Muddy review: Southernhay House
Fun, stylish, casual and super-cool; a welcome dose of grown-up luxe in the heart of Exeter.
Well, thank the hospitality gods for Southernhay House, is all I can say – a total sight for sore eyes in amongst the sea of chains dominating Exeter’s hotel scene. This hunk of smart Georgian beauty really is quite the surprise; from its manicured exterior, you’d never suspect that it houses such a fab fusion of quirky interiors, a sexy bar scene and class hospitality. This is a hotel for the discerning traveller who desires more than the cookie-cutter experience offered by its neighbours. Even if you’re not planning a stay, it’s one to pop into for a post-shopping cocktail. In fact, I insist on it!
You’ll find SoHo located in Exeter’s Southernhay, a smart enclave of Georgian townhouses, populated by solicitors, banks and clinics. It’s a surprisingly quiet spot and yet is only a five minute stroll from the Cathedral Quarter and its green surrounded by fabulous boutiques and cafes. Pull up right outside on the drive, unload, ditch car in the nearby long-stay and totter off to hotel nirvana.
A kaleidoscopic venture through time, the hotel is full of vintage pieces, antiques and curio’s that hint at the hotels past. The first owner of the Grade II* listed townhouse was Major General William Kirkpatrick back in 1805, an apparently bohemian fellow who worked for the East India Company. Each of the 10 bedrooms nod to this, named after trades like silk, cotton and spice.
Meanwhile, all around the hotel, in the bar, restaurant and private dining space, colour and quirkiness prevail, making it a very cool, lavish and yet unstuffy place to hang out and while away the hours with friends or your significant other.
Back to those bedrooms and me and Mr Muddy checked into ‘Sugar’, a luxury double at the top of the house, the most spacious of the bunch.
A massive, hand-made bed with luxury linen, the deepest freestanding roll-top bathtub in the room (Mr Muddy had to walk over and peer into the bath to check I was still in it at one point), plus an enormous walk-in shower.
Spanning the entire depth of the house, with windows at either end, it’s a beautifully appointed room, adorned with antique pieces and artwork in-keeping with the sugary theme.
It’s definitely a hotel that goes beyond buying in a job-lot of cheap and functional bits and pieces to service the rooms.
The little, individually sourced flourishes all add up to create a room that’s fun and frivolous. As do the touches that add luxury, like bathrobes, REN toiletries, docking station and, will you look at that ‘mini bar trug’? A brand new addition the very day we stayed, full of treats local to the city, it’s just another unique and quirky idea that gives SoHo it’s individual character.
SCOFF & QUAFF:
We were on a bit of a city research mission this time, so didn’t stay in for dinner, but we did get to sample the food offering from the bar in the afternoon and the Club Room at breakfast. No surprises here – it more than passes Muddy muster.
I mean, check out this bespoke cheese board, put together to keep the hunger pangs at bay! If you’re wondering about the food, there’s a bar menu, as well as an a la carte lunch and dinner restaurant menu, offering seasonal, local produce, cooked simply. The whole foodie offering is available to non-residents too, making it a popular spot to eat out in Exeter.
It’s worth mentioning that, although we didn’t dine this time, a large group did; and I’d definitely suggest that the dining room (and private dining option) make it a great location for a special group dinner, or party. The bar, restaurant, outside terrace in warmer months and overall feel of a sophisticated house make a fab option for a house ‘takeover’, which the hotel offers and, by all accounts, carries off with aplomb.
It’s definitely possible to travel with kids (older ones are probably best served, since there are no specific facilities for toddlers and babies), but in truth I’d say this is a more grown-up destination, best enjoyed sans smalls.
OUT AND ABOUT:
If you’re new to Exeter, then you may not realise how well positioned you are for a break, with the coast and Dartmoor both easily accessed from here. But if you’re simply keen to get out and explore the best this city has to offer (and why wouldn’t you?), then check out my Insider Guide to all of its best bits.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: romantics, cool-hunters, luxe-seekers and generally those looking for a good time, both in-house and beyond.
Not for: While the service is of a high standard, with a can-do approach, it is still a small boutique hotel so you won’t find facilities stretching beyond food and the bedrooms.
££: Definitely book direct with the hotel to receive preferential rates, which are really reasonable, I think, for the standard of accommodation. Small doubles start at £95 room only, with a full English breakfast coming in at £12pp.
Southernhay House, 36 Southernhay East, Exeter, EX1 1NX. Tel: 01392 435324. southernhayhouse.com