24-Hour Room Service: The Residence, Mauritius

Put your hands together for The Residence. Not, you understand, to give the hotel a round of applause, but to offer the "namaste" - press the palms together, bow the head - an Indian greeting that is used as a gracious hello by staff and guests alike.

Put your hands together for The Residence. Not, you understand, to give the hotel a round of applause, but to offer the "namaste" - press the palms together, bow the head - an Indian greeting that is used as a gracious hello by staff and guests alike.

Your average Briton is bound to squirm with embarrassment. But my advice is to go with it - like the iced tea and chilled towels offered on arrival, this is your cue to relax.

And isn't that why you're here? For most visitors, relaxation is the whole point of Mauritius. There may be an island out there to explore, but hey, why stray beyond the hotel gates?

Such high expectations are matched only by a plethora of stellar resorts - Mauritius has more classy hotels than you can shake a Gucci shoe at. So what is the unique selling point of The Residence? Its ambience of elegant colonial-era living, in which you're one of the privileged few.

Unlike its thatch-roofed rivals, the hotel is styled like a late 19th-century plantation house. At its heart is a remarkable reception - a vast colonnaded hall, open to the elements but sheltering beneath a sharply pitched hardwood roof which bends towards the sea like the prow of a ship. Like all the communal areas, it is furnished with exquisite oriental antiques, vintage photos of the island and Lloyd Loom-style chairs and loungers. And this colonial theme continues down to the finest detail - even the pool attendants are dressed in safari suits and pith helmets.

By contrast, the hotel's facilities belong to the 21st-century, with three restaurants, five boutiques, a gym, a spa, a children's club and two outdoor pools. And the powdery sands that fringe the gardens must be among the most beautiful Mauritius has to offer.

LOCATION

The Residence, Coastal Road, Belle Mare, Mauritius (00 230 401 8888; www.theresidence.com). The hotel is on the island's prestigious east coast.

Time from international airport: a 50-minute drive from Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport at Plaisance. Or a 35-minute hop by helicopter, darling. A taxi will cost you 2,000 rupees (£40), the helicopter ride 11,640 (£230).

COMFORTABLE?

There are 135 rooms and 28 suites in seven styles with garden or sea views. The layout is a muddle in parts: some suites are tucked away in the gardens, while some standard rooms are afforded glorious views of the ocean. White and beige tones dominate the decor, and are complemented by wooden furnishings and beds dressed in soft white sheets with linen throws. The marble bathrooms have bath and shower, and a walk-in wardrobe (who thought it would be a good idea to hang your clothes in such close proximity to the loo?). All guests are designated a "butler", who can be summoned via a quick phone call. And after the 11-hour flight from the UK, you're sure to take advantage of the free unpacking and pressing services.

Freebies: toiletries (La Prairie in the suite bathrooms); fresh fruit and bottled water by the pool and on the beach.

Keeping in touch: DVD/CD player, satellite television, direct-dial telephone with voicemail. A computer with internet access can be arranged for your room.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Half-board costs from €548 (£391) in a garden view room to €1,322 (£944) in the Colonial Ocean Front Suite per room per night, based on two sharing, until 30 December. This autumn, ITC Classics (01244 355527; www.itcclassics.co.uk) offers seven nights' full-board in a garden view room from £1,909 per person, based on two sharing, including return flights with Air Mauritius.

I'm not paying that: the three-star Le Palmar (00 230 266 9700), just along the coast, is a seafront hotel with restaurant and pool. Half-board in a double room costs from €90 (£60) per person per night this autumn.

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