in my room which came with a range of ‘mood’ lighting settings for you to experiment with in order to create the perfect ambience.
For those that enjoy pampering themselves, the bathroom comes complete with luxurious toiletries from Provence and fully equipped with a large bathtub as well as a rain shower cubicle.
One of the best features of the hotel is the REN Spa, which has a comprehensive range of treatments available as well as a heated outdoor pool. On the day of my arrival, ominous grey clouds had descended upon Exeter and I have to confess, I was a little apprehensive about making use of the outdoor pool. The spa area can only be accessed via a perfectly manicured lawn, which requires a ten metre dash in the cold.
My concerns were allayed once I had entered the pool as the temperature of the water was most agreeable. The outdoor pool together with the jacuzzi is nestled within a walled garden and was the perfect place to relax and recharge, particularly after a long albeit very comfortable drive from London. Enjoy the pool as dusk settles for a sublime experience; I enjoyed a wonderful piece of tranquilly with just the chirping birds and the full moon for company.
There’s nothing quite like a leisurely swim to build up an appetite. Fortunately, help was at hand in the form of Oliver Williamson, the newly recruited Head Chef at the hotel. A reservation was made for one of the private dining rooms. The modern styled room provided a wonderful ambience all within a secluded and intimate space. Starting with a glass of champagne, the menu provided a selection of classic French dishes.
I ordered both the soup and snails in garlic and herb butter. I could see why the soup was a popular starter. The tasty broth with caramelised onions provided a rich and full flavour and the cheesy croutons gave that a satisfactory crunch. The Burgundy snails were baked in butter garlic, shallots and parsley and were deliciously meaty. Next, a fillet steak that was cooked perfectly rare followed by a pear, apple and blackberry cobbler.
For a relaxing weekend break, the Hotel du Vin ticked all the boxes: A fabulous spa, great food and a comfortable stay within a luxurious setting. The historic setting also added to the character of the hotel and with an experience that will undoubtedly leave you wanting to stay longer than the infirmary visiting hours!
To discover more about Hotel du Vin visit: www.hotelduvin.com/locations/exeter/
The Mercedes Benz E Class was provided by courtesy of Turo. To discover more, visit: turo.com
By Umesh Patel