Charlotte Harding experiences a weekend away at the home of original Christmas card.
Life can be hectic, be it work, friends, family or running after the kids. So to get the opportunity to relax in peaceful surroundings with not much to do sounds idyllic.
Nestled off of Rock House Lane in Maidencombe is Orestone Manor, family owned it is run by two chefs, Neil and Catherine D'Allen, their son Craig and his wife Laura.
From the moment we walked up to the impressive country hotel my husband and I were excited about what our stay would have on offer. It felt like a very luxurious home away from home, and from the moment we stepped through the door the welcome was first class and the staff throughout our stay were fantastic, on hand to help whenever we needed it.
For our two night stay we were in a superior room. The Parisian inspired bedroom had a super king double bed, which can be a twin, with views across the countryside to Lyme Bay.
Run by two chefs expectations for the quality of food were high. After we found out it has double AA Rosettes for fine dining, as well as triple gold-wins in the renowned ‘Taste of the West Food and Drink Awards’, is a constant winner of TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence and has been handpicked to feature in “Relish South West” - a guide to 20 of the best fine-dining venues across the South West of England, this only added to our expectations.
We were not disappointed. We chose to eat from the set menu which during our visit was £16.50 for one course, £25 for two and £28.50 for three.
At the heart of Orestone’s cuisine is ‘the ethos to source, where possible, the finest seasonal ingredients locally’.
Over our two nights the menu was completely different featuring confit duck leg, breaded fried brie, supreme of chicken and wild mushroom ravioli.
On our first night we both opted for the grilled line caught Torbay mackerel with caper salsa and coriander. You could taste the freshness and the fish was divine.
For mains I had the pan roasted pork tenderloin with a Dijon and tarragon cream sauce with dauphinoise potatoes while my husband had the supreme of chicken with tomato basil soup and mashed potato.
The pork was tender and the knife cut through it like butter, while when my husband's chicken was put in front of him I was surprised that the soup was more of a sauce to compliment the meat.
On the second night I couldn’t resist the deep friend brie - crisp on the outside and creamy in the middle, while my husband sampled the calamari with saffron aioli, he devoured it swiftly which meant I didn’t get a look in.
For the next course I had the pan fried hake with crab bisque and crushed potato. The fish was delicate but the crab bisque added another flavour dimension to it.
While across the table the roast venison haunch with red wine jus with saute potato was a meaty dish packed full of punch.
The food alone is enough to make you stay at Orestone Manor but it also provides a great base for exploring. We visited the seaside town of Torquay which is less than a 15 minute drive away.
We had a day out at Paignton Zoo, only eight miles away it is a fantastic zoo with tigers, lions and so much to see and do we managed to cover it in a day but you could easily go back for another visit to really take your time learning about the fantastic beasts it has there.
The Manor also has a fascinating history to discover: it provides scene of Isambard Kingdom Brunel's National Portrait Gallery painting, created by his brother-in-law, Sir John Calcott Horsley on the Orestone Manor lawn. In the 1850s, The Manor saw many Brunel/Horsley family gatherings.
Orestone was also the birthplace of the Christmas Card, with Sir Horsley designing the card in 1843. Nowadays under 20 are in existence, one's in the V&A, another's owned by the Royal Mail.
The cards fetch more than £25k at auction. Interestingly Orestone neighbours were equally famous with Rudyard Kipling living in the property nearest.
It really was a pleasure to stay at Orestone Manor. I can't recommend it enough for the comforts of home but without the stress it really provides a relaxing break if you just want to stay there and enjoy the country house or use it as a base to explore the surrounding area.
For more information, on the zoo visit www.paigntonzoo.org.uk
And for Orestone Manor, visit www.orestonemanor.com