Duncan Murray hasn’t exactly been twiddling his thumbs since his family sold Lewtrenchard Manor to the Von Essen group in 2003. Building on 15 years’ experience of running the hotel with his parents James and Sue, he went to work as restaurant manager at the highly rated Holbeck Ghyll Country House in the Lake District, before spending three years as guest services manager at Raymond Blanc’s Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, and, most recently at the historic and foodie Five Arrows in Waddesdon near Aylesbury.
So now that the family has bought back the hotel – which was very successful under its reign – it’s the perfect opportunity for Duncan to put all of this experience together. ‘We’re looking forward to getting the hotel humming along once more,’ he says. ‘It’s not changed vastly since we left, but it’s quieter. There were improvements made by the previous owners such as increasing the size of the hotel by five rooms, and we’re keeping the Purple Carrot chef’s table, as there are very few in the South West. John Hooker is also staying on as head chef, which we’re thrilled about, as his three AA rosette food is wonderful.
‘We’ll be looking to develop our local links further though – from produce to energy use – and I know that John is keen on making the most of the one and a half acre kitchen garden. We just want to get the family feel back and for people to know that we are here as owner operators once more. We’d love to see old faces again – and welcome new ones too.’
‘It’s more than British food that we are creating here at Lewtrenchard,’ says John. ‘We’re using Great British ingredients which are as local and regional as I can get them, but we’re also making huge use of our walled garden. The chefs are up at the garden in the morning digging up the vegetables and then using them on the menu the same day.
‘I’ve been here 12 months and last year we used four times the amount of produce from the garden compared to the year before, and we want to push that further. ‘In May, we’ll have our own asparagus on the menu, along with the first of the spring onions, courgette flowers, early leeks and the last of the jerusalem artichokes.’
Lewdown, Okehampton, Devon, EX20 4PN.
Tel. 01566 783222.
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