It was on a grey and drizzly winter's day, when the clouds were so low they were positively sulking, that we pulled up outside Talbooth House and Spa.

The drive to deepest Dedham Vale had been puddle strewn and my hair was half-stuck to my lipstick, my scarf in danger of throttling me, as we were ushered into the warmth of this country escape.

Established as a luxury hotel, by Gerald Milsom back in 1969 (17 years after he discovered the tea room by the River Stour that was to become Talbooth Restaurant) Talbooth House and Spa is more private stately home than hotel.

Formerly Maison Talbooth, its Anglophilic rebrand in 2022 coincided with the opening of its Soho House-style spa, complete with a heated pool and glorious views of Constable country.

And, having spent a most glorious 24 hours cocooned sheer sumptuousness, I challenge anyone to find a more delightful spot to disappear to.

Great British Life: The outdoor poolThe outdoor pool (Image: Talbooth House and Spa)

First impressions:

A country escape without the faff of going out into the proper sticks. There's the illusion of being blissfully isolated, while actually being just a mere 15-minute drive from Colchester. The front desk doubles as Jacks Bar, there are plenty of squashy sofas to curl up on (in your robe naturally - it is a spa hotel after all!), big windows emphasise the idyllic rural scenery and the team could not be more welcoming.

Great British Life: The Shakespeare suiteThe Shakespeare suite (Image: Talbooth House and Spa)

The rooms:

Named after poets, there are 12 bedrooms in total - each different in style, decor and character. We stayed in principle suite, Shakespeare. And to say it was absolute luxury feels almost as though I'm underplaying it.

The bathroom was expansive, with his and hers sinks and sunken bath. The text from the opening chapters of Pride and Prejudice ran riot across the vast walls of the bedroom, while the words of Sonnet 116 greeted us in the suite's lobby. The leaves danced across our private terrace and the mini bar was well stocked.

Great British Life: Fine dining in the Talbooth RestaurantFine dining in the Talbooth Restaurant (Image: Talbooth House and Spa)

The food:

Talbooth Restaurant prides itself on dishing up great food, with great service, at a great location.

And it's certainly a classy, fine-dining affair. Acclaimed, but affordable. Dishes including the starter of crab mayonnaise and octopus tart, complete with salt baked beetroot, chorizo and curly endive, are a delight for the eyes as well as the tastebuds, and the dry aged fillet of British beef with potato pressing, charred leek, girolle mushrooms, watercress and Madeira jus, is quite simply everything you'd expect - and more.

Great British Life: Crab mayonnaise and octopus tartCrab mayonnaise and octopus tart (Image: Katy Pearson)Great British Life: Warm chocolate fondantWarm chocolate fondant (Image: Katy Pearson)

After pudding (I dove right into the warm chocolate fondant with candied walnuts, figs and barley ice-cream, while the husband demolished the rice pudding soufflé) there was barely room for the final sweet touch - chocolate, presented to us us in a huge wooden box by our attentive waiter.

The hotel's car service ferried us the five minutes down the road to bed (having dropped us off a few hours - several lbs - earlier).

Continental breakfasts in bed are available, once you've slept off the night's feast. Or there's the option to tuck into a hearty full English at nearby Milsoms (a pub-grub dining venue by night.) Spoiler, the eggs Benedict are total brunch goals.

Great British Life: Relaxation outdoorsRelaxation outdoors (Image: Talbooth House and Spa)

Not to be missed:

The mercury might have been loitering around the 5 degrees Celsius mark, but that did not stop us from fully embracing the partly alfresco spa. The sunken slate hot tub, outdoor sauna and 14m x 8m heated pool are coupled with hide rugs and an outdoor fire. Enclosed by the walled garden, it's a tranquil little oasis, whatever the season.