Lympstone Manor, in the coastal town of Exmouth in East Devon, is a dream come true for chef-patron Michael Caines. Lisa Jenkins visited the hotel for a very early look at its brand new kitchen
Prior to its opening, Michael Caines had always spoken openly about wanting a place of his own, but Lympstone Manor, set in the stunning natural beauty of East Devon, is more than a business – it’s the realisation of a dream.
Together with his investors, Caines has created a 21-bedroom property including three dining rooms and a kitchen designed for growth that can accommodate breakfast, lunch, dinner, bar snacks, afternoon teas and room service. There will also be high demand for alfresco dining, with a discreet dispense bar in the lounge area facing incredible views over the estuary as well as Dawlish Warren.
All that requires a kitchen that is up to the job, and in August 2015, after Caines had his offer on what was then Courtlands House accepted while working through his notice period at Gidleigh Park, he called on Jayson Ball, managing director of Salix Commercial Kitchens, to help him move the project forward with urgency.
“I had an option to pull out of the purchase if planning permission was refused, but we had to get complete plans in by December 2015. That was a quick turnaround and Jason helped me put the kitchen plans together in that time-frame,” says Caines.
Ball did a survey of the equipment at Gidleigh Park, on which Caines had created some of his signature dishes. The Frima VarioCooker, for instance (1), was an essential part of his kit list.
“I had all the plans in my head,” says Caines. “I gave Salix an initial layout and we worked on plans two and three together.”
Salix had the space to create the correct flow and layout of the kitchen, with Paul Williams managing the project on-site from Salix, but Caines got his hands dirty.
The brigade is led by Caines and head chef Tommy Hine who had previously worked with Caines. They have been setting up the kitchen systems and all the health and safety procedures, and preparing to recreate some of Caines’ signature dishes from Gidleigh Park.
“You can’t just throw away all those great dishes and ideas, but at the same time we want this to represent a new beginning and the team that I’ve got around me are superb chefs,” explains Caines.
“Together we have developed a range of exciting new dishes and a range of afternoon tea concepts. We also intend to offer two tasting menus – a Signature menu and an Estuary seafood tasting menu as well as an á la carte.”
The chef was also inspired by the kitchens at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, where he worked in his formative years. “Their preparation area is huge – and the way they work, preparation is key,” he explains. “It’s a fantastic environment to work in and allows for superior food safety and compliance practices.”
Lympstone Manor now has a well-designed kitchen with all the essential equipment. As you enter through the door, you will sensibly find the still and glass-wash area with a Winterhalter under-counter glasswasher (2), followed by the dishwash section with a Winterhalter pass-through (3). The preparation area is divided into pastry and cold starters and, as planned, will provide plenty of space to grow to support a portfolio of businesses.
The central goods-in section is managed with a wall-mounted computer system designed to track deliveries and allow for the swift processing of ingredients and fresh produce.
Turn right and you are in the main kitchen; continue along the kitchen corridor, which has walls lined with Devon stone and a resin floor, and you come to the fully-equipped pastry and bakery room, temperature controlled for chocolate work and afternoon teas. There is also a Mono Equip two-deck bakery oven (4) and a Mono retarder/prover (5).
A separate pot-wash area sits alongside the fish, veg and meat preparation section with two more cold rooms at the back.
The main kitchen
The Frima is used as a pressure cooker and a water bath, but also for the majority of the staff food and stocks, and used in conjunction with a Falcon boiling pan (7).
There are two Rational 10-grid combi ovens (8), one in the main kitchen and one in the pastry section. Refrigeration is Foster Refrigerator throughout (9), including meat and fish cabinets, plenty of under-counter cabinets, a blast chiller and two cold/freezer rooms. Unusually, there is also a Fryka fridge (10) that can store fish for sushi at ultra-low temperatures.
The main cooking area houses an Athanor island cook suite (11), which is mostly electric except for one solid gas top. It also incorporates a single induction hob, a double induction hob, a single radiant hob, a cast iron-lined roasting oven and a Capic Hi-Light salamander grill (12).
All of the fabrication around the cooking suite and throughout the entire kitchen was constructed and fitted by Salix with all of the counters measuring 950mm – the same height as the Athanor.
The main pass is hexagonal and has a 360° plating space with extending Hatco heat lamps (13) suspended from the ceiling.
The garnish and hot starter sections will work together, as will the fish and meat, with two people on this section at full capacity. Pastry and cold starters will be produced together in a separate area.
There are two extraction canopies in the main kitchen and one in the pastry kitchen, all installed by Partridge Ventilation in Cornwall.
Foster Refrigerator supplied Caines with its most advanced, environmentally friendly, low-noise cold rooms. The kitchen sits close to the old stables, near a small number of residential houses, and the condenser units are housed in a soundproofed section in keeping with the outside area.
The Mechanical & Engineering shed behind the property contains a water tank capable of servicing capacity at 175% with a separate heating system.
No stone has been left unturned and Caines has a considerable amount of his own money invested in the venture alongside his partner investors and friends. “I chair the investor meetings,” he says. “But we will all hopefully make a good return. We have used lots of local businesses for the refurbishment and are pretty confident that Lympstone will be a benefit to the local economy.”
Kitchen investment, excluding Mechanical & Engineering shed: £390,000