*Last weekend we headed down to the South Devon coast to enjoy a complimentary night’s stay and dinner at The Osborne Hotel in Torquay*
The sky was decidedly overcast as we packed our car for the journey down to Torquay and there was a slight chill in the air as we left East Devon. Yet as we as we caught our first glimpse of the palm tree lined roads that signalled our arrival to the English Rivera our mood lifted and we couldn’t wait to find out what this little pocket of West Country sunshine had to offer. Indeed, as its exotic foliage suggests, Torquay enjoys a micro-climate of its own and even in the midst of British wintertime the sun peered out from behind the clouds and the air grew decidedly milder as we climbed the hill to The Osborne Hotel.
The Osborne Hotel
The hotel is a fifteen-minute walk – or 5 minute drive – from the town centre and from its vantage point up on a hills it boasts magnificent views of the English Rivera beyond. Situated at the heart of an elegant regency crescent, its manicured lawns stretch down to the picturesque Meadfoot Beach below.
Prior to our stay we were informed that The Osborne had recently received something of a makeover and so during our visit we were to stay in one of their newly refurbished Superior Sea View Rooms. The room was very spacious and the view from our two large windows was enviable to say the least. As well as a large double bed, there was a plush two-person sofa (along with a brand new copy of Devon Life Magazine & a guide to the local area), a makeup desk and a very tastefully decorated bathroom – complete with a sparkling new shower. Overall, we were impressed with the new décor and I particularly liked the soft colour scheme of white, grey and blue.
Since the indoor swimming pool is currently closed for refurbishment and we didn’t feel like making the most of the onsite health centre, we ventured into Torquay for a seaside walk and a browse around the shops. There’s plenty to do and see in the town and had we not been booked in for dinner at The Crescent Restaurant that evening there were ample restaurants and cocktail bars that we could have happily spent an evening in.
The Crescent Restaurant
The Crescent Restaurant and Bar isn’t the most contemporary establishment we’ve ever dined in, but it has a warm ambiance and well-spaced tables that make it ideally suited for couples looking enjoy private conversation over dinner. Our waiter for the evening was named Oliver and his charm was a real asset to the hotel. Oliver handed us each an à la carte menu, as well as a specials menu, explaining both to us before offering us a wine recommendation for the evening.
There was something about my starter of Port and Red Wine Infused Pear with Blue Cheese, Hazelnut & Beetroot Salad that sounded both indulgent and light at the same time. I was not wrong. I really enjoyed the delicate pears with their subtle hint of spice and I thought that the light, whipped consistency of the blue cheese paired beautifully with fruit and the hazelnuts. I would certainly order this starter again, not least because it was a refreshing change to standard hotel fare.
My dining partner opted for the Pan Seared Brixham Scallops with Samphire, Crispy Pancetta & Sauce Vierge. The presentation for his dish was very elegant and the scallops were perfectly cooked – juicy and plump, yet delicately caramelised on the outside. I assume the samphire and pancetta were equally delicious, because he seemed to waste no time polishing off his plate.
For my main I couldn’t resist the sound of the Slow Braised Venison Stew with Herb Spactzle, Dumplings, Caramelised Baby Onions, Pancetta & Roasted Roots. To say this was a hearty dish is an understatement. I received an enormous portion of stew and as someone with a small appetite I could never have finished the plate on my own. The presentation was a touch basic and seemed out of place with the fine dining vibe, however the dish itself was rich and flavoursome. You can’t really go wrong with a stew – particularly when the meat is as soft and tender as my venison was. Those little herby dumplings and caramelised baby onions also added wonderful pops of flavour.
Never one to pass on red meat, my partner opted for the 8oz Sirloin Steak with Confit Tomatoes, Field Mushrooms, Onion Rings & Hand Cut Chips. Again, the presentation here was a little reminisce of a gastro pub, but neither of us could deny that the steak was excellently cooked. He requested it bleu and chef certainly delivered. It literally melted in the mouth and the blue cheese sauce (optional) was subtle and not too overpowering. Served with chips, tomatoes and onion rings, I can’t imagine how any steak lover wouldn’t enjoy this plate of food.We finished our meal with a Cheese Selection to share. This was comprised of four cheeses – which you can select from the specialist cheese menu – alongside apples, celery, grapes, quince jelly, chutney & crackers. We chose Boy Laity Brie, Isle of White Blue, Harbourne Blue & Capricorn Goats Cheese. There’s something for all tastes on the menu, from strong blues to mild goat varieties and I can safely say this offered some of the best variety I’ve had in a while.
After a lovely nights sleep we headed back down to the Crescent Restaurant the following morning, where breakfast consisted of a continental buffet and a choice of cooked dishes. I was surprised to find that they didn’t really have any vegetarian dishes on offer (save for the poached egg on toast) but our Eggs Royale was very enjoyable and there was a good spread on offer at the buffet.
We very much enjoyed our stay at The Osborne and I wouldn’t think twice about booking the hotel again. Without a doubt, The Osborne would be a fabulous location to spend a few nights during the summertime when Torquay truly comes to life. The restaurant is certainly head and shoulders above many of other local hotels and the service was warm and accommodating throughout our visit. I’d opt for a Sea View Room if you get the chance, as there really is no competing with those stunning views.