The Magdalen Chapter
Style Site for sore eyes
Setting Cathedral city
The Magdalen Chapter hotel is a regal, redbrick retreat in Exeter, formerly an Edwardian eye hospital and now a chic city stay. It’s been through the wars – when it was used as a general hospital – but its latest incarnation suits it best, thanks to a superb Ren spa, slick service and all the mod cons.
Need to know
- Rooms 59.
Double rooms from $144.06 (£96), excluding tax at 20 per cent.
The price shown represents the lowest nightly rate for a double room available at this hotel over the next 21 days. Any price conversions from the hotel's local currency (£96) have been conducted using today's exchange rates from xe.com.
- More details Rates usually include Continental or full English breakfast.
- Facilities Spa, library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: an iPad, iPod dock, flatscreen TV, Nespresso coffee machine, complimentary minibar and Ren bath products.
- Poolside There’s a slate-tiled, heated pool by the walled garden that’s both outside and in – part of it is enclosed, with a wood-burning stove to warm you up even more.
- Check-out 11am. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
- Children Welcome: there's a special kids' menu in the restaurant (two courses for £6, three for £8); babysitting and interconnecting rooms available on request. A giant Snakes and Ladders set graces the lawn in summer. Under 16s must be accompanied in the pool.
- Also Interconnecting rooms are available (217 and 216; 218 and 219; 301 and 302). There are two rooms (a Superior and a Deluxe) suitable for disabled guests.
Food and drink at The Magdalen Chapter
Cook and author Simon Hopkinson oversees the chef and his team in the hotel’s striking restaurant, where the red seats are scattered around a central column and glowing pendant lights hang down from the sloping ceiling. Simple, seasonal dishes such as roast monkfish with saffron potatoes, duck with orange and pomegranate, and pumpkin ravioli with sage butter are on offer. Learn a trick or two from the pros – the open kitchen lets you see how it’s done. Make a reservation in advance – the popular restaurant is often full.
- Dress code Come as you are - but crisp, well-ironed whites will nicely nod to the hotel’s clinical heritage.
- Top table Enjoy the bustle from the kitchen with a table up close to it, or pick a red-leather banquette at the back so it can be seen but not heard. In summer, admire the lawn from the terrace. The Circle is a private dining room that can seat eight.
- Last orders Breakfast is available between 7am and 10am; lunch is served from noon until 2pm; dinner is between 6pm and 10pm. Drinks are served in the bar until 1am; bar food is served until 10pm.
- Room service A selection of salads, sandwiches, steak and pizzas can be ordered all the way round the clock, using the menus loaded up onto your in-room iPad.
The cosy bar has an open fire burning during the winter. It’s only small, so drinks can be taken through to the lounge if it’s too crowded. Order a fruity Magdalen, the signature cocktail, which features muddled blackberries, raspberry vodka and lemon. Nibble on salt-cod fritters, smoked salmon or local salami and other cured meats. Each room has a minibar stocked with complimentary wine, beer and soft drinks. As at sister property the Montpellier Chapter in Cheltenham, the library lounge is stocked with a handpicked collection of some 750 newly published novels, locally-themed reads and classic design tomes.
The Magdalen Chapter Magdalen Street, Exeter, Devon EX2 4HY
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In the know
Our favourite rooms
The individually decorated rooms all have crisply dressed, super-comfy beds and enough little design details – an Eames-style chair here, an original artwork there – to lift them from just 'neutral' to nice. Regular Room 306 is snug and secluded, with an extensive view thanks to its top-floor perch. We also rate Feature Rooms 308 and 220: 308 has a bed up on a nook with a skylight above it, perfectly placed for midnight stargazing; the old operating theatre, 220, showcases impressive casement windows, Italian terrazzo flooring and an open-plan bathroom.
Flip-flops are provided, to glide gracefully from spa to bedroom, and leave your umbrella at home – the hotel supplies plenty, for dashes between buildings in bad weather.
The spa offers award-winning Ren facials and massages; try to stop yourself scooping up armfuls of product. Book the Potting Shed for private dining – it's set in an old outbuilding by the kitchen garden. In wartime, when the eye hospital became a general hospital, this was used as the morgue.