Orestone Manor, Devon

by Alan Kingsbury - Sunday April 9, 2017 12:04 pm

Once the home of a notable Victorian artist, Orestone Manor is today a family run hotel whose restaurant is rapidly becoming a Devonshire destination for those in the know.

It really is no hardship checking in at Orestone Manor. I can feel the stress gyros unwinding immediately on arrival at the large yet humanely proportioned old building.

One time home of John Callcott Horsley, artist and designer of the Christmas Card, it is optimally situated on the south Devon coast in the village of Maidencombe just north of Torquay.

Room with a view

I am staying in Horsley’s bedroom and can virtually feel the artist’s mind at work in its purposefully elongated design.

Ther is an area for waking, an area for writing and an area for thinking.

The disposition of windows across the space offer an outlook onto a view so classically structured that it could itself be a painting.

Orestone Manor is run by two chefs, Neil and Catherine D'Allen, their son Craig and his wife Laura, who took over the hotel in 2011, transforming it into an award winning fine dining restaurant with superior, antique furnished rooms.

Family affair

I ask Craig about his family’s ethos regarding the development of the restaurant.

With impressive enthusiasm he describes their aim to provide the very finest, locally sourced food with a contemporary focus on the menu while retaining the historic character of the building and its interiors.

Their efforts have been rewarded by numerous awards including two AA rosettes for fine dining, though Craig is clear that the family is not seeking an exclusive or high-priced reputation but one of quality, integrity and approachability.

Devonshire dining

At dinner I'm delighted to see the menu abundant with Brixham landed fish and shellfish, West Country free range pork and lamb and seasonal vegetables combined with creative flair.

The accompanying wine list is irresistible in its intelligent selection of international, foodworthy cuvees and classy Champagnes.

There really can be no better way of beginning an evening than with a trio of plump River Teign oysters and a glass of Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs; but the starter of seared scallops served with cauliflower, crispy chicken skins, boozy raisins and piccalilli puree gives an insight into the thought process that is going on in the kitchen.

Kitchen confidence

The food at Orestone Manor is characterised by a refined sense of complimentary textures together with quality ingredient flavours that are allowed to speak for themselves; and the chef's confidence in the success of these ingredients is marked by a mercifully judicious use of salt.

This is amply demonstrated by the main course of pan fried fillet of bass, Palourde clams, Serrano ham crisp, Lobster Bisque, fine beans and startlingly successful saffron cocotte potatoes.

For meat lovers, the crisp top braised pork belly is richly satisfying, revelling in the flavours of its own fats while given a fresh lift by the accompanying pea shoots and parsley.

Sweet opulence

The Orestone Manor dessert menu is aimed at pleasure, pleasure and more pleasure with gooey sounding, comfort temptations such as sticky toffee pudding, chocolate fondant and salted caramel and chocolate tart.

Unable to make a choice, I indulge in the all-out mixed 'assiette' which includes a luxuriously creamy panna cotta, bouncy and perfumed raspberry marshmallows and yes, that salted caramel and chocolate tart which is oh so ultra-fine .

I'm here to check out the food but it has to be said that Orestone Manor is right next to some fabulously gorgeous walking country in which to work up an appetite.

A pre-dinner exploration through the old-world charm of Maidencombe village and along the protected coast path takes me into the sensuously curved topography of the adjacent farmland overlooking the sea.

And after dinner, the grand bedroom is just a few steps up the homely staircase for a good and quiet night's sleep.

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orestonemanor.com  Mid-season rates start at £130 for a classic double room and £250 for the Horsley Room. Stay on a dinner with bed and breakfast basis for an additional £35 per person, to include 3 courses from any menu, plus coffee & petit fours.

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