Escape to pampered luxury. That was the promise. Quite a lot to live up to I thought but judging by the website all the signs were promising.

Situated just outside Maidencombe, near Torquay in Devon, Orestone Manor was built as an Edwardian country retreat in 1830 and this was enough to suggest a certain level of grandeur.

Discovering that not only was former occupant John Callcott (1817-1903) the creator of the very first commercial Christmas card but also the brother-in-law of Isambard Kingdom Brunel just added to the intrigue.

As soon as we arrived it was obvious that the hotel could easily live up to its opulent claims.

The colonial features mixed with subtle modern elements helped to create a feeling of decadence without being over the top or garish. Everything was there in just the right amount.

We were expected. From the ‘Dear Mr Barnes’ welcome pack it was clear that they cater to each guest as an individual. Everything had been sorted before we got there but that didn’t mean the staff were any less professional or welcoming. Our bags were taken and everything was explained to us, where all the facilities were and when we would like to have dinner. We were taken through all of the features of our room, this took a while as they were many, finishing with the hot tub, which had also been made ready for our arrival.

The hotel boasts 14 individually-decorated rooms which are all decorated in a pleasing mix of modern and classic styles.

Ours, however, was different.

To describe where we were staying as a room doesn’t really do it justice. Set apart from the hotel proper are the two coach house suites (£250-£350/night). These split-level suites include an array of top-of-the-range features including under-floor heating throughout the entire lower level, a roll-top bath and waterfall shower, the aforementioned hot tub, matching bathrobes and even mood lighting, which can be adjusted to your liking.

Stylish continental features complemented by a traditional country aesthetic. The décor and seemingly endless modern facilities are only bested by what is outside the window. Panoramic views across Babbacombe Bay from a choice of two private outdoor areas are spectacular, the clear sky seems enormous. You can see for miles across the water, almost all the way to Teignmouth.

We had eventually settled on 7.15pm for dinner and so had time to relax in the hot tub for a while. We ended up staying in for longer than planned as it proved even more relaxing than expected. After a quick smarten-up, shirt and shoes – it made sense to make an effort, we headed over for what I in particular had been looking forward to, the food.

We were greeted and invited into the lounge area for further relaxation and to peruse the menu and extensive wine list. It was only after we’d decided on wine that we learned there was also a list of cocktails. Although, in hindsight, it may have been for the best.

While we laboured over what to choose we were treated to a plate of entrees. There were smoked cheese bonbons and a light chicken liver pate, both were delicious. We settled on a bottle of Alto de Mayo Malbec from Argentina (£21), we’d not yet decided on what to eat. I’d done my usual “Right, I’ll have this…”. Closing the menu then attempting to surreptitiously re-open it a few times when Beth wasn’t looking.

It is always difficult to choose from a menu of such exciting variety. Aside from the locally-sourced meat and the fish caught off the coast the previous day there is a separate vegetarian menu of equally mouth-watering choices. The hotel also grows many of its own vegetables and herbs for the menu.

We’d chosen. Eventually. So we sat at the table in the window and sipped our wine while we waited for the starters to arrive. It didn’t take long. Service was swift and the food was wonderfully presented, this was to be a theme.

I’d gone for the gin-cured salmon (£8.99). It was fresh and light but bursting with flavour as was the tangy fennel dressing. Beth had the scallops (£10.95) which came with crispy chicken skin and a well-balanced duo of cauliflower, pureed and pickled. Both dishes were just the right amount for a starter, a good warm-up for the next course.

No sooner had our plates been cleared were they bringing out our mains. This was really where the fun begins. Beth had chosen the belly pork (£19.95) which was served with perfectly crisp crackling and just enough fat to be juicy but not chewy. The pork was served with cocotte potatoes with a hint of fennel in a rich sauce. I had ordered the fillet of bass (£21.50). I did think fish followed by fish might be a bit of a cop-out but when it arrived I knew I’d made the right choice. The skin was crisp and salty, the fish flaky and tender. It was served with a wonderful serrano ham crisp, cocotte potatoes and clams in a seafood chowder. Perfection. In retrospect I could have made it last longer.

That would be a hard act to follow. However, we thought we’d give the dessert menu a chance. It was only fair.

I opted for the banoffee plate (£6.50), a kind of deconstructed banoffee pie but not as pretentious. There were glazed bananas, dark chocolate ice cream and a coffee panna cotta which is up there with the best things I have ever tasted. Not too creamy, not too bitter. Spot on. Beth went for the vanilla crème brulee (£6.50), a dessert I had been derided for choosing in another restaurant – it’s ‘boring’ apparently. It, of course, turned out to be anything but. It was light and airy with a warm freshly-baked shortbread base offsetting the creamy pudding. The dessert course had indeed shown what it had to offer.

Each course was just as delicious as the last. We slept extremely well that night.

We awoke to birdsong and the sun rising over the bay. Despite my claims of 'not having to eat for a week' the previous night, we headed in for breakfast. The morning sun streaming in through the large windows had transformed the dining room from a classy restaurant into a light, airy breakfast room. There was a choice of fresh continental buffet or a menu of cooked options including a full English with your choice of eggs.

I chose the full English with poached eggs, last night’s comments be damned! Beth went for the eggs Benedict with smoked salmon. Both were hearty yet fresh. My breakfast was all locally-sourced and the fried tomatoes, tangy not sweet, deserve special praise. Beth’s hollandaise sauce was just right, not too much and not too rich. Both breakfasts were completed by the most menu-perfect, ‘why can’t I get mine to look like that?’ poached eggs with just enough runny yolk. We also got a cafetiere of fresh coffee and a basket of crispy brown toast, both of which made the surrounding area smell incredible. It was the perfect set up for a day of coastal rambling.

In one night we had had the most relaxing time and sampled some amazing food. The coach house was all of the privacy and independence of self-catering with all the luxury of a highly-rated hotel. The best of both worlds. Our ‘escape to pampered luxury’ proved to be exactly that.

For more information on Orestone Manor visit