It’s not often that I’ll review somewhere outside of Bristol for Bristol Bites…but for somewhere as special as The Magdalen Chapter in Exeter, only an hour’s train ride from here, I’ll happily make an exception.
Housed in the former West Of England Eye Hospital, the hotel has been described by Alastair Sawday’s guides as a “contemporary wonderland” – and who am I to argue? With a nod to its former life, old signage and architectural titbits from the hospital sit alongside interior design which has clearly been planned in meticulous detail.
An open fire and welcoming sofas just through the main entrance set the tone for the rest of the public areas: a beautiful library with a nod to local authors and subjects, a guest lounge with views across the gardens and a beautiful Hugo Dalton mural spanning the length of one wall, and a comfortable (and well-stocked!) bar with a relaxed yet stylish feel.
Explore a little further and you’ll find a gym and spa (stocked with gorgeous Ren products), a small kitchen garden, a separate outbuilding that can be hired for private use and a great swimming pool – which may be small, but is secluded and comprises an outdoor pool with an indoor section complete with wood burning stove to keep the room warm.
Bedrooms are stylish and contemporary – ours with a massive, comfortable bed, a balcony overlooking the city and an impressive five different light settings. Guests can opt to have the use of an iPad (free of charge for the duration of your visit), which can be connected to the room’s media centre, and which features a film library and various music playlists which can be played through the television both into the main room and via speakers in the bathroom. With the iPad, you can also book taxis, room service and spa treatments, buy Ren goodies to take home and find out more about the local area…clever, eh?
We were lucky enough to have a bath and a separate shower, and a nice stash of Ren toiletries to use while we were there. And how better to enjoy a relaxing, music-accompanied bath than with a bottle of beer or a glass of wine from the complimentary minibar, or with a choice of coffees from the room’s Nespresso machine?
We were also lucky enough to enjoy both breakfast (either continental, or a choice of cooked breakfasts) in the hotel’s restaurant: a light, circular, airy room that looks far more modern and futuristic than the rest of the hotel – to be honest, it looks a little out of place. It’s chef and author Simon Hopkinson who has overall control of the restaurant, but head chef Ben Bulger – recent winner of Devon Life’s “Chef Of The Year” award – certainly knows his stuff. The open plan kitchen means that nothing’s hidden from the diners’ view, and provides a great distraction while eating.
I loved the iPad wine list too: a great way of browsing the hotel’s extensive selection by searching by region, grape and more.
From homemade, spicy-topped hummus and delicious flatbreads (£3), I moved on to a main of pumpkin ravioli with pecorino, sage butter and pine nuts (£10.50) – full of amazing flavours, a great contrast between sweet and savoury, and I cleared my plate in no time. Some of the pasta was a little undercooked around the edges, but I was happy overall.
And even happier with dessert: an apple and cinnamon charlotte with clotted cream (£5.50) that was the perfect winter warmer.
There’s no other way to describe this place other than the epitome of cool: staff walk around in standard issue black and white trainers, the whole venue’s light settings and music choices are automated, and the artwork – from the paper butterflies in the reception to the exploding text in the library – shows just how much thought has gone into this place. We’ll definitely be heading back – VERY highly recommended.
Please note: this stay was received free of charge, but in no way impacted on our opinion. We were not obliged to write a positive review, and the venue did not see this review before it was put up on the site.