The lowdown Once the West of England Eye Hospital, this imposing red-brick Edwardian building in Exeter has been converted into a 59-room hotel - The Magdalen Chapter. This chic bolthole oozes cool from the moment you step through the front door - there is no reception desk and check-in is paperless (you register on an iPad); the young, friendly staff wear Converse; colours are warm Farrow & Ball; Tate Modern-worthy art hangs on the walls; comfy leather sofas and open fires await you in the sitting room and bar; and there is a well-stocked library where you can while away a few hours flicking through glossy tomes.
The rooms The 59 rooms are individually decorated and different in size and configuration, but all are sleek and minimalist, with light oak floors, muted colours, super comfy beds, and fabulous full-size Ren products in the bathroom. And best of all, the well-stocked minibars are free. You can even sleep in the old operating theatre (room 220), but for stunning views over Exeter, go for one of the rooms on the top floor.
Eating and drinking Pre dinner, head to the cosy bar (with an open fire in winter) and try the cocktail of the month – a Hendricks Martini when we visited (a yummy mix of gin, elderflower liquor, homemade lemon juice and cucumber). The restaurant is rather stunning to look at, especially at night – red seating is arranged around a central column, pendant globes of light hang down from the ceiling, and big windows look out on to the gardens. The kitchen is run by Devon-born chef Ben Bulger under the guidance of best-selling food writer and chef Simon Hopkinson. The menu changes all the time depending on what is available - a starter of buffalo mozzarella with blood orange, fennel and beetroot or crisp squid, artichokes and lemon with caper mayonnaise, followed by roast monkfish with Romesco sauce and agretti or duck breast with polenta, radicchio, balsamic and hazelnuts gives you a taster of what is being cooked in the open kitchen. The wine list is massive – but to make life easy it’s all input onto an iPad where you can browse by colour, grape, price and region or by name and vintage.
What to do Do not miss a dip in the slate-tiled, heated pool that’s part outside and part inside. And be sure to book a facial or massage in the spa – treatments (using Ren products) are utterly blissful. It’s definitely worth getting out of bed to venture into Exeter – it’s a great town for shopping (cobbled Gandy Street has some cool boutiques and galleries) and for culture vultures, the cathedral is one of the greatest in England with beautiful Gothic architecture and stained glass windows.
The details The Magdalen Chapter, Magdalen Street, Exeter, Devon EX2 4HY. Rooms from £150. To book, visit themagdalenchapter.com or call 01392 281000.
By Jeannette Arnold