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The Cream of Devon: Langdon Court and Orestone Manor

Langdon Court & Orestone Manor
, Devon
Cuisine: British
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Alex Shebar: My god, this place was tranquil. Birds sang as I got out of the car. Ducks paddled in a pond at the hotel's edge. And my phone flashed: No service. It was perfect.
 
As a young professional living in the dead centre of the hipster popular of London, it's a remarkable time and place to be alive. The food scene is thriving - we have a dessert only restaurant now for Pete's Sake. Beards were in and now they're out again, thank god. There's never been better street art roaming our streets. And there's always, always, always something opening, something to see, something to Instagram, something that someone asks you if you've seen that something yet.
 
And I needed out.
 
It's too much. I needed peace. I needed quiet. I needed away from it all.
I needed a reading holiday.
 
So when this opportunity came up to check out two different manors in the west of England, we were already half packed before hitting send that, yes, we would go.
 
Six and a half hours of driving later and we arrived at The Langdon Court.
 
My god, this place was tranquil. Birds sang for me as I got out of the car. Ducks lazily paddled in the pond that crept up to the hotel's edge. And my phone flashed a bright angry warning of, "No service".
 
It was perfect.
 
The inside was a serene space of wonder. To get to our room, we climbed a grandiose staircase with a stained glass window to a calming beige room, complete with an epic bathroom with a porcelain tub centre piece and a window seat next to the bed overlooking the previously mentioned pond, perfect for meaning of life contemplations about how city life is slowly crushing my soul, and I need to get back to nature and find my roots again, gosh darn it.
 
I think really, though, I was just hungry.
 
Our dinner at The Langdon was one of my highlights of the trip. Head chef Jamie Rogers won the south west professional of the year last year, so I was very excited to see what he had come up with.
 
We were placed in the bar area since the small dining room was set up for a wedding party. I was surprised when I learned there was a wedding here and a wedding at our next location, but less so when I arrived. It's a seriously romantic place. I think my girlfriend and I fell in love a little more just by being there, and we're already pretty damn in love.
 
And what made me fall even more in love? Well, obviously, the meal.
The service was top notch, even in the bar, and we were looked after from start to finish. And it was the little touches that mattered. Like when we asked for bread, they brought us fresh warm rolls with whipped butter, served in a tiny covered butter dish. Be still my heart.
 
For starters, we had a truly wonderful and lightly gamey pigeon which had so much flavour packed into every bite (it was an excellent recommendation from our waiter) and the scallops in curry sauce.
 
"Wouldn't have thought of a curry sauce with a scallops, but it goes really well," my girlfriend commented. I was too busy devouring these bites to respond, but I agreed in my heart.
 
Our mains were equally as well prepared and presented. She got the lobster and chorizo spaghetti, another combination that you wouldn't normally find on a menu, but one that sensationally paired together. I had a rich beef with the crispiest Cesar salad I've ever tried, heavy on the anchovies, which normally would turn me off, but here it only added to the flavour. "How's the food," our waiter asked us.
 
We pointed to the empty plates that once contained beef and lobster.
"Silly question then."
 
The only misstep of the night was the strawberry cheesecake for dessert, which came with a candy coated fire engine gelatine on top. It was all sugar and no substance, and a down note to such a fine meal. But my lovely lady got the banana soufflé and enjoyed it immensely.
 
I was sad to leave this beautiful establishment - as we left, we met the house dog who was wearing a bow tie - but excited to hurry on to our next place so I could take another much needed break.
 
We drove for an hour east to get to the bright yellow Orestone Manor. You think it would be impossible to miss, but it's tucked far back down a crazy tiny road that really, you'll miss it every time.
 
While not as grandiose as Langdon (I miss the stained glass already), it has a smaller charming quality. The staff greet you at the door with a smile - and not a fake trying to sell you something smile, but a smile like they're actually glad to see you.
 
And once again, wonderfully, no signal on my phone.
 
Our room, again, also as strikingly beautiful as our last space, was not without its charm. If the last room was like your cool Grandnan who read Pinterest for chic style tips, this one was like your real nan's house - warm, inviting, friendly, and with just a touch of the exotic with an Asian-themed decor.
 
Overall though again, it was the food where this space shone.
 
And I mean shone.
 
We were seated for dinner in a comfortable sitting room, had our wine orders taken, were presented with a small amuse bouche of ham swirl pastry bites and fresh olives, and the menu to peruse at our leisure.
 
""It's perfect," my love said: "You drink your wine, examine the menu and by the time we get to our table, I know what I want. It's brilliant."
 
It is truly something we don't see in London, where it can feel like you're either being rushed in and out, or you're sitting at a space forever just to be seen. Here, there couldn't be more relaxation, and when we had questions, we had a waiter who feels like part of the hotel's family and knew it intimately.
 
When we asked him about the soup of the day, he shrugged.
 
"I've tried everything on this menu, so when I look at it, I go, 'Well, it's soup.'"
 
When we were ready, we were lead to our seat. Leisurely. No one was in a rush here. Although the waiter did quickly spin on his heels, stopping right before a step in the floor, warning us to mind it. Suave.
 
The quality of the evening started as we sat and continued until we could eat no more. Our starters of a crab and mango martini (with rich crab, avocado and mango sorbet) was the perfect starter, with the right amount of chill, savoury and sweetness.
 
And yes, the tomato and basil soup was good soup, but still just soup.
Onto the mains. I had sausage and mash in a rich, so dark it was almost pitch black, gravy and filled the plate. And my lady tried the quail which came so beautifully presented, you almost didn't want to eat it.
 
But fear not, we ate it. And it was glorious.
 
We ended the evening with a sweet vanilla creme brûlée that cracked like glass when I smacked it with my spoon and chocolate mousse with brandy soaked cherries, which were rich and sweet and damn perfect.
 
After the meal, I was going to read on this reading holiday.
 
Instead, we passed out. It was just that good.
 
Driving back to London the next day, I realised I read only a handful of pages those days. But I also found nature, relaxed, ate like a king and ignored my screens. And that last one, in itself, was the biggest win of all.
 
Alex Shebar was a guest of Langdon Court and Orestone Manor
 
The Langdon Court Hotel
Wembury, Plymouth, Devon PL9 ODY
www.langdoncourt.com
Orestone Manor
Maidencombe, Rock House Lane, Devon, TQ1 4SX
www.orestonemanor.com
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31 May 2016
By: Alex Shebar
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