In the Westcountry there are many terrific boutique or country house hotels that are run by passionate and expert patrons, none finer than the family – run Orestone Manor Hotel in Maidencombe on the glorious English Riviera sporting 4 stars and 2 rosettes from the A A.
This is a gem of a place hidden from the main road meandering between Shaldon and Torquay nestling in a winding copse of ancient trees and walkways pointing to the hidden coves below.
On parking my car and taking in the sea air I realised that this is an amazing spot for bird watching as I counted six species in as many minutes. Indeed I discovered just a few minutes walk from the hotel the excellent RSPB site at Labrador Bay. This is the home of the Cirl Bunting that nests here and is thriving. I also observed a fluttering Sparrow Hawk, Buzzard and numerous small birds with an abundance of Gulls cruising on the thermals above the tree line.
The garden and south facing rooms at Orestone Manor also allow great views sweeping over the trees to the vast Lyme Bay sound to the South and South East.
The scene is set for a relaxing couple of days with a welcome of assuring professionalism from all the staff in all departments. Eager to please with taste and style was evident.
Orestone Manor is owned by a family of caterers, some might say chefs as the easy-going “nod” to great menus throughout the range is its hallmark with Chef Darryl Sharpe at the helm. Open to non – residents it’s a haven for producing the simple things very well – Sunday Lunch for example is a renowned event packing the restaurant every week with a modern or “Orestone” twist on the great Sunday Lunch classic.
I was (as you might expect) eager to investigate the newly re-shaped Wine List so it was off to the bar I ventured meeting Craig to sip my way through samples of excellent wines purchased after extensive tasting from many different Wine Merchants.
Glasses of Picpoul de Pinet, Sharpham Dart Valley Reserve and several v tasty Reds from the Rhone and the South of France vie for notation with Sharpham Blanc and great Champagnes dispensed with knowledgeable ease.
Cocktails are also a great addition to the new bar with the usual suspects available at any time. Creating a “Brunelli” Gin – based Martini in honour of one of the hotels great visitors Isambard Kingdom Brunel with Plymouth Gin and Tio Pepe (slinging the drinks that would have been in the bar during his time) seemed the sort of fun thing that the Orestone can execute with ease!
My room, the Horsley Suite, was a south facing, four-poster bedded comfort zone of real quality overlooking the great Coves that make up the walks and explorations of the sweeping fields between Shaldon and Torquay.
It a mesmerising view that captures the sunrise with deft piercing into the room.
Breakfast is a garden room experience that starts the day with calm styling offering both buffet and traditional dishes to start the day.
Eager to experience the locality I headed toward Shaldon a few miles to the East where I parked my car and jumped on the historic ferry to Teignmouth.
Strolling between the two beaches either side of the peninsular that is Teignmouth, overlooking Shaldon’s quietly understated style offers the visitor real quality in and around this great estuary.
Heading back to the hotel I then headed for the local pub down Steep Lane to the Thatched Tavern where tradition is married to modern pub food and just 270m from the beach at Maidencombe Cove. So there’s plenty to find in and around this great hamlet.
Supper is a highlight at Orestone Manor with a brilliant combination of a fixed price plus ala carte menus that are easily mixed. Hake and Venison Haunch were my supper fancy with spot-on glasses of wine to match both courses.
After a peaceful night’s sleep my stay was coming to an end so one final stroll around the gardens, viewing the newly created Coach House (two duplex suites – next time I hope!) nestling in the shadow of the main house looking fine with the east sun’s shafts of light creating Spring’s promise of a new season.
Thanks to Neil and Catherine D’Allen and their great staff for hosting my visit. www.orestonemanor.com