There is something infinitely satisfying about taking a random mini break when the rest of the world is working. Arriving on a chilly Thursday lunchtime to the Magdalen Chapter Hotel in Exeter we found various laptoppers dotted around the ground floor, easing the pain of work with a cappuccino and a roaring fire.
This is a hotel which clearly caters to a broad mix of people. There were a few lucky idlers like us, some Japanese tourists brandishing cameras and maps and a high octane gang of women sipping midday red wine and watching a cooking demonstration from chef Matt Downing in the restaurant’s theatre kitchen.
Housed in the iconic former West of England eye hospital the Magdalen Chapter is huge but with the kind of laid-back, cosy interior – good looking bar, leather armchairs, open fires everywhere – that means it doesn’t feel that way.
Bedrooms here are ultra-boutique, huge, crazily comfortable beds, gorgeous bathrooms but pared down and glitz free, with wallpaper in cool blues and greys. Wall to wall REN products, a personal favourite, line the bathroom - lotions and potions, shampoos, conditioners, body washes, you could feasibly bathe for hours. The hotel runs on a system of ipads here which I love. Each room has its own ipad with a playlist of music to fire up your personal sound system, even better you can tap in your order for morning tea without having to talk to anyone.
One of the main reasons to visit the Magadalen Chapter is for Matt Downing’s food. I’ve eaten here several times and it’s been unfailingly good. One of the things he does brilliantly is a kind of vibed up mezze – plates of chargrilled Spanish sausages, delicious hummus with spiced yoghurt and flatbreads, fried broad bean, Morocco distilled for Exeter. Hands down it's my ultimate lunch.
This time though we opted for chargrilled sprouting broccoli with pinenuts, egg and herb sauce and South Devon crab cakes. A perfectly cooked sirloin steak followed and roast monkfish for me with white beans, chard and aioli.
The other major draw here is the spa which features an inside/outside pool with a logburner at its heart and a full menu of REN treatments.
It’s tough to leave the comfort of your bedroom but we forced ourselves to go for a pre-cocktail swim and were rewarded an inky dark blue sky that was studded with stars. Love that indoor/outdoor thing, a warm, bubbling pool with a logburner and then swimming through a hatch into the cool late November sky. Clearly we'd more than earned our cocktails, a Raspberry Sling (vodka, creme de Framboise and Frobisher's apple juice) and a Forest Fruit martini that seemed to slip down in moments.
We could have gone clubbing after dinner, of course, but the prospect of watching movies in that mega-comfortable bed was irresistible. And this is the thing about the Magdalen Chapter, you are right in the heart of the city, a mere 5 minute amble from the action if you want it. But it's so ridiculously comfortable here, it's almost impossible to leave.