Michael Caines aims to make Courtlands House elite

Image of the proposed development of Courtlands House by Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines.

Image of the proposed development of Courtlands House by Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines. - Credit: Archant

Michelin-starred chef Michael Caines says he is aiming to create one of the country’s top country house hotels on the edge of Exmouth – a town he says has a bright future.

Mr Caines secured planning permission for a luxury hotel and restaurant at Courtlands House earlier this month.

Speaking to the Journal this week, Mr Caines – who will complete the purchase of the house on September 7 – said the move to Courtlands only came about after a chance meeting.

Mr Caines, who intends to finish his career at Courtlands after 21 years at Gidleigh Park, Chagford, where he has achieved two Michelin stars, said: “I was looking for somewhere in Devon and, preferably, in and around the Exeter area.

“I’d had a look at a couple of locations and wasn’t necessarily happy with what I’d seen. It was purely by chance my accountant met a friend who said he’d done a valuation for Courtlands, which was just coming on the market.

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“I arranged to have a look around, and I had some reservations and concerns, but you couldn’t help but admire the position and the potential that was there.

“The views over the estuary are fantastic, just stunning, and the estate of 28 acres - walking around you can see a huge amount of potential for the type of establishment I wanted to create – a country house hotel with exquisite dining and accommodation.

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“There’s a sense of tranquillity about it.

“You could feel the place had fallen on less glamorous times and needed a project like this to bring it back to life. The building is OK, but needs tidying up and our plan is more proportioned.

“We are really excited about it.”

Mr Caines said the house’s location is also good from a business point of view.

“It’s a good catchment area and easy to get to – 10 to 15 minutes from the motorway and there’s the rail link.

“It’s got a lot going for it in an area set to develop. I think Exmouth has got a great future and that’s why I was pleased to be in East Devon in particular.

“I’ve worked at Gidleigh Park for 21 years. The idea is to recreate that quality and standard in my style and with my cooking.

“I will be looking at attracting a local, national and international clientele.

“I will be looking to position Courtlands into the top 10 country houses in the country, and for me to remain cooking at the highest level possible.”

The business is set to create 60 to 80 jobs, and Mr Caines says these will be of a high quality, offering good career opportunities.

He said: “People only see the hospitality industry as extension of the tourist season, but this type of establishment has to operate all year round. These are real careers in hospitality.

“So many different skills will be employed within the business across a number of different areas and it will be a launch pad for people to go on and further their career.”

Discussing his long-term ambitions, Mr Caines said: “This is not a business I’m looking to sell. It keeps me in the South West, stops me leaving to go to London, and that’s an important point to make.

“East Devon doesn’t have a Michelin restaurant and, therefore, it’s a great opportunity for East Devon to embrace this.”

Mr Caines says the business could be open late next year, or early 2017.

Reflecting on having secured planning permission, he added: “We are thankful for the support of East Devon District Council officers.

“We also recognise some of our neighbours were concerned. I always said we would seek to mitigate any of those issues, because noise is a problem for us, too – we wouldn’t want guests in the hotel experiencing disturbance from noise.”

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